Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New York Bus!

The expression of the subversive love of the Cuban revolution

By Father Luis Barrios

Not only have you graduated as medical doctors, but also as humanists. You have learned what it means to practice international solidarity and have understood the reality of preventive and healing medicine in a socio-political context. This brings to reality the much celebrated phrase of Jose Marti: Homeland is humanity.

This was the message conceptualized in the third graduation of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Habana, Cuba on the 24th of July. More than 1,200 students coming from more than 20 countries saw their dreams become reality. The majority of these students, now medical doctors, come from indigenous, working class, unemployed and minority families, etc. Therefore, these are the children of the condemned peoples who were robbed of their hope by our corporate capitalist system.

These young adults are a small representation of the people which ruling class governments have stripped of human and civil rights. However they have been blessed by the socialist revolution of Cuba and are attending this school without paying for tuition, books, food, or living space; and they now return to their countries to re-evaluate and continue their studies in specialized medicine. This demonstrates once again that regardless of the kicking and screaming of the Pentagon and Washington this Cuban revolution is in fact irreversible and increasingly revolutionary.

Like round balls that come in square boxes, from the richest country in the world-the United States- eight students graduated including one from the New York City borough known for salsa: the Bronx. These eight young adults are poor, black, and Latinos/as, who have traveled from far away with the sole purpose of benefiting from the international solidarity.

This Cuban sense of international solidarity which is manifested by a subversive love and a radical morality was taught to us by the doctor turned guerilla fighter, Ernesto Che Guevara. This is why we say without fear of being mistaken: Che continues to gallop on the roads of the ALBA and his ideas of a new human being as well as Fidel’s works for a better world continue to be present. Therefore this project of democratic socialism, on one hand continues to demonstrate the failures of our corporate capitalism, and on the other hand lets us see that there is still hope of building a paradise on earth.

A very important point in the medical formation of these young doctors is that they were not trained to commercialize medicine. Contrary to what is taught in medical schools in the United States, they have learned that the principal of social medicine is to save lives and that it is immoral, dishonest, and profane to use this practice to gain money.

In other words, these young doctors have understood that health care is a right and not a privilege. This concept, as well as the Cuban revolution, makes these doctors more spiritual and brings them closer to God. This is possible, even though Cuba is a poor country that has had to confront a blockade for the past 49 years. This is where the Cuban revolution, as well as the graduated students, through their actions are bringing to reality what our brother and comrade Jesus told us: Blessed are those who are peacemakers, for they shall be called the people of God. Cuba does not export soldiers around the world to kill people, much less sets out to invade or colonize other countries as the United States does. This Cuban revolution, through their love, sends out doctors and teachers throughout the world as missionaries to save lives, as well as to cure, save and protect the image of God.

For this reason I constantly ask myself; how can a religious person such as Bush have so much malice and cruelty towards the image of God and a non-religious person such as Fidel have so much respect and love for this image of God? And so the Bible says: they will be known by the fruits they bear.”

It is because of this and more that I do not get tired of saying that in a class society, such as the one we live in, the United States, the expression of subversive and radical love is part of the conspiring project of our Goddess. With this project we will build this paradise on earth with democratic socialism. Long live the Cuban revolution and may God bless us all!

Fr. Luis Barrios
Iglesia San Romero de las Américas
July 26, 2007
Habana, Cuba

Translation: Kaila Paulino & Manolo de los Santos

The New York Caravan: A Rolling Revolution

We have once again successfully crossed the border and broken the immoral and illegal US blockade against Cuba. Our spirits were high as we entered Texas from México, since this served as a mark of our victory. On the 28th of July, we reached McAllen, Texas, where the caravan parted ways and we began our journeys home. Saying goodbye to people that have become friends and family is never easy, but we did so knowing that there is much work to be done back home and that we all have a commitment to do that work.

There are 15 of us on the East Coast, New York, bus. We have been in the US for 2 days now and in these 2 days there has been much reflection on the bus. As soon as we got off the airplane in México we noticed huge billboard advertisements, promoting consumerism. This was an immediate slap in the face for us and we realized that we were no longer in the midst of community, rather in the belly of the beast where we’d be expected to fend for ourselves and care solely about personal gain. Again, we realized that the work we must do is much more serious and even more necessary than we had previously conceived. Due to this, there are many mixed feelings on the bus. We are all aware of the necessary work and we are currently at a processing stage. Some of us are excited about the work, others nervous about what this year has in store and what this work will mean for our lives, but overall work is on all of our minds which is ultimately the most important. We rapidly approach our destination, currently being in Atlanta and expecting to reach New York this Wednesday, August 1, 2007. And so, the true struggle begins; the struggle of work and progress towards education in the United States, the journey towards changing the things we must in order to create a better world and in turn end the blockade.

We learned many things during our stay in Cuba. The most prominent thing, however, or the thing that was always present was a feeling of great love. Wherever we traveled in Cuba there was community, which was a huge contrast to the individualistic lifestyles we had been used to seeing in the US. Though Cuba still has many problems, the Cuban people are working hard and collectively towards victory. The Cuban people are constantly working to change the things they want to see different. This, among other things, is an example of what people of the US, Canada and Mexico can learn from; collective work to change injustice. This is the solidarity the IFCO/Pastors for Peace caravan expresses, the solidarity with our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. There was an outstanding concern about the wellbeing of others that was strange and beautiful to those of us that have not been accustomed to it. One of the most powerful things was seeing the process of universal healthcare and education in practice. We had the opportunity to attend the third graduation ceremony of the Latin American School of Medicine, which was the first graduating class of more than one US student. On our bus we now have a medical student that has been studying in the Latin American School of Medicine for a year and a half, and is visiting home during her vacation. Cuba has taught us that a better world is not only possible, but it is in existence. Now that we are aware of this reality, our pressing challenge is working towards making that better world a reality in the US.

We have returned with more than just a good impression and a good tan. This caravan has reminded us of the words of our brother and compañero César Chávez who said “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the stronger act of manliness [and womanliness], is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or the weak.” Because we are not weak and we do not let the government intimidate us. This is the reason why we made a decision that we are not going to be silence. And more important, in our struggle against the USA blockage against Cuba, like César Chávez we are going to tell Washington in particular and the world in general: “non violence is hard. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.” We know how to work hard, we know how to sacrifice and we have already won. ¡Sí se puede! We must take this on. Cuba has given us a responsibility to defend and to be in solidarity with the alternative of another world that the Cuban Revolution presented to us. This among other things means to pressure and lobby our Congress to eliminate the travel ban, it means to actively work to create links between communities, and it means to break the information blockade by writing and talking more about Cuba and its example.

Many of us wanted to stay in Cuba but the Cuban people would remind us many times again and in various forms that they needed us in the United States working throughout the year to end the blockade. We have returned from Cuba, many of us feel physically tired but full of a spiritual energy inspired by the possibility of another world. We have come to realize that another purpose of this caravan was to be able to learn from Cuba’s heroic resistance and that we in the United States have a lot of work to do in order to avoid more aggressions against Cuba.. Throughout the caravan we asked ourselves, “Where are our brothers and sisters and how do we truly show our love for them?” Now it becomes more relevant to ask the question after traveling to Cuba. To answer this question means to actively work to end the blockade. In opening their hospitals, schools, homes, and hearts to us, the Cuban people are expecting us to take these examples to our communities. These experiences have to become more than just memories and actually serve as models of change.

18th IFCO/Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan
Back to Work Blog
Reporting from the road: Manolo Enrique de los Santos (guerillerourbano@yahoo.com) & Kaila Paulino (paulinokaila@hotmail.com)
July 30, 2007

La expresión del amor subversivo de la revolución cubana

P. Luis Barrios

Ustedes se han graduado no solo como doctores/as en medicina, sino también, como humanistas. Ustedes han aprendido lo que significa hacer la solidaridad internacionalista y a entender la realidad de la práctica de la medicina preventiva y curativa en un contexto socio-político. Esto hace realidad las palabras célebres de José Martí: Patria es humanidad.

Este fue el mensaje captado en la tercera graduación de la Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina (ELAM) en la Habana, Cuba este pasado 24 de julio. Más de 1,200 estudiantes, procedentes de unos 20 países, vieron su sueño hacerse realidad. Estos/as estudiantes – ahora doctoras/es en medicina- en su mayoría hijos/as de campesinas/os, obreros/as, desempleados/as, los/as excluidos, etc. O sea, los/as hijos/as de los/as condenados/as de la tierra a quienes nuestro sistema capitalista corporativo les robó la esperanza.

Estos/as jóvenes son solo una representación de aquellos/as a quienes sistemas de gobiernos para la clase dominante les despojó de sus derechos humanos y civiles. Sin embargo, fueron bendecidos/as por la revolución socialista cubana y sin tener que pagar un solo centavo de matrícula, libros, comida o vivienda, retornan ahora a sus países para revalidar y continuar la especialidad médica. Esto demuestra una vez más – a pesar de los berrinches de Washington y las pataletas del Pentágono- que esta revolución cubana es irreversible, por lo tanto es cada más revolucionaria.

Y como las bolas son redondas y vienen en cajas cuadradas, del país más rico del mundo – entiéndase Estados Unidos- se graduaron en esta ocasión ocho estudiantes, incluyendo una del condado de la salsa: el Bronx. Estos/as ocho jóvenes, pobres, negros/as, Latinos/as viajaron de muy lejos con el solo propósito de beneficiarse del internacionalismo solidario.

Este internacionalismo solidario cubano, el cual se manifiesta con un amor subversivo y una moral radical, nos fue enseñado con acciones por el médico guerrillero, Ernesto Che Guevara. Es por eso que decimos, sin temor a equivocarnos, que en esta graduación de ELAM: El Che sigue cabalgando por los caminos del ALBA y sus ideas de un nuevo ser humano y las obras de Fidel de un mundo mejor, siguen estando presentes. O sea, que el proyecto del socialismo democrático sigue por un lado demostrando el fracaso de nuestro capitalismo corporativo y por otro lado, nos deja ver que hay esperanza para seguir construyendo el paraíso aquí en la tierra.

Un punto importantísimo en la formación médica de estos/as jóvenes lo es el que no fueron entrenadas/os para comercializar con la medicina. A diferencia de lo que hacemos en las escuelas de medicinas en Estados Unidos, aprendieron que la medicina social tiene como meta principal el salvar vidas y que es inmoral, deshonesto y profano el utilizar esta carrera para producir o acumular dinero.

En otras palabras, estos/as jóvenes tienen claro que la salud es un derecho no un privilegio. Esto por supuesto, tal y como la revolución cubana, les hace más espirituales y les acerca más a Dios. Todo esto a pesar de Cuba ser un país pobre y tener que enfrentarse a 49 años de bloqueo. Aquí es que esta revolución cubana, como estos jóvenes graduados/as, con acciones hacen realidad lo que el compañero y hermano Jesús nos dijo: bienaventurados/as quienes construyen la paz, porque ellas/os serán llamados/as pueblo de Dios. O sea, Cuba no exporta soldados por el mundo para matar, ni mucho menos invade o coloniza países como lo hace el gobierno de Estados Unidos. Este pueblo cubano con su revolución del amor envía médicos y maestros/as por todo el mundo como misioneros/as a salvar vidas, o sea, a sanar, salvar y proteger la imagen de Dios.

De aquí el que constantemente me pregunte; ¿cómo una persona religiosa como Bush tiene tanta maldad y crueldad para la imagen de Dios y como una persona no religiosa como Fidel tiene tanto respeto y amor por esa imagen de Dios? Ya lo dice la Biblia, por sus frutos le conocerán.

Es por todo esto y más que no me canso de decir que en las sociedades de clases, como la nuestra en Estados Unidos, la expresión del amor subversivo y radical es parte del proyecto conspirador de nuestra Diosa. Con este proyecto conspirador construiremos el paraíso terrenal con un socialismo democrático. ¡Viva la revolución cubana y que Dios les bendiga!

P. Luis Barrios
Iglesia San Romero de las Américas
26 de julio de 2007
Habana, Cuba

La Caravana de Nueva York sigue rodando revolucionariamente

Una vez mas hemos cruzado victoriosamente la frontera y a la misma vez rompimos una vez mas el inmoral e ilegal bloqueo de Estados Unidos contra Cuba. Nuestro espíritu se fortalecía mientras entrábamos de México al estado de Texas y esto fue una señal de nuestra victoria. El 28 de julio llegamos a McAllen, Texas donde la Caravana tomó distintos rumbos y aquí dio comienzo nuestro viaje de regreso a casa. Despedirse de aquellos/as que son ahora parte de nosotras/os no fue fácil, pero lo hicimos sabiendo que hay mucho trabajo por hacer en nuestras comunidades y que todos/as tenemos el compromiso de realizar este trabajo.

Hay 15 de nosotros/as en el autobús que va transitando por la costa del Este hacia la ciudad Nueva York. Ya hace dos días estamos en Estados Unido y en estos días en el autobús hemos reflexionado la experiencia vivida. Al bajarnos del avión en México notamos grandes anuncios que promueven el consumismo. Esto fue como una cachetada que nos hizo darnos cuenta que ya no estábamos en una vivencia social comunitaria sino más bien que nos encontrábamos en la boca del lobo, en donde para sobrevivir hay que ser individualista y materialista. Reiteramos, que el trabajo que tenemos que hacer es mucho más serio y a la misma vez más necesario de lo que habíamos anticipado. Debido a esto, hay muchos sentimientos expresados en el autobús. Estamos conscientes de la necesidad de trabajar, por lo tanto, nos hallamos en ese proceso. Algunas/os de nosotros/as estamos entusiasmados/as por el trabajo, otras/os nos sentimos nerviosos/as por lo que este año nos puede traer y por el significado que este trabajo tendrá en nuestras vidas. Pero sobre todo, tenemos una mentalidad de trabajo y esto en última instancia es lo más importante. Rápidamente nos estamos acercamos a nuestro destino, ahora mismo nos encontramos en el estado de Atlanta y confiamos llegar al estado de Nueva York no mas tardar del miércoles, 1 de agosto. A nuestra llegada es que comienza la verdadera lucha; la lucha de trabajo y el progreso hacia una educación en Estados Unidos. Entendemos que parte de esta lucha es eliminar las injusticias y a la misma vez persistir para poder crear un mundo mejor a la misma vez que también batallamos para que cese el bloqueo inhumano hacia Cuba.

En nuestra estadía en Cuba aprendimos muchas cosas. Lo más fascinante fue el poder experimentar un gran sentimiento de amor. En cualquier parte de Cuba que llegábamos había un gran sentido de comunidad lo cual fue un gran contraste al compararlo con el estilo de vida individualista al que estamos acostumbrados/as en Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, aprendimos que aunque Cuba tiene muchos problemas todavía las/os cubanos/as trabajan colectivamente hacia la victoria y enérgicamente para hacer la diferencia. Esto entre otras cosas este es gran un ejemplo de lo que la gente en Estados Unidos, México y Canadá deberíamos aprender; o sea, el trabajo colectivo para cambiar las injusticias. Esta solidaridad con nuestros/as hermanos/as, vecinas/os y amigas/os es la que IFCO/ Pastores/as por la Paz promueve. Notamos como había una gran preocupación por el bienestar de los/as demás lo cual para nosotras/os es extraño y a la misma vez maravilloso, aunque no estamos acostumbradas/os a este estilo de vivencia social colectiva. Otra de cosas impactante fue haber sido testigos/as de la práctica de un proceso de salud y educación universal. Asimismo tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a la tercera ceremonia de graduación de la Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina (ELAM), en la cual se graduó por primera vez el mayor número de estudiantes estadounidenses. En este viaje de retorno con nosotras/os en el autobús viaja una estudiante la cual por año y medio está asistiendo a ELAM y en esta ocasión retorna para visitar a su familia durante las vacaciones. Entre otras cosas Cuba nos ha enseñado no solamente que un mundo mejor es posible, si no que ya ese mundo existe. Por cuanto estamos conscientes de esta realidad nuestro reto es trabajar para que un mundo mejor también se haga realidad aquí en Estados Unidos.

De esta experiencia hemos regresado con algo más que un bonito bronceado o una buena impresión. Esta caravana nos recordó las palabras de nuestro hermano y compañero Cesar Chávez quien dijo; “estoy convencido de que el verdadero acto de coraje humano, es sacrificarnos por los/as demás en una lucha por la justicia sin violencia. La no violencia no es inactiva. Esto no se discute. Eso no es para la gente tímida o débiles.” Porque no somos gentes débiles y no nos dejamos intimidar por el gobierno, esta es la razón por la cual hemos decidido no quedarnos en silencio. Y lo mas importante es que en nuestra lucha en contra del bloqueo de Estados Unidos contra Cuba, como Cesar Chávez también vamos a decirle a Washington en particular y al mundo en general: “la no violencia es difícil. Esta significa la voluntad de sacrificarse. Esto significa la paciencia para ganar.” Nosotras/os sabemos como trabajar fuertemente, sabemos sacrificarnos y ya hemos ganado. ¡Sí se puede! Así es que vamos pa’lante. La revolución cubana nos ha dado la responsabilidad de ser solidarias/os y a la misma vez de defenderla con la alternativa de un nuevo mundo. Esto, entre otras cosas, significa que debemos exigirle a nuestro gobierno que elimine la prohibición de viajar a Cuba. También significa que tenemos que trabajar activamente para crear lazos entre comunidades y asimismo, hablando y escribiendo más sobre Cuba y de su ejemplo, romper el bloqueo de la información

Muchos/as de nosotras/os queríamos quedarnos en Cuba, pero el pueblo cubano nos recordó muchas veces y de varias formas que para destruir el bloqueo ellas/os nos necesitan trabajando aquí en Estados Unido. Ahora hemos regresado de Cuba y muchos/as de nosotras/os nos sentimos físicamente cansadas/os, pero estamos llenos/as de energía espiritual inspirada por la posibilidad de un mundo mejor. Nos hemos dado cuenta que otro propósito de esta caravana fue el poder aprender de la resistencia heroica de Cuba y que nosotros/as en Estados Unidos tenemos mucho trabajo que hacer para poder evitar mas agresión contra de Cuba. A través de la caravana constantemente nos preguntamos, “¿dónde están nuestros/as hermanas/os y como podemos realmente demostrar nuestro amor por ellos/as?” Después de haber realizado este viaje a Cuba esta pregunta es mucho más relevante. Darle respuesta a la misma significa trabajar con mayor firmeza con la intención de eliminar el bloqueo. Al abrirnos las puertas de sus hospitales, escuelas, hogares y sus corazones, el pueblo cubano espera que nosotras/os sigamos su ejemplo y que lo llevemos a nuestras comunidades. Estas experiencias, mas de ser parte de nuestra memoria, se han convertido en un modelo de cambio social.

18va caravana de la amistad hacia Cuba-IFCO/Pastores/as por la Paz
De regreso al trabajo Blog

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pastors for Peace Returns from Cuba Travel Challenge!

Press Advisory July 28, 2007
Contact: Ellen Bernstein (646) 319-5902
Lucia Bruno (347) 423-4330

Pastors for Peace Returns Victorious from Cuba Travel Challenge

Attended Graduation of US Medical Students and Delivered 90 Tons of Aid

Our faith calls us to resist any law preventing us from our biblical mandate to love our neighbor.

More than 100 exhilarated members of Pastors for Peace returned to the US after spending eight days in Cuba, where they delivered 90 tons of humanitarian aid and attended the graduation of eight US students who completed medical school on full scholarship at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.

According to Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the group re-entered the US via Hidalgo,Texas on Saturday morning July 28, not knowing if they would face an increased level of harassment at the border. In previous years, federal agents have tried to intimidate the Caravan with threats of prosecution and seizure of humanitarian aid.

"Border agents spent a considerable amount of time searching luggage and questioning Caravan members." said Walker. "We were able to regain possession of the aid that was detained on our way into Mexico. However, we have not forgotten the situation in Maine where border officials seem to have an axe to grind over the issue of Cuba. Why else would they detain stethoscopes, a hospital breast milk pump and other medical aid bound for Cuba?"

The highlight of the Caravan's eight day stay in Cuba, was the graduation of the first class of US medical students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. IFCO is the administrator of the scholarship program for US students. For more information about the program call the contacts listed above and see our website:
www.ifconews.org .

"The medical school graduation was a tremendously powerful experience. These young doctors are remarkable" said Rev. Thomas Smith of Pittsburgh. "They are committed to returning to medically underserved communities in the US where they are needed most. They will care for those who desperately need them with solid medical training and a deep sense of compassion," said Rev. Smith, who serves as board president of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

More than 40 percent of the 18th Friendshipment Caravan was comprised of young people. During their stay in Cuba, they had many opportunities to meet with Cuban youth. The entire Caravan visited schools, senior centers and hospitals where they learned about the Cuban health care system.

Rev. Diane Baker of Houston noted "Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock. The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on -- because the water always wins."

Last year, more than 100 participants of the Pastors for Peace caravan received letters from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), threatening them with fines for traveling to Cuba. "We don't know what will await us this time," said IFCO board member Rev. Luis Barrios, "but we refuse to be intimidated from fulfilling our mission of humanitarian aid and fellowship."

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency which has been working for social justice since 1967.

Photos and more information are available at
www.pastorsforpeace.org . For the most up-to-date news about the Caravan go to our blog at: www.18thcubacaravan.blogspot.com


Friday, July 27, 2007

Reverse Travel Challenge Saturday July 28th!

Please alert your networks!

Reminder to our Friends and Supporters!

Our intrepid caravanistas have arrived safely in Mexico!

Tomorrow Saturday July 28th --The Caravan is scheduled to cross back into the US from Reynosa, Mexico into McAllen, Texas.

We successfully delivered 90 tons of humanitarian aid to our sisters and brothers in Cuba! This symbolic expression of love was a gift from more than 120 communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

We were also privileged to witness the graduation of eight U.S. students from the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana!

Please be on alert in case we need to activate our emergency networks! We will be in touch if the Caravanistas need our assistance crossing back into the U.S.

And don't forget – the Venceremos Brigade will be challenging the travel ban to Cuba on the same day- different border—through Canada into Buffalo, New York.

Our supporters around the US continue to let their elected officials know about the pettiness of the US government's policies toward Cuba. We are preparing to mount yet another campaign to win the release of humanitarian aid destined for Cuba - now being detained at the Texas border.

We remind you of the reflection by Rev. Diane Baker of Dallas, TX: "Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock. The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on -- because the water always wins."

For the most up-to-date news about the Caravan go to our blog at: www.18thcubacaravan.blogspot.com

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for social justice since 1967. Photographs of the caravan are available at www.pastorsforpeace

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BBC Video Link

Thanks to another poster, we were alerted to the link below--a short video on the BBC News Website. Thanks!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BBC: US Medical Students in Cuba

Eight US students have graduated from a Cuban medical school after completing a six-year study programme funded by the country's communist government.

The eight came to Cuba as part of a deal agreed between President Fidel Castro and members of Washington's Congressional Black Caucus. Under the plan, Cuba offers students from deprived backgrounds full scholarships, including accommodation.

They are meant to return to the US to offer low-cost healthcare. The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says the stories of the six medical students are something of a propaganda coup with Cuba.

Hearts and minds
Cuba's vice president Carlos Lage and other Cuban leaders attended a graduation ceremony for the students at Havana's Karl Marx theatre.

"We get everything from books, even uniforms. But the conditions are that we go back to our communities, wherever we're needed, and we provide healthcare and that's what we really want to do, so we're actually looking forward to it," Evelyn Erickson, a graduate from New York told the BBC.

According to the Cuban authorities, more than 80 young US students are currently receiving training at the Latin American Medical School in Havana, whose qualifications are recognised by the World Health Organization.

Cuba's free healthcare system has been a key foreign policy tool for winning hearts and minds in the developing world, our correspondent says.
The government has sent tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to help some of the world's poorest communities. It also trains large numbers of foreign doctors on the island.

According to the official newspaper, Granma, there are currently more than 5,000 medical students from 25 countries studying in Cuba.

Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/6914265.stmPublished: 2007/07/25 06:20:00 GMT

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

US Medical Students Graduate in Cuba!

This story is being picked up by the wire services and going out into the rest of the world. The BBC and AP picked up the story a couple of hours ago. Below is the Reuters story. The link below will take you to some photos of the story. Help spread the word!


U.S. medical students graduate debt-free in Cuba

Eight Americans graduated on Tuesday from a Cuban medical school after six years of studies fully funded by Fidel Castro's government.

They plan to return home, take board exams for licenses to practice and provide cheap health care in poor neighborhoods.

"Cuba offered us full scholarships to study medicine here. In exchange, we commit ourselves to go back to our communities to provide health care to underserved people," said Carmen Landau, 30, of Oakland, California.

The program is part of Castro's pet project to send thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to tend to the poor in developing countries, such as Venezuela and Bolivia, and train tens of thousand of medical students from developing countries in Cuba.

Officials in Cuba's communist government relish the idea of training doctors for the United States, its arch-enemy since Castro took power in a leftist revolution in 1959.

The ailing Cuban leader, 80, did not attend the graduation for 850 students from 25 countries at Havana's Karl Marx theater. He has not appeared in public since intestinal surgery forced him to hand over power to his brother Raul Castro a year ago.

There are 88 Americans studying medicine in Cuba. The first to graduate two years ago was Cedric Edwards, who is now working at Montefiore Hospital in New York City's Bronx borough.

The U.S. students praised Cuba's universal, free health-care system, which is community based and focuses on preventing illness before it becomes more serious and costly, in contrast to the U.S. health industry indicted for being profit-based in Michael Moore's recent film "SiCKO."

"We have studied medicine with a humanitarian approach," said Kenya Bingham, 29, of Alameda, California.

"Health care is not seen as a business in Cuba. When you are sick, they are not going to try to charge you or turn you away if you don't have insurance," she said.

The main difference in studying in Cuba was that there was no charge and the graduates can begin their practice debt-free, said Jose De Leon, 27, from Oakland.

"When medical doctors graduate in the United States they are usually in debt, between $250,000 to $500,000, and spend the first 10 years of their careers paying it off," he said.

That, Landau said, requires rushing patients in and out to earn more."'SiCKO' was an inspiration," said Landau, who plans to return to the United States to help promote the creation of a universal health-care system.

"It is a wonderful idea that makes total sense in every country, especially in one with so many resources. If they can do it in Cuba, we can do it in the United States," she said.

Alarcon Says U.S. Blockade is Genocidal

Havana, July 24 (acn)

The president of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, reiterated on Monday that the almost fifty-year-old U.S. policy of commercial, financial and economic blockade against Cuba is genocidal.

The Cuban official made the statement during a meeting held in Havana on Monday with U.S. organizations in solidarity with Cuba.

Present in the meeting were members of the 18th Pastors for Peace U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, the 38th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade, the Cuba Solidarity Network and the Association of U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities.

Alarcón denounced the aggressive anti-Cuba policy of the administration of George W. Bush, which openly expresses its intentions to topple the Cuban government and subjugate the country.

He also condemned Washington's release of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and criticized the incarceration of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who unjustly remain imprisoned in U.S. jails.

For his part, Reverend Lucius Walker, executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) that sponsors the Pastors for Peace caravan, said: "Again, we come to Cuba to learn, to recharge our batteries, to see that you are firm on your ideas and spirit, and we leave inspired by your example to continue fighting together."

Also present in the meeting were the president of the Cuban Friendship Institute, Sergio Corrieri; the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Reverend Raúl Suárez; and the head of the Department of Religious Affairs at the Central Committee of Cuba's Communist Party.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Press on Caravan Arrival in Havana

The members of the 18th US Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan arrived on Thursday in Havana where they were welcomed at the Jose Marti international airport by the head of the Cuban Friendship Institute, Sergio Corrieri.

(note: Rev. Lucius Walker has joined the Caravan in Havana, today- July 23rd)

Havana, July 20 (acn) The members of the 18th US Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan arrived on Thursday in Havana where they were welcomed at the José Martí international airport by the head of the Cuban Friendship Institute, Sergio Corrieri.

Speaking to reporters upon their arrival, Reverend Tom Smith expressed his satisfaction for this new trip to Cuba, a country that is not alone and that has become a model of what can be done, even amid difficult economic conditions, to achieve a just and equitable society, he said.Smith, who traveled ahead of the group made up by 140 people, announced that on this occasion the 90 tons of human aid that will soon arrive from the Mexican port of Tampico, will be destined to the elder.

Smith noted that the donation - collected in 127 cities of the United States and in six Canadian cities - includes surgical and X-ray equipment, walking sticks and computers, among other instruments, that will be helpful in many programs underway on the island to improve the life quality of the elder and the disabled.

Smith and Reverend Luis Barrios reiterated that relations between Cuba and Pastors for Peace will continue to strengthen and that the US restrictions and visa denials will not obstruct this exchange of love and comradeship.

He also said that among the missions of the Pastors for Peace movement, headed by Reverend Lucius Walker,who will arrive on the island next week, is the work they do with the youth, who have the possibility to learn more about Cuba's reality and to fight the blockade.

Smith added that they will also continue demanding the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who remain unjustly imprisoned in the United States.

He stressed that the graduation next July 24th of eight low-income American youth who are studying at the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine, is a blessing for his country.The 18th Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan includes volunteers from the United States, Canada, Mexico and some European countries.

We’re Coming Back to Cuba (from El Diario la Prensa)


Our Pastors for Peace Caravan started and this year we’re coming back [to Cuba] with more energy than ever before. We’re continuing to challenge the arbitrary, immoral and inhuman blockade that the US government has maintained for over 40 years, that they’ve used to punish Cuba for having transformed into a socialist democracy in 1959.

This socialist democracy —established and defended with a peoples’ revolution—, has been one of the most crushing blows to US imperialism, colonialism, neoliberalism, corporate capitalism and cultural domination. Likewise, this socialist revolution broke the spine of the divine belief in, and brought to light the hypocrisy, of the neighboring country’s Monroe Doctrine policy.

On the one hand, this socialist democracy has shown that, with a humanist agenda, relations between human beings must be based on the peoples’ wellbeing. And of course, the building of healthy relationships between human beings should guarantee the protection of human and civil rights.

It is here where Cuba’s socialist democracy guarantees political participation; economic equality; harmony between civil society and politics; and that each person elected to a government position responds to the needs of their constituency.

Cuba has demonstrated to the entire world that greater respect and love towards humanity is possible. Although atheist in theory, in practice, this socialism makes God’s presence real while our capitalism, even though it believes in God, is denied every day in practice.

Now, I have to confess that Cuba is not perfect. It is not paradise. You might ask me: Are there human rights violations, indiscriminate arrests, torture and/or political assassinations in Cuba? I would answer with all honesty that yes; everyday.

Of course all that is happening at the US Guantanamo Naval Base, a small piece of Cuban territory colonized and administered by the United States government. That’s to say; those crimes against humanity are committed by the US government not the government established by the Cuban revolution.

Here is the hypocrisy of the supposed defense of human rights that Washington likes to market.

At the same time I must say that Cuba is not hell. If you want to see hell I invite you to turn to post-Katrina New Orleans and see the hellish reality which they want to hide from us, while not correcting it. This is the hell here on Earth, intentionally created by Bush and his genocidal government for the poor, black and Latino population.

In other words, the Cuban revolution has all the intention to counteract the capitalist doctrine whereby peoples’ happiness is mainly related to accumulating money, a free market for the corporations to do whatever they want, privatization of basic social services like education and health, etc.

It is here where the discourse on democracy, justice, reconciliation or freedom must be analyzed in a context of our ability to establish political, economic and social systems that guarantee the eradication of all oppression and exclusion.

For all those reasons, our San Romero de las Americas Church in New York City bought a bus and donated it to the Cuban people. Twenty-five people traveled on the bus through the entire east coast and south of the United States and now we are in Texas having joined with our brothers and sisters. In all we are 13 vehicles with some 150 people and 90 tons of humanitarian aid for the people of Cuba, that’s to say, 90 tons of our subversive love.

(Taken from the El Diario-La Prensa newspaper in New York)

*Luis Barrios is a reverend of the San Romero de Las Americas Church in New York

Subversive Cargo of Love

Pastors for Peace Caravan Arrives in Cuba

The 18th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba arrived in Havana on Thursday. The group brought with them their “subversive cargo of love” in a direct challenge to the nearly half century US blockade of Cuba.

Around 140 members of the caravan organized by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), with a large number of young people, toured 127 cities in the United States and Canada to gather 90 tons of humanitarian aid.

The donations are mainly to support Cuba’s programs for the elderly and “its achievements in increasing the life expectancy of its people,” said Rev. Tom Smith, who heads the delegation.

Smith told the press he is happy to be in Cuba and said that the cargo shipment will soon arrive from the port of Tampico, Mexico. He said it includes surgical materials, X ray equipment, walking aids and computers, among other articles.

P4P Exchange with Cuban Children

From the ACN news service in Cuba:

Pastors for Peace Exchange with Cuban Children

Havana, July 23 (acn) Members of the 18th Pastors for Peace Cuba-US Friendshipment Caravan met on Sunday with children of a foster home of the city of Sancti Spíritus in central Cuba.
Cuban News Agency

The members of Pastors for Peace, who arrived last Friday in Havana after collecting 90 tons of humanitarian aid for Cuba in a tour around 127 US cities, spoke with the children who showed them their home and offered them a cultural show.

During the meeting, the visitors learned about the advantages of the Cuban educational system that guarantees the necessary resources for the education of all the youth of the country.

The visitors also visited a poli-clinic on Sunday and learned about the efforts being made there towards social and economic development.

They also expressed interest in education and health care programs in the central province of Sancti Spíritus, and praised the infant mortality rate in the territory, which is only 3.1 deaths per every one thousand live births.

Visit to the Central Provinces

From Granma Internacional:

Havana. July 23, 2007

Pastors for Peace group visits central provinces

A group of 140 members of the 18th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan met this weekend with people from the Cuba’s central provinces and called for the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorist combatants unjustly imprisoned in the United States since 1998.

The solidarity delegation, made up of people from the United States, the UK, Germany, Canada and Mexico, paid tribute to Commander Ernesto Che Guevara, laying a wreath at the memorial that holds his remains and those of his comrades who fell in Bolivia.

In the name of the caravanistas, Reverend Luis Barrios described Che as a prophet and an exceptional human being who learned to identify and denounce problems and to change the situation provoked by them.

During their stay in Villa Clara, members of the solidarity group participated in a service in the local Presbyterian Church and shared experiences with people resident in the San Vicente de Paúl hospice in this city.

In Cienfuegos, John Waller, the caravan coordinator, stressed that the attention given to by Cuban society to health and education services is at the height of the developed countries, despite the U.S. blockade of the island.

The group was accompanied by Caridad Diego, head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Party, and Reverend Raúl Suárez, a deputy in Cuba’s National Assembly of People's Power.

The service in the Presbyterian Church of Sanctí Spíritus was dedicated to reconciliation and sisterhood and was led by Reverend Tom Smith, who gave greetings to the congregation on behalf of Lucius Walker, leader of the movement.

“We are U.S. citizens in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, the caravanistas emphasized. We are fighting against the blockade and in favor of the liberation of Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero, René González and Gerardo Hernández.”

(José A. Fulgueiras, Armando Sáez and Prensa Latina).
Translated by Granma International


Friday, July 20, 2007

Safe and Sound in Havana!

As of Friday, July 20th, this Associated Press report had been picked up by:

International Herald Tribune, the Chicago Tribune and the Houston Chronicle

American group delivers aid to Cuba with little objection from US authorities
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 19, 2007

HAVANA: A U.S. humanitarian group delivered about 80 metric tons (90 tons) of aid to Cuba on Thursday, defying Washington's 45-year-old trade embargo.

Some 140 Pastors for Peace volunteers drove across the Texas border to Mexico, and then flew to Havana with computers and medical supplies, including X-ray machines, walkers and surgical gowns.

The group, making its 18th annual pilgrimage to Cuba, said it was held up at two U.S. border crossings while returning from Canada with donations, but completed the journey with "99.5 percent" of the aid it hoped to bring, said the Rev. Luis Barrios, pastor of San Romero de Las Americas, a non-denominational church in New York City.

Barrios said U.S. authorities seized 12 computers, but did not take the monitors for those machines.

"We've arrived at the conclusion that that was symbolic," Barrios said. "The United States, although it doesn't recognize it publicly, in terms of the blockade, has morally lost."

Barrios said U.S. officials were friendly, and even made a point of confiscating the oldest computers while allowing new laptops through. "They had to take something from us to say they had taken something," he said.

State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said she had no comment.

Dressed in blue and white T-shirts emblazoned with "U.S.-Cuba Caravan," the New York-based group also included volunteers from Mexico, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.The embargo prohibits U.S. tourists from visiting Cuba and chokes off nearly all trade between both countries. Those who flaunt American travel restrictions can face thousands of dollars (euros) in fines and even jail time.

At the Mexican Border

Caravan at McAllen Texas

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

PRESS RELEASE July 17, 2007,

CONTACTS: IFCO/Pastors for Peace
McAllen: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902
New York: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757, 347/423-4330



126 U.S. Citizens and International Activists Challenging Immoral U.S. Blockade of Cuba.

The 18th Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba approached the Pharr International Bridge at the Texas/Mexico border this morning at 6:30am. They found that the International Bridge was blocked off by local police.

The caravan was diverted into the US Customs lot, where Customs and Border Patrol officers proceeded to X-ray and search the vehicles. Nearly 50 officers spent nearly two hours unloading and reloading crutches, wheelchairs, commodes, and medical supplies from the vehicles. They located and ‘detained’ 12 computers from the caravan.

“This is a battle of David and Goliath – and Goliath knows that he’s losing,” said Rev Luis Barrios, member of the IFCO/Pastors for Peace board of directors. “What they are taking from us today is purely symbolic. They are trying to show us that they are in charge. But we know that we are the ones in charge, and that the people’s power will prevail.”

The Pastors for Peace caravan, 12 brightly painted vehicles carrying 126 activists and 90 tons of aid, plans to cross into Mexico later today on its way to Cuba. The caravan is a direct nonviolent challenge of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, which prevents the Cuban people from accessing much-needed supplies. The caravan also challenges the travel blockade, which seeks to prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba.

Two years ago, US government officials spent a whole day seizing computer aid– CPUs, modems, cables, and toner cartridges – from the 16th IFCO/Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. IFCO/Pastors for Peace struggled for nearly a year to finally get that aid released.

Two weeks ago, the Bush Administration detained medical aid for Cuba at the Maine-Canada border—hospital gowns, stethoscopes, even breast pumps – although they allowed the very same sort of aid to pass into the U.S. from Vancouver, Toronto, and Winnipeg. Demonstrations continue in Canada and the US for the release of that aid.

“We are going to allow Homeland Security a couple of weeks to reconsider their decision to seize these computers today,” said Rev Lucius Walker, Jr, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “By then we will have returned from Cuba. Our supporters around the US will have contacted their elected officials to let them know about the pettiness of the US government’s policies toward Cuba.

And we will be prepared to mount yet another campaign to win the release of this humanitarian aid for our sisters and brothers in Cuba.”

“Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock,” said Rev. Diane Baker of Dallas, TX. “The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on -- because the water always wins.”

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for social justice since 1967. Photographs of the caravan are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.


Monday, July 16, 2007

We are Pastors for Peace II

We are Pastors for Peace

More Photos from McAllen!

Thanks, Tracey!

Photos From McAllen!

We owe a big thanks to Tracey Luszcz for these photos!

July 19 Day of Action Victoria, B.C.

Hi friends:

Our Victoria Goods for Cuba committee will hold a day of action for the release of the humanitarian aid confiscated from our Quebec sister group Caravane D'amitié Québec-Cuba by US border officials in Maine at the Coburn Gore crossing.

We are asking all our friends, supporters and people who believe in justice to come together in front of the Victoria, B.C. Legislature lawn at 12:00 noon, Thursday, July 19 and demand that the humanitarian aid be released.

We will have speakers, entertainment, leaflets to hand out and the media will also be invited. We hope to see you and your friends there.

The Québec aid was destined for maternity clinics and nursing homes in Cuba, included: a breast pump for nursing mothers, stethoscopes, used eyeglasses, a Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) and surgical gowns.

Pastors for Peace spent six hours in a standoff with Homeland Security attempting to negotiate passage of the medical aid before the shipment was detained for thirty days to investigate its security threat to the U.S.On the same day, Saturday, June 30, the aid shipment from Winnipeg, combined with aid from Edmonton and Calgary, was allowed to cross into the US. On that same Saturday here in BC - Vancouver, Salt Spring Island and Victoria were allowed to cross into the US with numerous caravanistas and a few truckloads of aid with no questions asked. On July 7 the aid from Ontario also got through the border at Fort Erie/Buffalo.

How can it be that humanitarian aid and caravanistas were allowed to enter in three entry points, but the one in Maine was refused?

We believe that such an act of seizing humanitarian aid is outrageous, inhumane and hateful.

In solidarity,
Randy Caravaggio
Goods for Cuba

Sioux Falls, South Dakota Photos

Pueblo Colorado

Two pictures from the caravan when it stopped at Pueblo, CO.

One is of the Rev. Faye Gallegos commissioning the Rev. Max Hale and the Rev. Steve Parke to join the Rev. Diane Baker, Gary and Sia (I hope you have last names!) on this journey.

The second picture shows folks getting ready to load the $50,000+ worth of supplies gathered by the folks of Christ Congregational UCC to send to Cuba.

Carbondale Illinois

Beautiful Letter from Dallas

Dear Friend,

I am truly in awe; simply delighted at how our varying trends, cultures, issue-centered streams- we all came together in Solidarity with the people of Cuba tonight!

I witnessed what could be the spawning of a new community. Perhaps you guys are used to this sort of thing. Yet, the happenings tonight (the reception for the Pastors for Peace Friendship Caravan), and one which I was so pleased to be engaged in, was for me, a fresh breeze blowing.

I guess you must be used to smiling teenagers serving in the kitchen alongside our “elders”, or an Anglo folk singer performing back to back with an African drummer, or perhaps it’s common place around these neck of the woods to have home made fish stew, soy dishes, fried chicken, fresh spinach salad and buffalo wings, all served up in the basement of a Methodist church were Buddhists, Muslims, Unitarians, Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, and (yes, indeed) an atheist or two joined hands, prayed together and hung out together as one single family. Hey ya’ll I’m not quite used to that, but I sure can get ready for more of the same.

I can’t end this note and go back to my personal chores and diversions without thanking the Dallas Peace Center, the Job with Justice brothers and sisters, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Presbyterian “Peacemakers”, the Pan African Connection Bookstore (and any others I may have unintentionally left out) for their contributions- in word and in deed- to the overall efforts.

A special salute and hearty “shout outs” goes out to Emma Rogers and her crew, Lois Lillie, Alpha, my “side kick” Marilyn Clark, Sister Akioele Tyehinila, the youths of the South Dallas Culture Center and Pastor Stovall and the Munger Place UMC Church family for all their support, energy or their behind- the-scenes- toil and sweat. Sara did a magnificent job as our emcee (and with zero advance warning or preparations!). Thanks to all who brought a dish, donated a buck, took time out of their hectic, busy lives to come out and share.

Tonight we raised/increased:
- the spirit of our road warriors, the caravanistas.
-our knowledge/awareness in connecting local concerns with global affairs. -the bar for conducting down to earth/concrete, progressive actions.
-$1,040 for the cause.
-the chances for success in future endeavors, and for increasing the peace.
-new friendships, trust and a better sense of mutual respect.

Good night…better days are ahead.
Peace and blessings,

Photos from Upstate New York