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    1994 Loading a truck to send on Pastors for Peace Friendshipment 3

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    2010 Canadian-American-Cuban solidarity at Blaine, WA.

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    2010 Friendshipment 21 Send-off in Seattle

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    2013 Blaine Peace Park welcome to Friendshipment 24

united casino

by Victor Odlivak
May 27, 2010

I have bicycled four times in Cuba. The first three trips were with Bicycle Cuba as part of the International Bicycle Fund
(see http://www.ibike.org.) That was a good introduction. However it included packing all our gear in a very loud polluting truck. The last time I went in January 2003 as the tour guide with three other friends from my bicycle club, The Seattle Bicycle Club. We were a self contained group with no vehicles following behind us. We covered 500 kilometers repeating some of my favorite parts of previous trips and some new places way off the beaten path. For a detailed diary type report with pictures please see: Victor on Facebook

 

bicycling Cuba Traveling as a self contained group and speaking the language as much as possible we were able to mix well with the people. We got there the luxury way, by flying directly on a charter flight from Vancouver, British Columabia to Varadero Beach. This is highly recommended as if you fly to Habana, your bike may disappear mysteriously or parts of it. This happened to one of the leaders of the previous trips I went on. Varadero Beach is really luxurious. You can spend easily over a hundred dollars a night on a hotel, but if you look around a bit on the web, you can find something for around 50 -60 US Dollars/night for two people ( http://www.netssa.com ) Varadero is truly luxurious. There are people who stay here for two weeks and think they have seen the real Cuba, but it is really worth your while to get out. Our first stop was Cardena. There is a beautiful old cemetary there with lots of statues from the last century. This is the town the Elian made famous, the 6 year old boy who was caught in a custody battle. We had a great meal there at the restaurant for Cuban locals where you pay in Cuban Pesos. It wound up costing us four dollars a piece with a generous tip for a four course meal. Everything was fresh. We stayed at the only hotel in town, where we were handed one light bulb to put into the room. There was a bit of a prostitution business going on in the room next door, which we politely declined. We did get some nice happy new year hugs and kisses as we had arrived there on New Year's eve.

The next town was a really old town Colon, named for Columbus, where there were no tourists. We stayed in a nice working class hotel for Cubans. There was quite a decent restaraunt downstairs and the old square was beautiful to walk around with a great ice cream parlor. I want to stress the most beautiful part of the trip here for me. This is the fact that Ninety Five percent of the vehilcles on the road are bicycles. It is such a great feeling to go down the main highway , using the entrance and exit ramps on a bicycle. You also see quite a few horse and donkey drawn carts. You can go an hour without seeing a car. It is so quiet as you pedal along. You feel like you are going back one hundred years in time. We spent most of the time in the country side on very small and sometimes dirt roads.

After Colon, the next town was Santa Clara where Che and other revolutionaries are buried in a Masoleum. There is a huge statue of Che and pictures of other involved in the revolution including Celia. There are no pictures or statues of Fidel. When you go into the Masoleum, you must not say one word, not even a whisper. This is a sacred place. I felt that being inside. There is also great culture in this city. This is where the Cuban National Ballet is headquartered which I saw in a visit four years earlier give a stunning performance of an old slave tale with a flamenco and percussion orchestra.

The next stop was Sancti Spiritus. This is a very old town of 50,000 people. Also Santeria is very prominent here. We heard a little about it, but did not see any ceremonies. We saw a tabacco cigar factory, where we were unofficially invited. They also have a nice art museum here. There was only one restaurant in the entire town a Palmera and they opened up when they saw us coming. We ate everything in the house. It was very clean and neat with great fresh food. Do not pass up visiting the library in the central square. It has awesome architecture and good books inside.

We then pedaled another 110 km to Castilda on the sea on the outskirts of another old slave port Trinidad. The slave museum there is really worth seeing, including drawings of the slave boats and a picture of an overseer with his slaves. The others in my group wanted an extra day on the coast and I ventured on alone to the Escambar Mountains to “Topo de los Colantes”. This is one incredible rain forest. At night it goes down to 50 degrees Farenheit and can be drizzly/rainy like Seattle. I had sunshine the whole time. The hike down to the waterfalls there was incredible. It was so cold that I could only go in for 30 seconds before my lips turned blue. Cuba is a very mountainous country. Later I hiked to another cave in the afternoon. I had a feast of a buffet meal that night. Unfortunately because of the world wide slump in the economy at that time (2003 January) they were down to a quarter of their normal business. There is also a very beautiful German Kur Hotel here that was built over a hundred years ago. I heard some German voices and could speak with them. The German Health Care system will pay for you to come here and have a Kur , if you have a severe illness. Imagine that!

 

bicycling CubaThe last day of pedaling took us over the mountains through little towns such as Maninicaragua to Santa Clara again. It was a bit of a climb up to 1200 meters with a lot of up and down. We were in shape by then so it was just pure bliss (at least for me).

We finished off by taking a bus and doing some sightseeing in Havana, staying with a family in the Vedado neighborhood where I stayed before. Their son is a string physicist (who knows Steve Hawkin) living in Rome now, married to an equally brillant mathematician.

My most urgent message to you, is to see this place so you have an idea of how a society which is an alternative to capitalism can function. There are not many years left before this place may turn into another Cancun. The people overall where incredibly nice and kind, especially if you attempt to speak their language. I had to dig out that four years of high school Spanish, but it was still there. I even got a few letters from some of the people I met, very well written in beautiful penmanship.

Hasta la Victoria, siempre!

 

20th Anniversary caravan

Tom Warner was a long-time Secretary of the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee, and for 49 years a vocal advocate for normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.
Tom passed away in 2011.

November 16, 2011
Memorial service highlights
Family and friends held a memorial service for Tom Warner on November 5th, 2011 at Bethany United Church of Christ in South Seattle. Here are some highlights:

Tina Warner's eulogy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y1I0h5T_gs&feature=related

Judy's sharing about the Workers Defense Fund:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjmS8bZEmW4

Gabriela playing "Family":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8zJhiBZ6fU&feature=email

Bill's sharing and poem:
http://www.youtube.com/user/kanatran3#p/u/5/7hByX-QsQmc

Oct 28, 2011
Memorial Service for Tom Warner

Date and Time: Saturday November 5th, 2011, from 2pm to 5pm.
Location: Bethany United Church of Christ, 6230 Beacon Ave. So., South Seattle.
It will be a potluck. Spaghetti (both meat and vegetarian) will be provided. Please bring a side dish to share: salad, bread, dessert, a drink, or an appetizer.
Also if you are inspired, bring a photo, a story, or other memento to share. We are making a scrap book.
More information: (206) 725-7535
See you there!

October 26, 2011
Cuba loses a friend in Seattle
Tom Warner, heart and soul of Seattle's Cuba solidarity movement for the past 50 years, has died at age 86. He passed at home on October 24, 2011, with his loving wife Judy at his side.
His daughter Valentina wrote that "he told us "Don't mourn, ORGANIZE!"

Tom Warner and Judy Zeh at Blaine border crossing, 2010.

Tom and Judy at Blaine border crossing, 2010

Tom Warner, Ramon Bernal and Judy Zeh in Havana, 2007.

Tom and Judy in Havana, 2007

Tom Warner, ¡presente!

 

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee has participated in every Pastors for Peace Caravan since 1992. This page offers a brief overview of our efforts to support Friendshipment Carvans over the past 22 years.

This page is under construction. It should be completed by November 1, 2014

 

1992 Friendshipment 1

1993 Friendshipment 2

1994 Friendshipment 3

1995 Friendshipment 4

1995 Friendshipment 5

1996 Pastors For Peace/INFOMED Caravan 6

1997 Friendshipment 7

1998 Friendshipment 8

1999 Friendshipment 9

1999 Friendshipment 10

2000 Friendshipment 11

2001 Friendshipment 12

2002 Friendshipment 13

2003 Friendshipment 14

2004 Friendshipment 15

2005 Friendshipment 16

2006 Friendshipment 17

2007 Friendshipment 18

2008 Friendshipment 19

2009 Friendshipment 20

2010 Friendshipment 21

2011 Friendshipment 22

2012 Friendshipment 23

2013 Friendshipment 24

2014 Friendshipment 25

 

2010 Pastors for Peace 21st Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee is participating in the 21st Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. Please join us!

May 27, 2010
Friendshipment 21 Description

See also the Pastors for Peace Caravan blog: www.ifconews.org/Blog-21stCaravan

Be an ambassador for a new policy towards Cuba:
Join the Pastors for Peace 21st Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba!
July 3 – August 3, 2010

Pastors for Peace has been organizing Friendshipment Caravans to Cuba since 1993.
Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee has provided local support for every one of these caravans.

IFCO Caravan

President Obama’s election brought hope for change in many aspects of US policy including the potential to end the illegal, immoral and internationally condemned economic blockade of Cuba.

A year has passed and we have seen only small steps towards a new relationship with Cuba – new regulations to allow Cuban Americans to freely visit and send money to their families, and background talks about a few issues of mutual interest such as immigration.

These are positive steps but progress has stalled and the fundamental mechanisms of the economic blockade remain in full vigor. Meanwhile in Congress there have been a number of bills introduced to end or ease aspects of the blockade, the most prominent of which is the one to end the travel ban for all US citizens. But none of these has yet come to a vote.

The blockade has been in place almost 50 years and outlasted 10 US presidents. We have to step up the pressure to ensure that it finally ends under the current president.

NOW is the time to completely end the blockade, travel ban and all the measures aimed at starving the Cuban people into submission and overthrowing their government. We intend to demonstrate that we will no longer tolerate it.

In July we will travel in school buses, trucks and cars on 14 different routes to visit more than 130 US and Canadian cities. At every stop we will educate people about the blockade while collecting building supplies and tools for hurricane reconstruction, as well as medical, educational and cultural supplies. Join the caravan as we pass through your community, to connect and stay with community activists across the country as you travel. Alternatively join us directly in Texas on July 18th.

From Texas we travel to Cuba via Mexico. We go without asking for or accepting a US government license, as a disciplined collective challenge to the blockade and travel ban, and as ambassadors for a People to People foreign policy.

We spend 9 full days in Cuba, in Havana and neighboring provinces, in fellowship with our Cuban brothers and sisters.

We attend cultural events and visit social projects such as organic farms, homes for the elderly and health centers including the internationally acclaimed Latin American School of Medicine.

We meet and learn from Cubans at every level about the problems caused by the blockade and how they have creatively responded, as well as how they are rebuilding after the three devastating hurricanes that hit the island in the fall of 2008.

People with skills in construction, organic gardening or mural painting will have the option of working alongside Cuban counterparts for a couple of days of the program.

We then return to the US via Mexico, proudly declaring our travel to Cuba and our opposition to this immoral blockade.

CARAVAN SCHEDULE
JULY 3-17, 2010
Caravan routes - educational events and aid collections in the US and Canada.
JULY 18-20
Participant Orientation in Texas.
JULY 21- 22
Border 2010crossing into Mexico travel to Tampico load material aid onto cargo ship.
JULY 23 – AUGUST 1
Fly to Havana - educational program in Cuba.
AUGUST 2
Return to Tampico - travel to Mexico/US border.
AUGUST 3
Reverse Challenge, cross back into the US.

WAYS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
· Come as a caravanista – contact us for an application form
· Recruit other caravanistas –Distribute our brochure and get others to request an application.
· Get involved locally – help host a caravan event in your community – email us to get a local contact - if there isn't one, you or your organization can take the initiative to host the caravan!
· Collect material aid - let us know so we can send you the aid information packet.
· Make a financial donation: Checks or money orders should be made out to IFCO (write Caravan only in memo line) and mailed to our New York office. For credit card donations simply click on the Donate-now button on our website www.pastorsforpeace.org and follow the instructions, or call our office.
· Donations are tax-deductible.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee (Seattle Area coordination)
c/o Tom Warner
Tel. 206-523-1720
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

IFCO/Pastors For Peace (National Caravan Coordination)
418 West 145th Street, 3-FL.
New York NY 10031
Tel. 212-926-5757
Fax 212-926-5842
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.ifconews.org

 

July 4, 2010
21st Friendshipment Caravan begins in the Pacific Northwest

*Canadian activists defy US embargo of Cuba*

On Sunday July 4, Canadian activists successfully challenged the US Government blockade against Cuba by 2010crossing the Canadian-US border carrying dozens of boxes of aid aboard a yellow school bus.

 

Before the border 2010crossing, participants met at Peace Arch Park, which straddles the US/Canadian border near Blaine, Washington. Canadians from the greater Vancouver area and nearby Saltspring Island were joined by Americans from Bellingham, Seattle, Olympia and New York City.
The approximately 100 participants began with a rally at the picnic area on the Canadian side of the border.

 

Tom Warner, a Seattle activist who has been vocally supporting the Cuban Revolution for 50 years, gave a pep talk while Tamara Hansen of Vancouver, chief organizer of the event, looked on.

caravanistas2010

 

Canadian "caravanistas" who will travel on the caravan across the US and Mexico introduced themselves.

 

This young Canadian man appeared very happy to be going on the caravan!

 

Hap Bockelie from Seattle will be one of the Americans going on the caravan.

 

A Canadian First Nations woman provided a blessing song to caravan participants.

 

Every rally needs music and dancing: the Samba du Soliel band from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, belted out happy rhythms to energize the gathering.

 

...and (almost) everybody danced!

 

Representatives from the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee at the rally.

 

After the rally, volunteers loaded donations of material aid onto a yellow Canadian schoolbus that will be traveling to Cuba on the Friendship Caravan.

 

Pastors for Peace staffer Manolo de los Santos (left) and Canadian activist Axel (right), who will be driving the schoolbus across the US and Mexico, prepared to drive through the US border 2010crossing.

 

After the picnic and rally, Judy Zeh and Tom Warner head down to the US border crossing.

 

The schoolbus got in the traffic queue near the Peace Arch and headed towards the US border 2010crossing, while the support group followed on foot through the Peace Arch Park.

 

The bus passed near the Peace Arch monument.

 

Manolo de los Santos spoke with US Border Patrol officers regarding the aid being brought into the United States.

 

Canadian caravanistas who will be accompanying the bus to Cuba walk towards the US border control building.

 

Success! The bus and caravanistas having successfully crossed into the United States, the participants gathered for a group portrait.

 

Seattle Send-off Party

Join us to load material aid collected in the Seattle area onto the bus, and wish the caravanistas a happy and successful trip. Please come!
Date: Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Time: 6pm
Location: El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Avenue South, Seattle (Beacon Hill.)
Questions: Call Tom Warner at (206) 523-1720

 

July 7, 2010
21st Friendshipment Caravan Send-off event at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle.

Approximately 40 caravanistas and well-wishers gathered at El Centro de la Raza on Seattle's Beacon Hill for a potluck dinner, speeches, music, last-minute packing and loading of donated aid onto a Cuba-bound schoolbus.

Roberto Maestas, the original founder of El Centro, led the evening off by wishing the carvanistas well and reading his own poem/song about the Cuban Revolution.

Robero Maestas at send-off

 

Sandino, the Pastors for Peace designated speaker for the West Coast leg of the Friendship caravan, discussed the Cuban Revolution and explained the need for public protests of the US Government blockade.

 

Ramon, from Seattle, is currently studying medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana.

 

Rick Fellows, a long time Pastors for Peace staffer, is also an ace mechanic, bus driver, and passionate defender of the Cuban revolution.

 

Dale Rector led the group in a rousing rendition of "Guantanamera."

 

Dakadu played a march on his saxophone to send off the bus in style.

 

Then we packed a few more boxes to go on the bus to Cuba.......

 

Judy Zeh made a few last-minute additions to the inventory.....

 

...and the last boxes were loaded onto the bus.

 

To complete the event, a celebratory group photo.

 

What's Next
The Caravan bus left Seattle after the send-off party. After spending the night in Olympia, tomorrow they will begin the long drive south to the Texas-Mexico border and will plan to challenge the US blockade by 2010crossing the border into Mexico on July 21-22. They will continue on to Tampico, then fly to Cuba for a week-long program and return to the US on August 3. Let's wish them luck!
Questions: Call Tom Warner at (206) 523-1720

 

July 22, 2010
US Officials seize computers bound for Cuba

BY JACK KEATING, THE PROVINCE
JULY 21, 2010

U.S. Customs and Border Protection guards seized five computers donated by Vancouver residents that were bound for Cuba Wednesday as part of the 21st Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba.

“They confiscated five computers that had been donated by people in Vancouver,” Janine Solanki, an organizer with Vancouver Communities In Solidarity with Cuba, said from the Texas side of the U.S.-Mexico border. “I think this is just an harassment and intimidation tactic.”

Solanki, one of five Vancouver residents on the 85-person humanitarian aid caravan to break the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, said the reasoning behind the seizure was the U.S. authorities wanted to investigate whether the computers could be used for military purposes.

“These computers are Pentium 4s that are five-year-old used computers, so it’s a bit of a ridiculous charge,” said Solanki. “So they took five of them to inspect them to see if they could be used for military purposes by Cuba. That doesn’t even make sense, because they confiscated five of them and left another 55 computers with us.”

The caravan that includes 12 school buses, nine of which will be donated to Cuba, and more than 100 tons of medicines, medical supplies, computers as well as school supplies, sports equipment and construction supplies, was allowed to leave the U.S. at Pharr, Texas and enter Mexico, with the final destination Havana.

“And so this is something we have seen in past years,” said Solanki. “In 1996, they confiscated 400 computers and we actually had a 94-day hunger strike until they were released after getting international pressure on them.”

Solanki said the limited seizure was just to “annoy us and to show that they can confiscate the computers, but they didn’t confiscate them all so as to avoid a big international protest.”

The seized computers will be returned when the 85-member group returns to the U.S. through the same border 2010crossing, she said.

After more than seven hours of negotiations at the Mexican border, the humanitarian aid for Cuba was allowed into Mexico Thursday night, where the buses and the cargo will be loaded on to barges Friday that will leave Tampico bound for Cuba.

Solanki and the other volunteers will fly from Tampico to Havana Friday, where they will meet the buses and humanitarian aid upon its arrival in Havana.

Solanki said the bus from Vancouver was allowed into the U.S. at Blaine, Wash., on July 4 with the humanitarian aid for Cuba after “questioning us pretty heavily for quite a while.”

“The aim of the caravan is to break the U.S. embargo against Cuba,” said Solanki, a 23-year-old BCIT student, travelling with volunteers from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Mexico. “The Cuban aid and the U.S. citizens with the caravan are going to Cuba without a licence from the U.S. Treasury Department, so that we are openly breaking trade block and the travel ban against U.S. citizens.”

“The U.S. economic blockade is something that very much hurts the Cuban economy and therefore is harmful to the Cuban people. It is illegal under international law and must end.”

© Copyright (c) The Province

http://www.theprovince.com/business/officials+seize+computers+bound+Cuba+that+were+donated+Vancouver+residents/3306789/story.html

 

July 23, 2010
21st Friendshipment Caravan is on its Way to Cuba>

Pastors for Peace reports:
After a long drive from the US/Mexico border to the port of Tampico, 85 caravanistas loaded more than 100 tons of medical aid onto cargo boats before dawn. The Pastors for Peace Caravan is on the final leg of its journey to Cuba! This victory was made possible by the massive outpouring of your support.

 

August 3, 2010
21st Friendshipment Caravan Returns from Cuba

From the Pastors For Peace Website:
http://www.ifconews.org/node/915

 

MEDIA ADVISORY
August 3, 2010 -- for immediate release
CONTACT: IFCO/Pastors for Peace: On the road: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902, Alison Bodine 303/638-9799
in New York: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757; 347/423-4330

 

21st PASTORS FOR PEACE FRIENDSHIPMENT SUCCESSFULLY RETURNS FROM CUBA
REV LUCIUS WALKER CHALLENGING BLOCKADE ON HIS 80TH BIRTHDAY

This afternoon the 21st US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace successfully crossed back into the US, after a nine-day educational visit to Cuba. "This was a perfect way to celebrate the birthday of our founder and leader, Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.," said Rev. Luis Barrios, member of the board of directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "Really he is not just a leader; he is also a prophet in this struggle for peace with justice."

The caravan, made up of 85 caravanistas from the US, Canada, Europe and Mexico, traveled to Cuba without a US Treasury Department license, in a direct challenge of the US trade and travel blockade against Cuba.

In visits to 120 communities across the US and Canada, the caravan collected more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid for delivery to Cuba, including 9 school buses that will be used by Cuban churches, hospitals, and schools.

"With this caravan, we broke the blockade one more time. But the blockade still persists in full force -- and as long as it exists, we must continue to challenge it," stated Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “This cruel and immoral blockade still prevents lifesaving medicines from reaching Cuban children. It blocks US citizens from being able to be good neighbors to our Cuban brothers and sisters. We call on President Obama and the Congress to do everything possible to end this cruelty against our neighbors."

Members of the caravan celebrate today's news that Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five who have been unjustly imprisoned in the US for more than 12 years, has been released from solitary confinement as of this morning.

Caravanistas are returning to their home communities committed to share what they learned in their time in Cuba, and to continue building support for an end to the blockade. The caravanistas leave this year's caravan with the resolve to continue organizing and committing civil disobedience until:

  • The blockade is lifted
  • The Cuban Five are freed
  • The ban on travel to Cuba is lifted
  • Cuba is taken off the US State Department's ‘terrorist list'
  • US/Cuba relations are normalized.

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967. Photos, video, blog, and more information are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org