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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

IRS spook looks at IFCO

 

January 9, 2014

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee has been working with the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) for 23 years. This important New-York based solidarity group has been the organizer of the annual Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravans to Cuba that we have participated in since 1991.
For more than two years, IFCO, a faith-based, social justice agency, has been the victim of political persecution and an aggressive harassment campaign by the Internal Revenue Service. Now the IRS is attempting to strip IFCO of their tax-exempt, non-profit organization status: 501(c)(3). Please visit the IFCO website and read about the IRS attack, and help them fight the campaign by contacting our Congressional Representative Jim McDermott and also by making a direct, secure financial contribution to IFCO for their legal expenses:

www.ifconews

 

by Dr. Angela Gilliam

On the very day that President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, I was preparing to leave Cuba to return home to the United States. I had traveled there as part of the March 13-23, 2010 Women’s Research Delegation to Cuba (Theme: Women’s Rights, Racial Justice, and Social Welfare) and to research the relationship between Cuban health care delivery policies and human rights, a subject that I now see as inextricably connected.

My first contact with Cuban health care policies came in 1976 in Guinea Bissau, when my then five year old daughter’s life was saved by a Cuban volunteer doctor. Who knows how or where exactly she contracted the dreaded malaria? All I know is that if a Cuban volunteer doctor had not come to the entrance of the closed Bissau hospital one Sunday morning at dawn, I might have lost her.

Since that time, I have made it my business to learn more about Cuban health care. The volunteer program has grown immensely and there are now not only doctors who travel to serve in other countries, but also to teach people on the ground and to help them set up medical schools and hospitals in their own countries.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Cuban medical service is the emergency hurricane and natural crisis training that is a part of medical education. When former President Bush rejected the Cuban government’s offer of emergency medical support during the Katrina Hurricane, subsequent indications were that this assistance from Cuba could have saved lives. When the recent earthquake hit Haiti, 400 Haitian doctors trained in Cuba joined 350 other Cuban medical personnel to provide immediate disaster relief.

On this trip to Cuba, I visited the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) which has over 130 students from the United States along with more than 10,000 students from 50 other countries, all of whom commit to working in underserved communities when they finish their studies. Both the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and the California State Medical Board, which has the most stringent vetting process of all 50 states, have recognized ELAM as a legitimate institution of medical training, clearing the path for US ELAM students to complete their residencies in the US after graduation. In an impromptu chat with some of those students, more than one mentioned the support they receive.

In addition, I tried to learn as much as I could about new medical research done in Cuba around diabetes because that runs in my family. Indeed, I wish I could have brought back some HEBERPROT-B, a medication that aids in healing deep diabetic ulcers. There are other breakthroughs brought on by new medical research there, especially at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. I am glad that Cubans are working on vaccinations against breast cancer, and remembering friends who have died from this disease, hearing about the new anti-oxidant medication VIMANG—a cream and pills used with radiation therapy to protect the woman’s breast—warmed my heart.

The blockade against trade with Cuba has made joint medical research projects such as those between Johns Hopkins University personnel and a few investigators in Cuba difficult. We have much to learn from the Cuban people. An argument could be made that patient protection and access to affordable medical innovation anywhere is a basic human right. Even for us in the United States.

 

Angela Gilliam is Faculty Emerita at The Evergreen State College
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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!