July 22, 2017
Celebrate Cubana Noche

An event celebrating Cuban culture, history, and its inspiring revolution from the Party for Socialism and Liberation-Seattle
Saturday, July 29 at 6 PM - 10 PM
918 S Horton St, Seattle, WA 98134
Article: Celebrate Cubana Noche

 

July 19, 2017
Dare to Dream film showing

Dare to Dream is a 30 minute movie that tells the story of the largest medical school in the world, the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, Cuba through the eyes of US students who received full scholarships from the Cuban government with the commitment to practice medicine in under-served communities.
Dare to Dream will be shown in Seattle on August 5, 2017
Article: Dare to Dream film showing

 

July 4, 2017
Friendshipment 28 (2017)

This year the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee again participated in the annual IFCO/Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. There are three pages of reports:
February 23, 2017: Travel to Cuba with Pastors for Peace
Marh 29, 2017: The Cuba Caravan is Coming to Town
July 4, 2017: Manolo De Los Santos: U.S.-Cuba Relations in the Age of Trump

 

July 4, 2017
Manolo De Los Santos: U.S.-Cuba Relations in the Age of Trump

On April 17, 2017, Manolo De Los Santos of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization spoke at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. His talk was part of an event marking passage of the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan through Seattle.
You can watch his talk on YouTube, and it is followed by a short Cuban film dubbed in English about the US military occupation of Guantanamo Bay: "Todo Guantánamo es nuestro" (All Guantanamo is Ours).
Article: Manolo De Los Santos

 

March 29, 2017
The Cuba Caravan is Coming to Town

Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee invites you to join us! Demand that Congress & President Trump:
- lift all aspects of the economic blockade of Cuba
- end the travel ban on U.S. citizens to freely visit Cuba
- give Guantanamo Bay back to the Cuban people
W H E N: Monday, April 17, 2017 from 7 – 9pm
W H E R E : El Centro dela Raza In “La Cocina” at the NW corner of the original building
2524 16th Ave South, Seattle

 

February 3, 2017
Travel to Cuba with Pastors for Peace this July

IFCO (Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization) is now planning the 2017 Friendship Caravan to Cuba. Please make a plan to either go on the caravan or else contribute to the project.
The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee will as usual participate, please join us to organize and build this national solidarity action.
Please contact Caravan Coordinator John Waller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile number 831-261-2025

 

November 27, 2016
Fidel the untold story movie showing

A Movie showing – Friday December 9th – 7.30 pm
Bethany United Church of Christ - 6230 Beacon Ave S, Seattle
(1/2 mile south of the Veterans Hospital on Beacon Avenue, at the corner of Beacon Ave. S and Graham Street.)
Entrance is free – a collection will be taken after the movie.
Popcorn will be available.
Fidel - The Untold Story is a documentary released in 2001 by Brooklyn born filmmaker Estela Bravo. It is 90 minutes long and covers Fidel’s life up till 2001. The film features interviews with: Nelson Mandela, Phillip Agee, Muhammad Ali, Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Elián González, Gabriel García Márquez, Ted Turner, Alice Walker and Ramsey Clark.

 

October 8, 2016
All Guantánamo is Ours movie showing

A Movie showing – Friday October 28th – 7.30 pm
Bethany United Church of Christ - 6230 Beacon Ave S, Seattle
Entrance is free – a collection will be taken after the movie

If people in the United States have heard the name Guantanamo they will most likely associate it with the notorious U.S. military prison camp, situated on the island of Cuba, where hundreds of people were detained and tortured as suspected terrorists in President Bush’s “war on terror”. The debate still continues over how to close the camp and what to do about the remaining 61 detainees. However there is a deeper issue, about the very presence of the base in Cuba.

 

August 26, 2016
IRS threatens IFCO

To friends and supporters of the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee: Since the Seattle Committee's foundation almost 25 years ago we have worked closely with IFCO/Pastors for Peace on their annual Cuba Friendship Caravans as a way of challenging the US economic blockade of Cuba and building people-to-people relationships between the US and Cuba.
Because of those caravans IFCO/Pastors for Peace has been under investigation by the IRS for a number of years. They have just learned that the IRS plans to revoke their tax-exempt status within the next few weeks which would be a major blow to the organization.
Please read their attached announcement which includes a list of simple actions you could take, and play your part in resisting this attempt by a federal agency to undermine the organization that has been leading the way in building truly normal relations between the US and Cuba.

 

August 26, 2016
All Guantanamo is ours

If people in the United States have heard the name Guantanamo they will most likely associate it with the notorious US military prison camp, situated on the island of Cuba, where hundreds of people were detained and tortured as suspected terrorists in President Bush’s “war on terror”. The debate still continues over how to close the camp and what to do about the remaining 80 detainees. But there is a deeper issue, about the very presence of the base in Cuba.
All Guantanamo is Ours, a 37 minute film with English subtitles, shows the perspective and sentiment of the Cuban people, in particular those living in the towns around Guantanamo, about the illegal occupation of the U.S. Naval Base. The film is unique in revealing what the occupation looked like before and after the Cuban revolution in 1959. The protagonists in this documentary are the people living there who with their voices denounce this injustice convinced that one day that territory will be returned to Cuba.

 

July 7, 2016
Westlake Park Rally

On July 5 the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee held a rally at Westlake Park to demand that President Obama lift the economic blockade of Cuba, end the travel ban on US citizens traveling to Cuba, and hand Guantanamo Bay back to the Cuban people.

 

April 30, 2016
Join the US-Cuba Caravan 2016 - Apply Now!

The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) is now accepting applications to participate in the 2016 Caravan.

 

March 16, 2016
Miguel Fraga visit report

During March 2016, Miguel Fraga, the 1st secretary of the newly re-established Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington, D.C., visited Seattle.

 

February 18, 2016
Imagining New Paths for U.S. Cuba Relations

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee invites you to attend a full day conference to discuss how we in Washington State can forge new links with Cuba.

 

February 18, 2016
Cuban 5 Return Photo Exhibit

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship committee welcomes you to the Seattle opening of The Cuban 5 Return: An Entire Country Celebrates. This award-winning photo exhibit documents the homecoming of five Cuban anti-terrorists, unjustly held 16 years in US prisons and finally released in 2014.

 

February 15, 2016
2016 Friendshipment 27

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee and IFCO/Pastors for Peace are proud to announce the 27th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba.

 

Jan 27, 2016
Miguel Fraga is coming to Seattle

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee is proud to announce that Miguel Fraga, the 1st secretary of the newly re-established Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington, DC, will be visiting Seattle from Wednesday, March 2nd, until Sunday, March 6th, 2016.

 

September 18, 2015
Days of Action Against the Blockade

The Cuba solidarity movement, including Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee Secretary Judy Zeh, is in Washington, D.C. from Sept 16 to 18 to lobby for an end to the 62 year U.S. Government blockade against Cuba. Let's wish them the best in their efforts!

 

June 23, 2015
Friendshipment 26

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee recently participated in IFCO/Pastors for Peace's 26th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba.

 

June 15, 2015
Book reading: Trading with the Enemy

Book reading by Tom Miller at Queen Anne Book Company on July 20, 2015.

 

April 1, 2015
Friendshipment 26 events

June 27, 2015: Canadian Border Crossing Potluck Picnic and Rally to Bring Aid to Cuba.
June 29, 2015: Potluck Dinner and Music to Send the Pastors for Peace Caravan Off to Cuba.

 

March 7, 2015
I will die the way I've lived

Art by recently freed Cuban Five member Antonio Guerrero.
March 7 to April 7, 2015.

 

January 22, 2015
Che Guevara conference

The Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) proudly announces the 6th Annual Che Guevara Conference. With a Special Session for the 5 Cuban Heroes. This year's theme is Cuba: A Socialist Project in Progress.
Dates: January 23-26, 2015.

 

December 24, 2014
Celebrate the 5

Join us in Seattle to celebrate the release and return home of the Cuban 5!
Date: Saturday, December 27, 2014.

 

December 18, 2014
Cuban Five in Havana

December 17, 2014: The Cuban Five are in Havana with President Castro. Free at last!

 

November 5, 2014
Report from Cuba!

US Women and Cuba Collaboration's 2014 Women's Delegation to Cuba REPORT BACK.
Sunday, November 2, 2014. 3:00-5:00pm.

 

October 22, 2014
Complete coverage of Friendshipment 25 in Seattle

Read about it: Here

 

September 13, 2014
5 Heroes But Only 1 Heart

An evening of music and poetry

 

August 7, 2014
Back home from Cuba

On August 4, 2014, IFCO/Pastors for Peace reported:
"The Blockade is Broken!
Back home from Cuba
The 25th US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan has returned across the border into Texas safely and without incident.
Today we crossed the border from Mexico after traveling to Cuba without a license from the US Government, as an act of loving, non-violent civil disobedience.
LOVE IS OUR LICENSE
Keep checking our Facebook page; we have lots of photos of the trip, and we're anxious to share them with you."

 

July 27, 2014
Blockade Broken!

On July 22, IFCO/Pastors for Peace reported:

"Today, IFCO/Pastors for Peace with the help of a whole community of supporters brought 100 tons of aid* including 2 school buses, 2 trucks and a van for Cuban hospitals, schools and Centers.
Today we crossed the border into Mexico and on to Cuba, all without a license from the US Government, as an act of loving, non-violent civil disobedience.
LOVE IS OUR LICENSE

IFCO border crossing

*In a somewhat unexplainable and illogical action, the US Customs officials allowed almost all the donated aid to pass through unmolested. But they confiscated six three-year-old desktop computers, donated by a group in Arizona. Other computers passed without problem. We will continue to negotiate for these six computers -- but will not allow this to delay the delivery of the rest of the humanitarian aid.
Keep checking our Facebook page for the latest news and photos of the stops along the way:
www.facebook.com/pastorsforpeace
While we were in McAllen Texas, we were part of a Rally and Healing Service for the Immigration Crisis, and the detention of refugee children. The Rally was sponsored by the South Texas Human Rights Center and LUPE (Union del Pueblo Entero). Caravanistas received a briefing on the situation and started to plan ways that they -- and you -- can help the local groups that are responding to this crisis.
Stay in touch -- we'll be sharing the plans with you soon and letting you know how you can help these children find safety and justice.
We also held a news conference, to brief the media (local, national and international) about the caravan."

 

July 12, 2014
Send-off Report

On July 8, the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee held a Send-Off Event for the 25th Annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. The event was held at El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill. Kudos to all who helped organize the event!

The event was MC'd by MC Hap Bockelie and included performances by the Seattle Peace Chorus, Jacque Larrainzar singing, and Michael Hureaux reciting poetry.

 

July 8, 2014

Cliff Wells rode the BlueGreen Machine schoolbus up to the Blaine Border crossing event yesterday and posted photos. See them here:
Break the Cuba Blockade
We will post a fuller account of the Border Event, and of the upcoming Friendshipment Send-off, later.

 

July 3, 2014
Border Crossing and Send-off

On Sunday July 6 join us for a potluck picnic and rally at Peace Arch Park at the Canada/US border.

On Tuesday July 8 come to the send-off potluck for the Friendshipment caravan from 6pm-8pm in the Dining Room (Room 107) at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave South, Seattle (Beacon Hill).

Questions: Judy Zeh 206-523-1720

 

May 16, 2014
Friendshipment 25 Seattle Area Events

The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment 25 is coming to Seattle. We have three events planned:

* Saturday, June 28, 2014
Material aid packing party 12-2pm
El Centro de la Raza, basement
2524 16th Ave. South (Beacon Hill), Seattle

* Sunday, July 6, 2014
Canadian border crossing 12noon
Peace Arch Park, Blaine
We will welcome the Canadian Caravanistas at the border and have a picnic and rally, then load their donations on the school bus we’ll ride from Seattle to the border and back. This is an all-day event. Please call for details in early July if you want to join us.

* Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Caravan Send-off Potluck with musical entertainment by Sin Fronteras, Seattle Peace Chorus, and Jacque Larrainzar; "local spoken word"; and a presentation about the Friendshipment caravan 6-8 pm
El Centro de la Raza, Dining Room (Room 107)
2524 16th Ave. South (Beacon Hill), Seattle
Price: Free, no tickets required. Guests are welcome to bring something for the potluck.

For more information, contact Judy Zeh at (206) 523-1720

Here's our poster about the Seattle events, with caravan dates. Click the image to download a full-size PDF poster.

Friendshipment 25 Seattle events

 

 

May 2, 2014
Cuba Under Siege

Cuba Under Siege

 

Come and hear Canadian author Keith Bolender talk about his book “Cuba Under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People” at Capitol Hill Branch of Seattle Public Library on May 7.

The Book
For more than 50 years America's unrelenting hostility against the Cuban Revolution has resulted in the development of a siege mentality among island leadership and its citizens. This has affected politics, economics, culture, and nearly all aspects of everyday life. In a vibrant new look at Cuban-American relations, Keith Bolender analyzes, through the voices of the powerful and the common, both the positive and negative of revolutionary society constantly under pressure from the world's greatest powers. Using both historic and current examination, including comparisons with America under siege since 9/11, the work covers the roots of besiegement, the impact it has had on the Cuban people, and how and when the besiegement will end.

About the Author
Keith Bolender is a freelance journalist living in Toronto and a lecturer at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Education. He has written extensively on Cuban matters for a variety of North American publications and is author of Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba. He is also a member of the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), where he is on their roster of experts for Cuban Affairs.

Event details
Date: May 7, 2014
Time: 6:30 to 7:45pm
Location: Seattle Public Library, Capitol Hill Branch. 425 Harvard Ave E. (corner of E. Republican St., one block west of Broadway)
More information: Judy Zeh (206) 523-1720

 

April 18, 2014
Dr. Norma Vasallo: Cuba's Changing Economy

Dr. Norma Vasallo of the University of Havana will be in Seattle this month for three public presentations on:
Cuba's Changing Economy: Impacts on Cuban Women and Families
Dr. Vasallo is the director of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Havana and an internationally recognized feminist scholar.
April 24: Seattle University, Wismer Women's Center, Loyola 400; 12-2pm Meet and Greet brownbag lunch.
April 24: Seattle University, Wyckoff Auditorium, Engineering 200; 4pm
April 26: Casa Latina, 317 17th Ave So., Seattle; 3pm
April 27: Potluck brunch at 6508 27th Ave NW in Seattle, 11am.

 

April 18, 2014
Friendshipment 25 Update

Planning is in high gear for the IFCO/Pastors for Peace 25th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. This is a great opportunity to join us on a blockade-challenging trip to Cuba! The caravan will publicly challenge the 52-year U.S. Government blockade and carry material aid to the revolutionary island nation.
For more information, contact Seattle Committee Secretary Judy Zeh at (206) 523-1720 or e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For an application to go on the caravan, please contact IFCO/Pastors for Peace directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

April 7, 2014
Venezuela Discussion

Saturday, April 5, from 3-5pm at the Southside Commons, 3518 South Edmunds, Seattle, there will be a discussion on Venezuela. See attachment for details. Should be interesting!

 

February 8, 2014
IFCO/ Pastors for Peace Friendshipment 25 Announcement

Friendshipment Caravan 25

 

IFCO/Pastors for Peace has just announced the 25th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. The caravan will publicly challenge the 52-year U.S. Government blockade of Cuba and carry material aid to the revolutionary island nation.

IFCO has posted a video about the upcoming caravan here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ldogNOktsM&feature=share

This coming July, the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee will welcome the Friendshipment Caravan to Seattle. Please join us!

For more information, please contact Seattle Committee Secretary Judy Zeh at (206) 523-1720
or e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

January 9, 2014
IFCO under attack by the IRS!

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

 

October 12, 2013
Friendshipment Report-back and Potluck

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee invites you to hear reports by Canadians who went to Cuba on the Pastors for Peace Caravan this summer!
Music by Jim Page!
at a potluck on SATURDAY 12 OCTOBER 2013 from 5:00 to 8:00 PM
in the cafeteria at EL CENTRO DE LA RAZA, 2524 16th Avenue South, Seattle
FREE! Vegetarian and non-vegetarian food options!
More info: Judy Zeh (206) 523-1720

 

July 19, 2013
Border Crossing

July 14, 2013: Canadian and American solidarity activists met at Peace Arch Park for the 24th Pastors for Peace Caravan Border-Crossing Event

Peace Arch Park straddles the International Boundary between the United States and Canada, near the American city of Blaine, Washington and the Canadian city of White Rock, British Columbia.

 

July 14, 2013
Seattle Caravan Send-Off and Salute to our sister Assata Shakur

On July 12, the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee held a Send-Off Event for the 24th Annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. The event was held at El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill. Kudos to Hap Bockelie for organizing and MC'ing this great Send-Off/Salute!

 

June 18, 2013
Friendshipment 24 Introduction

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee is participating in the 2013 Pastors for Peace 24th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. There are several pages on this site describing the project:

 

February 15, 2013
Imperiled and Defiant

*This is the conclusion to a 2010 analysis by the Freedom Socialist Party. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee, and is reproduced here for the purpose of stimulating thought and discussion on the current status of the Cuban Revolution. Link to the complete article is at the bottom. -Webmaster
Imperiled and Defiant - Can the Revolution Survive?
By Susan Williams, M.D., New York City; Steven Strauss, M.D., Columbia, Maryland; Debbie Brennan, Melbourne, Australia; Stephen Durham, New York City.
March, 2010
Conclusion
To the fundamental question of this document—“What is the nature of the Cuban state?”—we answer that it remains a workers state.

 

February 6, 2013
Fidel Castro Votes to ‘Update Cuban Socialist Model’

By Patricia Grogg
IPS News
February 6, 2013
http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/fidel-castro-votes-to-update-cuban-socialist-model/

HAVANA, (IPS) - Among millions of people flocking to the polls in Cuba to vote in general elections was the unexpected figure of former president Fidel Castro, making a surprise public appearance in what was interpreted as a reaffirmation of his support for the government of his brother, President Raúl Castro.
“Nothing is fortuitous: Fidel is (showing) his support for updating the economic model and the transformations that derive from it,” an analyst who asked not to be identified told IPS.
Castro cast his ballot and talked to Cuban media Sunday at his polling station in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square) in the capital, Havana.
The former president said, “It is our duty to update the Cuban socialist model, modernise it, but without committing errors.” He also spoke about the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who is convalescing in Havana from a cancer operation, saying he receives daily information about Chávez’s health and adding that he is “much better”.

 

October 18, 2012
Two Cuban visitors to Seattle

FIRST is Daisy Rojas Gomez, one of the founders of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Havana (www.cmlk.org). For over 50 years, the US government has banned trade with Cuba and severely restricted travel to and from Cuba.
You have several chances to hear Daisy speak about the lives of Cubans under the U.S. embargo and the state of reforms under Raul Castro. She will answer your questions about life, work, and religion in Cuba in the 21st century. She is sponsored by Witness for Peace www.witnessforpeace.org
Her scheduled appearances in Seattle are:
* Thursday October 18 6-8pm: Seattle University, Wykoff Auditorium, 901 12th Ave.
* Saturday October 20 3-5pm: University Baptist Church, 4731 15th Ave NE.
* Monday October 22 7-9pm: MLK County Labor Temple, 2800 1st Ave.
For information about other events in Western Washington at which Daisy will speak or to set up interviews with her, contact:
Amy Truax, Northwest Field Organizer, Witness for Peace, by phone (206-787-0657) or
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The SECOND visitor needs no introduction to fans of Cuban music. He is Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdes.
He will perform at The Neptune Theatre in the University District on
* Saturday November 3 at 9pm.
Tickets are available for $44 at The Paramount box office, 24-hour kiosks at The Paramount and Moore Theatres, by phone (877-784-4849), or online at http://stgpresents.org/tickets/by-month/eventdetail/194/-/chucho-valdes
For more information, contact Jason at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

October 14, 2012
2012 Annual Che Guevara Conference

“Cuba’s Economic Reforms: Capitalism or Socialism”
November 2-5, 2012
Vancouver & Kamloops, BC, CANADA
Featuring:
DR. ALEIDA GUEVARA - Havana, Cuba
Cuban revolutionary leader, a pediatrician, prominent writer, author of the
book, “Chavez, Venezuela and the New Latin America” and daughter of the
legendary Ernesto Che Guevara.
4 DAYS OF CONFERENCE – FREE ENTRANCE:
((1)) FRIDAY NOVEMBER 2
DAY 1 Special Evening for the 5 Cuban Heroes, 7pm
RUSSIAN HALL
600 Campbell Ave.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
((2)) SATURDAY NOVEMBER 3 & SUNDAY NOVEMBER 4
DAY 2 & DAY 3 Two Full Days of Workshops. 10am-6pm
RUSSIAN HALL
600 Campbell Ave.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
((3)) MONDAY NOVEMBER 5
DAY 4 of the Conference 5pm-9pm
Thompson Rivers University
900 McGill Road
Kamloops, BC, Canada
On Friday November 2, 2012 Vancouver will host a special evening in tribute of the 5 Cuban heroes held in US jails to open the 4 day of Che Guevara International Conference. Saturday and Sunday November 3 & 4 will feature two full days in Vancouver with many workshops to provide enough time for discourse, debate, argument, polemics and politics! Then we will take the Che Conference over 350 kilometers to the east to Kamloops, BC for 2 highly anticipated workshops on the evening of Monday November 5.
The Vancouver International Che Guevara Conference began in 2008 in honour of Che’s 80th birthday. Each conference has held a unique theme, the first conference “Che Guevara: Thinker & Fighter - Are His Ideas Relevant for the 21st Century?”; 2009 conference “50 years of Dynamism of the Cuban Revolution”; 2010 conference “Cuba & Revolutionary Internationalism“ and 2011 Conference “Cuba Today: The Gains & Challenges”. These 4 notable events which debated and discussed the importance of the Cuban revolution and the Cuba solidarity movement worldwide from the point of view of activists and revolutionaries were the only of their kind in Canada. We are pleased that in the last four years we have brought out more than 1,700 people, 35 speakers, and 35 different subjects surrounding the Cuban revolution and its internal and external dynamics.
The 2012 conference will expand on the previous 4 years, with the theme of “Cuba’s Economic Reforms: Capitalism or Socialism”. We will be welcoming many important guests, including our honoured guest for the third year in a row, Dr. Aleida Guevara, Cuban Leader, Prominent Author and Daughter of Legendary Revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. We hope to see you at the 5th annual Canada International Che Guevara Conference.

 

October 1, 2012
5th Annual Che Guevara Conference

The Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) proudly announces the 5th Annual Vancouver International Che Guevara Conference.
This year's theme will be "Cuba's Reform: Capitalism or Socialism?"
Dates: November 3rd & 4th, 2012
Location: Russian Hall, Vancouver, Canada
Info: (778) 882-5223 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

August 20, 2012
Ramon Bernal Send-off

Join us to visit with Seattle's own Ramon Bernal who will soon be returning to Cuba to complete his medical education at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. We will gather this coming Friday, August 24 in West Seattle, for snacks and beverages and conversation. Please arrive between 6pm and 7pm to be sure not to miss hearing from Ramon about his experiences in Cuba. If you know ahead of time that you are coming, please RSVP to me or Dr. McLanahan ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). But you are welcome to come even if you decide only at the last minute that you can. Hope to see you there --
Date: Friday, August 24, 2012 Time: 6-9pm
Location: 8424 California SW in West Seattle (home of Dr. David McClanahan)
Questions: phone 206-963-6534
Thank you.
Judy Zeh, Secretary, Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee

 

Aug 11, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Returns to the US

Friendshipment 23 returns to the US;
Confronts us travel ban of Cuba;
Caravan meets with Elián González;
Makes appeal to free the Cuban Five.
July 31, 2012
Elian and Lillian photo
US border authorities demanded the caravanistas provide extensive information about their travel to Cuba, but in a united front, caravanistas refused to comply. "This kind of tactic of forcing people who travel to Cuba to "name names" is pure McCartheyism," said Lisa Valenti, who has participated in all 23 caravans.
"The US government subjects no other country in the world to such draconian travel restrictions. Why? What is the threat of a small island neighbor 90 miles away that offers free health care to the world?" added IFCO Co-Director Gail Walker.
"I'm a Vietnam Vet. I fought for this country. How can the US government tell me not to go to Cuba?" said Bill Hill, a veteran driver of the caravan.
Caravan members returned to the US after delivering nearly 100 tons of precious aid to Cuba and were victorious in getting US border authorities to return six computers retained at their border crossing on the 19th.
In Cuba the group met with Cuban faith, arts and community leaders throughout the island and visited hospitals and other institutions affected by the US blockade. Members also met with Elian Gonzalez and his father, who made a special appeal to free the Five Cubans imprisoned in the US for their anti-terrorist activities.
IFCO Co-Director Father Luis Barrios declared the group's continued solidarity with Cuba, "We will not rest until the Cuban Five are free and with their families in Cuba and until the immoral, genocidal US blockade is ended, once and for all."
The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967.

 

July 6, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Border Crossing

On July 1, the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee went north to Peace Arch Park at the U.S.-Canadian border to welcome Canadians and their material aid going on the Friendshipment caravan to Cuba. There was a good turnout of both Americans and Canadians but the U.S. Customs Service decided not to let all of the Canadian aid pass through the border. The U.S. Government apparently thinks baseball mitts, basketballs, and volleyballs are some sort of threat since those were the items they refused to let through. Maybe they are right, since Cuban sports teams are very good!
In response the Canadian caravanistas occupied the border overnight while those on the U.S. side returned to Seattle to repair a bus malfunction so the bus could go on the caravan. The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee contacted Congressman Jim McDermott, and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to ask for their assistance in getting the aid through.
The Canadians pitched tents Sunday night (July 1) to occupy the border, and by Monday morning the crowd was larger than it had been on Sunday and included lots of Canadian media. American activists returned and joined them. They chanted across the highway to each other:
Canadians: "The US stopped our aid to Cuba!"
Americans: "Shame, shame, shame!"
Canadians: "Cuba si!"
Americans: "Bloqueo no!"
At that point the U.S. Customs Service decided they had better let all the aid (including the baseball mitts and soccer balls they had been objecting to) through. Sometimes the good guys win!

 

July 3, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Introduction

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee welcomes you to participate in the 2012 Pastors for Peace 23nd Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. There are several pages on this site describing the project:
April 25, 2012: Friendshipment 23 Announcement
June 30, 2012: Friendshipment Upcoming Events
July 1, 2012: Border Crossing at Blaine Peace Arch Park
July 2, 2012: Seattle Friendshipment Sendoff
July 2–31, 2012: Friendshipment Caravan travels to Cuba and returns
July 31, 2012: Friendshipment Caravan Returns to US

 

July 3, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Sendoff

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee will hold its 2012 Friendshipment Caravan Sendoff on July 2, 2012. Please join us!

 

June 29, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Upcoming events

There are three major Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee events in the next several days. Please join us for:
1) Packing Party: Saturday June 30 from noon to 6pm at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Avenue S, Seattle (Beacon Hill). We will be packing, labeling, and manifesting the material aid (lots of tools and construction supplies!) for the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. Look for us in the hallway near the dining room on the ground floor.
2) Border Crossing: Join us on the Friendshipment bus for the trip to Peace Arch Park at the Canadian border. Come to the Warner house, 8923 2nd Ave NE, Seattle, phone 206-523-1720, Sunday July 1 at 9am. The bus will pick us up there. If you plan to come, give me a call at the above phone number and let me know so I can give you a call if I learn that the pickup time has been changed. There will be a potluck picnic at noon at the border with the Canadians, but what is really important is to have a good crowd there to support the right of the Canadians to bring aid to Cuba across the US border. Last year US officials tried to stop the aid, but an emergency media campaign, legal challenge, and extended demonstrations on both sides of the border forced them to allow it through so it could be loaded on the bus.
3) Send-off potluck in the dining room at El Centro de la Raza, Monday July 2 at 6pm. We will probably start loading our aid onto the Friendshipment bus around 5pm. There will be good music (Irthlingz, members of Sin Fronteras and of the Seattle Peace Chorus, and more) as well as good food. We will remember three good friends of Cuba who died in the last couple of years (Tom Warner, Roberto Maestas, and Reverend Lucius Walker). We will hear from Tamara Hansen, a young leader in the Cuba Solidarity movement in Canada. Tamara is< a high school teacher in Vancouver BC and a researcher and writer on Cuba who has travelled to Cuba many times.
Hope to see you at some or all of these events!
In solidarity,
Judy Zeh, Secretary
206-523-1720
Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee (a Task Force of the Church Council of Greater Seattle)

 

May 30, 2012
Mailing party

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee will meet on Friday, June 1, at
3:00pm at the home of Monica Zepeda (15618 - 1st Ave NE, Seattle, WA,
98155; phone 206-362-7524). This meeting is a "mailing party", so it
will last into the evening; come later if you cannot come at 3:00pm.
We will be putting address labels on envelopes and folding the letter
and brochure describing this year's Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba
and asking for donations to support it.
For those who find it easier to come to my house than Monica's, I can
provide a ride to the first four people who let me know they need one
by email ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or phone (206-523-1720) if they arrive at my
house by 2:30pm on Friday. I must leave then because I am bringing
all the materials for the mailing.
In solidarity,
Judy Zeh, Secretary, Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee

 

May 14, 2012
Meeting announcement

The next Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee meeting will be on Sunday, May 20, at 11:00am at 8923 2nd Ave NE, in Seattle.
We now know the dates of the Canadian border crossing (July 1) and the Seattle send-off (July 2) for the 2012 Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. At the May 20 meeting we will develop a draft letter announcing these events, encouraging people to travel on the Caravan, and asking for financial contributions and material aid donations. We will also establish committees to finalize and print the letter, plan a "mailing party" to prepare it for sending, contact potential donors of material aid, and plan the send-off event in detail. Please join us.
Hope to see you on May 20!
In solidarity,
Judy Zeh, Secretary
Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee
Questions or directions: 206-523-1720

 

April 25, 2012
Friendshipment 23 Announcement

20th Anniversary caravan
IFCO/Pastors for Peace has announced the 23rd Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. This caravan celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first Friendshipment.
In July 2012 the caravan will travel in school buses, trucks and cars along 12 different routes, visiting 130 US and Canadian cities. At every stop we will educate people about the blockade while collecting construction supplies and tools, medical supplies and equipment, educational and cultural supplies, to be donated to our sisters and brothers in Cuba. You can join us as we pass through your community, or you can join us when we reach the border in McAllen, TX on July 15th.
From Texas we will travel to Cuba via Mexico, without asking for or accepting a US government license, as a disciplined act of civil disobedience against the blockade and travel ban, and as ambassadors for a ‘people-to-people’ foreign policy based in mutual respect. When we return to the US, we will proudly declare our travel to Cuba and our opposition to the immoral blockade.
Please join us!
CONTACT INFORMATION
Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee (Seattle Area coordination)
c/o Judy Zeh
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

 

April 24, 2012
Meeting announcement

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee will hold its first planning meeting for the Seattle component of the 2012 Pastors for Peace Friendshipment to Cuba.
Date and time: Sunday, April 29, at 2:00 pm
Location: 8923 2nd Ave NE, Seattle (Northgate.)
Questions: call Judy at 206-523-1720.
Please come and participate in the 2012 Friendshipment!

 

January 4, 2012
Meeting announcement

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee will have its first meeting of 2012 on Sunday, January 8, at 2:30pm.
Location: the Warner house, 8923 2nd Ave NE, Seattle (Northgate.)
Proposed agenda:
1. Accept nominations for group Secretary (to replace Tom Warner.)
2. Vote on Secretary.
3. Discuss future activities.
Questions: call Judy at 206-523-1720.
See you there!

 

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

 

November 16, 2011
Tom Warner sings!

Tom Warner singing Wobbly songs on Sept 22, 2011:
Casey Jones
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgdQRWhlzVw&feature=related
Christians at War
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI17lUi_Z0c&feature=related
Long Haired preachers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhBxORt-0D4&feature=related
Mr. Block
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJtJc6AVNOU&feature=related

 

October 31, 2011
Ramon Bernal: June 2011

Cuban School Children: Educated and Healthy
Street Scene - Havana photo
JUNE 2011
While the so-called first world countries use their valuable resources to destroy life, Cuba uses its resources in education and healthcare. There is a revolution in this island, a >humanitarian revolution that protects life above all things.
It saddens me to pick-up the newspaper and read about all the violence in the world. As I read the paper the voice of Cuban children playing on the street catches my attention. These kids are fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood in an environment free of violence and drugs. Safety is very important in this island as well as education and healthcare. Cuba guarantees a free education, free healthcare and a safe environment for its citizens.
Every child is guaranteed a free education in Cuba. An early morning walk through the streets of Havana allows one to appreciate the privilege of going to school. All the kids dressed in their school uniform walk to school giving the street a colorful appearance. They all carry their backpack, a lunch bag and a water bottle for hydration. Some of the >backpacks are pretty old since they are passed on from generation to generation. Their uniform, however, is as clean and neat as it can ever be. After the school closes its doors the streets become silent and its colorful appearance disappear. All the kids are at school, the place where they belong during school hours.
In Cuba everyone receives free medical care. The country has its priorities and healthcare for all is one of the most important priorities. Despite the financial difficulties the government is capable of sustaining a free healthcare program and that is awesome for patients. The benefits of having equal access to medical care are immense.
If other governments would make better use of their resources in an effort to protect life, this world would be a better world. One aught to think of those innocent lives caught in the middle of warfare; those children who are too scared to go to school; those with a chronic illness who are denied medical care and who go to bed each night with an empty stomach.
Sincerely,
Alejandro Bernal
Website: http://www.pnhpwesternwashington.org/PAGES/Ramon/ramon_home_page.htm
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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!""
Stories about Tom on the web:
Trust fund for favorite causes (2011): http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/jerrylarge/2016652494_jdl31.html
Streetbuzz interview (2005): http://www.chrispforr.net/row3/chrisusa/tom/tom.htm
Seattle Weekly story (2002): http://www.seattleweekly.com/2002-12-18/news/embargo-in-cyberspace/
Seattle Post Intelligencer story (2002): http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/U-S-threatens-to-fine-man-who-posted-Cuba-news-1103847.php
Tom Warner, ¡presente!

 

July 22, 1011
Friendshipment 22 Border Crossing & Send-off

July 3, 2011: Canadian Border Crossing
On Sunday July 3, Cuba-supporters from Seattle drove north to the Blaine border crossing to offer support to Canadian "blockade busters." The Canadians planned to cross into the United States carrying humanitarian aid destined for Cuba, in defiance of the US Government blockade.
American customs officers tried to stop the Canadians' aid by demanding money to guarantee that the aid (which Customs claimed was a commercial shipment) would go all the way through the U.S. and into Mexico. In response, the enthusiastic Canadian contingent chanted and waved signs demanding that the aid be released.
Meanwhile, someone contacted Pastors for Peace (parent organization of the Friendshipment Caravan) in New York; Pastors then called their attorney who found something to tell Customs that convinced them they could not stop humanitarian aid, which this was, and the Canadian donations were allowed to enter the US after several hours of delay. Whew!
2011 Peace Arch protest
July 5, 2011: Seattle Send-off
By contrast, the 5 July sendoff at Seattle's El Centro de la Raza went very smoothly. The Raging Grannies sang, the folks going on the Caravan and others spoke, there was lots of good food, and 22 boxes and bundles of aid (mostly tools and construction supplies) were loaded onto a yellow school bus, which then headed to Olympia on the first leg of its journey towards the Mexican border enroute to Cuba.
Best of luck, 2011 Friendshipment Caravan!

 

June 25, 2011
Friendshipment 22

Friendshipment 22 Introduction
The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee welcomes you to participate in the 2011 Pastors for Peace 22nd Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. There are several pages on this site describing the project. Please check back for new updates as they become available.
July 3 & 5, 2011: Border Crossing & Seattle Send-off
June 23, 2011: Caravan Send-off 2011
June 23, 2011: Seattle-Cuba Caravan 22 Welcome
May 24, 2011: Pastors for Peace Caravan 22 Welcome

 

June 23, 2011
Friendshipment 22 Welcome

Dear Cuba supporter,
We are now organizing for the Pastors for Peace 22nd Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. It’s coming to Seattle in July. Can you help us?
Although President Obama has moved to make it somewhat easier for college students, churches, and folks with families in Cuba to go there, there are still restrictions that make it difficult to send aid or to travel to Cuba. A really successful Friendshipment this year may convince a reluctant Congress and President that there is strong grass-roots sentiment to end the blockade and travel ban.
How you can help:
Travel to Cuba on the Caravan. The US government doesn’t want you to go to Cuba. We say go and see for yourself. This year the Caravan leaves Seattle July 5 and returns to the US August 1. For more information about the Caravan or to request an application form, go to www.ifconews.org/CubaCaravan (or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
Donate construction supplies and tools (still needed for hurricane reconstruction), medical supplies and equipment, and/or educational and cultural supplies. Over the past years, we in Seattle have sent tons of supplies, and with your help we can do so again.
Attend the Packing Party June 30, 4pm – 9pm at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave South, Seattle (Beacon Hill). We will be packing and labeling the Seattle donations to be sent to Cuba.
Celebrate the border crossing July 3 at Peace Arch Park, Blaine. Canadians will be crossing into the US carrying aid to go on the Caravan. You are invited to ride up to the border with us, where we will welcome the Canadians across the border and have a picnic and rally, then load their donations on the schoolbus we’ll ride from Seattle to the border and back. This is an all-day event. Call us for details.
Come to the send-off potluck July 5, 6pm in the cafeteria at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave South, Seattle (Beacon Hill). We do this every year for the Friendshipment Caravans, and it is always a festive and meaningful event.
Make a financial contribution to help us send the donated supplies on the Caravan. The high price of diesel fuel right now makes this particularly important. Use the handy donation slip included in this mailing!
With your help, we here in Seattle can again support the Friendshipment Caravan as we have in the past. The need this year is particularly great. Thank you very much!

 

June 23, 2011
Friendshipment 22 Send-off

Please come to the 2011 Friendshipment Caravan Send-off!
Join us at El Centro de la Raza on Seattle's Beacon Hill for a potluck dinner, speeches, music, and last-minute packing of donated aid which we will load onto a Cuba-bound schoolbus.
Date: July 5, 2011
Time: 6:00pm
Location: El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave South, Seattle, WA
Food: potluck
Entertainment: songs by the Raging Grannies
Program: (in addition to Caravan speaker): remarks from past and current Caravanistas
Directions
From I-5, take West Seattle Bridge/Columbian Way exit,
Exit via the Columbian Way ramp,
Turn onto Columbian Way South,
Turn left onto South Spokane St,
Turn left onto Beacon Ave South,
Turn right onto S Lander Street,
Turn left onto 16th Ave South. You're there!
Questions
Please call or e-mail:
Tom Warner - Tel. 206-523-1720 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Judy Zeh - Tel. 206-523-1720 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jim McMahan - Tel. 206-218-4417 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monica Zepeda - Tel. 206-362-7524 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

May 24, 2011
Friendshipment 22 Announcement

Pastors for Peace invites you to participate in the 2011 Friendshipment Caravan - See Cuba for Yourself and Challenge the US Blockade!
July 2 through August 1, 2011
2011 Friendshipment
This year, through an exciting educational and cultural program, IFCO/Pastors for Peace will celebrate and honor the achievements of young people in Cuba, as well as learn about their daily lives and experiences as we visit organic gardens, neighborhood projects, health centers and schools.
We will also be commemorating and lifting up the life of Rev Lucius Walker, Jr., the founding director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, who for 20 years gave prophetic and visionary leadership to our caravans to Cuba in defiance of the US blockade, and who died peacefully in September 2010.
In July 2011 our caravan will travel in school buses, trucks and cars along 12 different routes, visiting 130 US and Canadian cities. At every stop we will educate people about the blockade while collecting construction supplies and tools, medical supplies and equipment, educational and cultural supplies, to be donated to our sisters and brothers in Cuba. You can join us as we pass through your community, or you can join us when we reach the border in McAllen, TX on July 17th.
From Texas we will travel to Cuba via Mexico, without asking for or accepting a US government license, as a disciplined act of civil disobedience against the blockade and travel ban, and as ambassadors for a ‘people-to-people’ foreign policy based in mutual respect. When we return to the US, we will proudly declare our travel to Cuba and our opposition to the immoral blockade.
Join us on a voyage of friendship and discovery!
Cuba is well known for its rich culture and focus on human development – all which comes from investment in human beings. We will meet the young scientists, doctors, teachers, social workers, artists, musicians and community activists who are increasingly at the forefront of developing their own society, and participating in internationalist missions to assist the peoples of other countries.
WAYS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
* Join the caravan as a caravanista – contact us for an application form. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
* Sponsor a young person or encourage others to apply – distribute our brochure; sponsor someone from your community.
* Get involved locally – help host a caravan event in Seattle. Contact Tom Warner at 206-523-1720.
* Collect material aid - we can send you the aid information packet.
* Make a financial donation. Donations are tax-deductible.
CARAVAN SCHEDULE
JULY 2-16
Caravan routes - educational events and aid collection - US and Canada.
JULY 17-19
Participant orientation in McAllen, Texas.
JULY 20-21
Border crossing into Mexico - travel to Tampico - load material aid onto cargo ship.
JULY 22-30
Fly to Havana - educational program in Cuba.
JULY 31
Return to Tampico - travel to Mexico/US border.
AUG 1
Reverse Challenge; cross back into the US and return to Seattle by about August 4.
CONTACT INFORMATION
Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee (Seattle-area coordination)
Tom Warner - Tel. 206-523-1720 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Judy Zeh - Tel. 206-523-1720 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jim McMahan - Tel. 206-218-4417 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monica Zepeda - Tel. 206-362-7524 - 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

 

December 10, 2010
Ramon Bernal: October 2010

Surgery Rotation
Higher Institute of Medical Sciences
Hospital Dr. Salvador Allende
Havana, Cuba
October 2010
Surgery in Havana
Cuban surgeons at work: Dr. Manuel Lopez (left) and Dr. Mario Aguirre (right)
The human body is a complex machine. Due to its complexity, it is divided into different systems, each of which has specific functions. When one of these functions fails, surgeons come to the rescue. In Cuba, surgeons are amongst the most humble, dedicated and kindhearted physicians.
I am currently rotating through the surgery department at Dr. Salvador Allende Hospital. This department is composed of about 30 surgeons, which are divided into 6 teams. Each team is responsible for a group of about 10 medical students.
Each morning surgeons start their day with a happy smile. At eight in the morning surgeons meet in a conference room along with the students to listen to a report from the surgery team that was on duty. The purpose of this daily meeting is to discuss any new cases and any surgeries performed during the night. Also, an update is given on every patient in the intensive care unit. This is an excellent learning experience for the student since one is always encouraged to participate and ask questions.
During the few weeks that one spends in the surgery department, one immediately realizes that surgeons in Cuba are heroes indeed. It is their dedication to the patient, their love for medicine, and their true humanistic approach to medicine that allows them to save lives. In Cuba, surgeons have the disadvantage of having a humble operating room that often lacks the essential surgical equipment. Not having the right tools in the operating room makes their job much more laborious. This is just another obstacle that Cuban healthcare professionals have to face. Nonetheless, God is kind and has given surgeons the ability to go beyond the obstacles in an effort to care for the sick.
Three Cuban doctors
Three Cuban surgeons: Dr. Alexis (Left), Dr. Israel (middle), Dr. Manuel (right)
Times are often harsh that a surgeon is occasionally forced to postpone a previously planned surgery simply because the required suture materials are not available. It is often the case, too, that the hospital runs out of sterile surgical clothes and that creates a problem as well. There are times when all that is available is strictly reserved for emergencies only.
My hope is that my community in Seattle gets together in an effort to collect donations from hospitals and clinics in the area. Simple items like suture materials, sterile gloves, surgical caps, adhesive tape and any used equipment will make a huge difference at Dr. Salvador Allende Hospital. Keep in mind that all donations are tax deductable if made to IFCO/Pastors for Peace. If you have any questions you may visit the website (see below) or you may email me. Please remember that I have limited access to internet so it will take me a while to respond to emails.
Sincerely,
Alejandro Bernal
4th year medical student
Website: www.pnhpwesternwashington.org
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

October 31, 2010
Ramon Bernal: September 2010

End of Third Year
Higher Institute of Medical Sciences
Hospital Dr. Salvador Allende
Havana, Cuba
Third year of medical school was the beginning of my clinical training at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). This year was not easy; I came face-to-face with numerous pathologies and, for the first time, I accompanied one of my patients through the mysterious ritual of death.
Death is a mystery indeed. I will never forget my first experience accompanying an 81-year old patient through the mysterious ritual of death. The elderly patient died the morning of January 20th, 2010. It was a moment of silence. I was a little nervous as I stood to the right of her hospital bed. The atmosphere and the air breathed in the room felt different than normal. During the few minutes that it took the patient to die, I felt a non-human presence in the room. It was a strange feeling that I had never experienced. As time passed by, the patient’s pupil dilated and lost all reflexes. The cardiac sounds slowly disappeared until they were no longer audible with my stethoscope. Her body was shutting down slowly. In less than ten minutes the patient’s life disappeared before my eyes. I will never forget this experience.
As a student of medicine one oftentimes finds itself in situations where one wishes to run away. This is usually the case when one is caught off-guard due to the lack of experience in certain situations. This year I was caught off-guard a number of times. For instance, one of my terminally-ill patients caught me off-guard when she begged me to help her die. She said, “Doctor, please help me die, I am suffering.” At that moment I knew not what to say. I had never been in that situation. When she uttered those words, I wanted to disappear. I was aware that she was suffering tremendously and that death was forthcoming, yet there was nothing I could do about it. Her religion practices did not allow blood transfusions as well as other procedures that were urgently needed to treat her health problems. This patient was a dead-end. I felt helpless.
Cuba is famous for its Cuban cigars, the Cohibas. Unfortunately, this is not something to be proud of. Smoking is a serious problem in the island as it is in other parts of the world. This year I encountered numerous patients with lung cancer secondary to smoking. Throughout the year, I saw many patients die from different pathologies, but the ones I remember the best are those who died from lung cancer. These patients suffered the most during their last few minutes of life. Lung cancer is relatively frequent and it is one of the first pathologies we cautiously look for with every physical exam we perform.
Throughout the year I had the privilege to work with numerous patients from the nursing homes in the neighborhood. These patients are usually the only survivors of their family. I was impressed to see that the medical community in Cuba truly cares for the social cases that arrive at the hospital. These patients are treated just like any other patient; they receive free healthcare and free food in the hospital. Actually, social cases receive special treatments because we know that they don’t have a family. To these patients, I am the student, the doctor and, most importantly, their only family. When they are discharged from the hospital, they ask us if we don’t mind keeping them in the hospital for a few more days. They love our presence and, oftentimes, our mere presence and understanding is their best medicine.
Sincerely,
Alejandro Bernal
Website: http://www.pnhpwesternwashington.org/PAGES/Ramon/ramon_home_page.htm
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 October 2011

 

October 1, 2010
Old articles

Here are some older articles from our website:
Lucius Walker
Cuba Loses a Friend, Lucius Walker Dies
Seattle Memorial Service for Rev. Lucius Walker Jr.
Friendshipment 21
About the 21st Friendshipment Caravan
Last Updated on Friday, 01 October 2010 22:57

 

Sept 18, 2010
Lucius Walker Guest Book

This has been created by IFCO/Pastors For Peace for people to share their memorial comments. You can leave a message, or just those of other people if you prefer.
http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/nytimes/guestbook.aspx?n=lucius-walker&pid=145214274&cid=full

 

Sept. 16, 2010
Seattle Memorial Service for Rev. Lucius Walker Jr.

The Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., who led an annual pilgrimage of American aid volunteers to Cuba in defiance of the U.S. government's nearly half-century trade embargo, died Sept. 7 of a heart attack in New York. He was 80.
There will be a Seattle memorial gathering for him on Friday, September 17th beginning at 6pm at Bethany UCC Church on the corner of Beacon and Graham on Beacon Hill.
Questions:
Thomas W. Warner
206-523-1720

 

Sept. 10, 2010
Cuba Loses a Friend, Lucius Walker Dies

Havana Times
September 8, 2010
By Circles Robinson
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=28955
Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., head of the Pastors for Peace group and a close friend of the Cuban revolution, died on Tuesday after suffering a massive heart attack at the age of 80.
The organization has sent caravans of humanitarian aid to Cuba each year since 1992, challenging the US economic blockade on the island.
Walker, a strong advocate of normalized US-Cuba relations, met numerous times with Cuba’s top leaders including Fidel Castro.
He visited Cuba with the Caravan virtually every summer and besides opposing the blockade also lobbied for an end to the US travel ban on its citizens visiting the island.
Rev. Walker was also responsible for negotiations that led to over a hundered underpriveliged young people from the United States studying medicine on a full scholarship at the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).
“It is with immeasurable sadness that we inform all of IFCO’s friends and family of the passing of our beloved, heroic, prophetic leader Rev. Lucius Walker Jr. (Aug. 3, 1930 – Sept. 7, 2010). We will post more information as soon as arrangements are made. Please keep his family and his IFCO* family in your prayers,” states the organization on its website.
(*) IFCO is the Interreligous Foundation for Community Organization.

 

August 10, 2010
Meet with Ramon Bernal in Seattle

Please come and meet Ramon Bernal, our Seattle student who is studying at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. All are welcome!
Date: Sunday, August 15th, 2010
Time: 4pm to 8pm
Location: 8424 California SW, Seattle (home of Dr. David McLanahan)
There will be nibble food and stalwarts from the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee, Single Payer fight, and the Seattle medical community. Feel free to bring your own potluck offering.
More information:
Tom Warner
(206) 523-1720
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

August 4, 2010
Friendshipment 21 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

 

July 23, 2010
Friendshipment 21 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.

 

July 23, 2010
U.S. 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 crossing, 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 15, 2010
Friendshipment 21 Introduction

The Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee is participating in the 2010 Pastors for Peace 21st Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba. There are several pages on this site describing the project. Please check back for new updates as they become available.
August 3, 2010: 21st Friendshipment Caravan Returns from Cuba
July 23, 2010: 21st Friendshipment Caravan is on its Way to Cuba
July 22, 2010: US Officials seize computers bound for Cuba
July 7, 2010: Seattle Send-Off Event
July 4, 2010: Border Crossing Event
May 27, 2010: Friendshipment 21 Description
See also the
Pastors for Peace Caravan blog: www.ifconews.org/Blog-21stCaravan

 

July 11, 2010
Ramon Bernal: April 2010

April 2010
Higher Institute of Medical Sciences
Hospital Dr. Salvador Allende
Havana, Cuba
In the field of medicine one oftentimes pushes the sense of smell to its limits. The smell of decaying tissue permeates the circulating air breathed at the hospital. One is exposed to number of very harmful germs that are resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics. Oftentimes I wonder how I manage to avoid getting sick. Nonetheless, God is kind and protects me at all times.
In geriatrics most of our patients are in their late 80s. Some of these patients are disabled and have family members that neglect them. Frequently these patients arrive late at the hospital when their body has already started the process of decaying while still alive. They normally have bedsores infected with some of the most harmful bacteria resistant to potent antibiotics. Oftentimes, the wound is so deep that one can appreciate the anatomy of the patient’s bones. The patient is usually in a confusional state due to the infected bedsores. The smell of decaying tissue that comes from these wounds is quite insulting to the sense of smell. One ought to really love medicine to be able to work around these patients.
This month was special to me because I was assigned to work with two patients that were practically decaying when they arrived at the hospital. One of them in particular, was an elderly patient with a buildup of fluid throughout the body (anasarca) and wounds that had destroyed her buttock muscles and a number of other muscles in different pressure points of the body. The decaying tissue emanated an unbearable odor that could be smelled meters away from the room where she was staying. The surgeon visited the patient on a daily basis to clean up her wounds but, despite all the efforts and the powerful antibiotics, the wounds continued to emanate an unbearable smell until the day of her death. Besides the wounds, she was also eliminating liquid through every pore in her body. That liquid combined with the decaying tissue was just not a good combination. Her body was very fragile and did not resist the severe infection that ended up claiming her life.
Ramon and a patient photo
It is unfortunate that family members often times wait until the last minute to seek medical attention for their loved one. As a student of medicine one works side by side with these patients and we simply keep them company during their final moments. It is not easy to work with these patients but, as a physician, one ought to always remember that we are God’s servants. Our duty is to look after the sick.
Sincerely,
Alejandro Bernal
My page at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP): www.pnhpwesternwashington.org
My E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

July 11, 2010
Ramon Bernal: May 2010

MAY 2010
Higher Institute of Medical Sciences
Hospital Dr. Salvador Allende
Havana, Cuba
Cubans are humble human beings. The majority of the population in Cuba uses public transportation to move around in the city. It does not matter if you are a surgeon, a neurosurgeon or a pathologist; almost everyone uses public transportation to reach their destination.
In the US, almost everyone drives a car soon after they turn sixteen years of age. In Cuba, very few people have the privilege to drive a car during their life time. How can this be possible, I thought when I first arrived to Cuba? Well, it is possible. I have lived in Cuba for three years and I have learned to use public transportation just like everyone else.
My professor, Dr. Guillermo H. Mojena, is one of the few exceptions. He does not use public transportation to go to the hospital. Dr. Mojena prefers to use his old bicycle. One sees him early in the morning carrying a plastic bag with his belonging and riding his 30-year old bicycle through the medical school campus. Aside from helping the environment by not polluting, Dr. Mojena gets his morning exercise by riding his bicycle to work every day. His bicycle never fails because he is at the hospital every morning before 7:30 AM. It touches my heart to see him riding his bicycle to work everyday. Nonetheless, thanks to his bicycle he stays active and healthy even now that he is in his mid-60s. He is a very knowledgeable and humble human being.
Dr. Mojena photo
In Cuba I have learned that a good physician is not that with the best stethoscope, the best clothes, or the best car. I have had privilege to meet some of the best physicians in Cuba and they are exceptionally humble human beings. My professor is a vivid example of the Cuban physician. He doesn’t have a car but he has a bicycle and that makes him happy. He once told me that he plans to practice medicine until the day of his death. In order words, he plans to ride his bicycle to work for many years to come. My greatest hope is to be able to donate him a newer bicycle before I complete my studies in Cuba. Donating him a new bicycle would make him happy and seeing him happy would be the best reward for me.
Sincerely,
Alejandro Bernal

 

July 11, 2010
Ramon's Corner

Meet Ramon Bernal
Ramon Bernal photo
Hi, I'm Ramon Alejandro Bernal, the first student from Seattle to receive the opportunity for a free medical education at ELAM, the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.
ELAM is the largest medical school in the world, and trains physicians from the Carribbean, Central and South America, Africa, and the United States. Students make a commitment to return to their underserved communities after graduation. There are presently 110 US students studying at ELAM.
I am now in my third year at ELAM, acquiring clinical skills and taking care of patients. You are welcome to read my stories about my experiences studying in Cuba. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Ramon Alejandro Bernal
Meet with Ramon!
June 2011 Letter
October 2010 Letter
September 2010 Letter
May 2010 Letter
April 2010 Letter

 

July 8, 2010
Friendshipment 21 Send-off

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
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 crossing 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 3, 2010
Friendshipment 21 Border crossing

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 crossing the Canadian-US border carrying dozens of boxes of aid aboard a yellow school bus.
Before the border crossing, 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 crossing.
The schoolbus got in the traffic queue near the Peace Arch and headed towards the US border crossing, 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

 

June 16, 2010
Cuba and the US: Health Care in Perspective

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.

 

June 12, 2010
Imperiled and Defiant - Can the Revolution Survive?

*This is the conclusion to a recent analysis by the Freedom Socialist Party. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee, and is reproduced here for the purpose of stimulating thought and discussion on the current status of the Cuban Revolution. Link to the complete article is at the bottom. -Webmaster
Imperiled and Defiant - Can the Revolution Survive?
By
Susan Williams, M.D., New York City
Steven Strauss, M.D., Columbia, Maryland
Debbie Brennan, Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Durham, New York City
March, 2010
Conclusion
To the fundamental question of this document—“What is the nature of the Cuban state?”—we answer that it remains a workers state.
Cuba’s economy, despite the setbacks of the Special Period after the Soviet collapse, continues to rest primarily on nationalized, state-owned enterprises. Mechanisms to exercise monopoly of foreign trade and state planning were modified and controls have been loosened, but not relinquished.
At the same time, the encroachment of capitalism has dangerously undermined the foundations of the economy. A workers state is by its very nature transitory and unstable. In intense isolation since the Soviet collapse, subjected to the unrelenting hostility of U.S. imperialism, Cuba’s jeopardy has grown over the past two decades. This danger escalated sharply as the global economic crisis shook the world in 2008-9, bringing the country truly to the brink of a precipice.
While the majority of Cubans continue to support the revolution, complaints about conditions there are rising. Those living at official salary levels don’t starve, but exist at levels of constant struggle and hardship. Participation in the informal economy is nearly ubiquitous, often by means that are at least technically illegal. The desire for change is frustrated by the limitations on any real decision-making power.
Disaffection with the social process is especially strong among Cuban youth, who often must wait years for housing of their own, yearn for access to computers and other consumer goods, see a limited future for themselves, but—thanks to underground, rightwing propaganda—are constantly fed stories of the millions to be made in Miami.
The introduction of exploitation by foreign capital is tearing at Cuba’s social fabric. Gaps in income are widening, with Black Cubans suffering increasingly from the racism that Cuba pledged to end, but which has been mounting in concert with foreign tourism. Prostitution, which had been virtually eliminated, has also re-emerged, as an effect of an increasing reliance on tourism to bring in capital.
The social cost to date is but a small harbinger of the damage that would result from the wholesale re-ascendance of capitalism. When asked five years ago if there was a risk of a capitalist counter-revolution, Celia Hart responded:
“I think there exists a real danger of this, and every sincere revolutionary that I know, fears the same. Although the planned economy in Cuba has a state monopoly of foreign trade, although the means of production are state owned, and the bulk of the joint ventures are controlled by the state, time is running out. Dollarization has already had its negative effects. The management of joint ventures and the officials in foreign trade are at risk of being bought and they are also susceptible to bourgeois ideas. If the exiled Cuban capitalists return and try to usurp the country with the aid of pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist forces, there will be the menace of a counter-revolution and a capitalism of the worst sort. All the achievements of the last 45 years are in danger. For this reason, we have to defend the revolutionary heritage of Lenin, Trotsky and Che Guevara and advance the global revolution.”
Today, the menace is imminent and the need for solutions urgent. What tools lie at hand to fill Hart’s prescription? To answer this, we need to look first at the character of the state apparatus and the goals and program of the leadership at its head.
To what extent does the state apparatus flow from the needs and defend the foundations of the workers state? The early days of the revolution established the key elements of a workers state, destroying and replacing the Batista army and governmental institutions. But it was also marred from the outset with a growing bureaucracy, the overwhelming bulk of decision-making power being preempted by Castro’s circle and government functionaries rather than put in the hands of the people. There have been modifications, such as direct voting in the national elections and organized public discussion, but not a fundamental change. Workers’ control of production and full democracy have never existed.
Similarly, state institutions have been created, and dissolved over the years reflecting the conflicts within the economy. The pattern is that these changes are tailored to carry out policies set by the ruling strata in economic and social policy as shifts have occurred either toward or away from centralization, opening doors to foreign capital or tightening the restrictions, or expanding formal democracy, though never creating true organs of workers’ power.
The Cuban Communist Party leadership has been portrayed by the Left over an entire spectrum from faultless Leninist revolutionaries to blatant capitalist restorationists. Their real nature is complex and often contradictory, and their record stretches from heroism to breaches of workers democracy and international solidarity.
Some Left critics, writers for LIT-CI for example, conclude that despite the PCC’s claims that their aim is to build socialism, the fact that they put in place the legal basis for bourgeois property relations and ending the monopoly of foreign trade proves that the PCC’s true intent is to restore capitalism.
But is this an accurate assessment? At the outset of the Special Period, the central PCC leadership warned that economic reforms were necessary but dangerous, and instigated steps meant to contain the influence of foreign capital, safeguard social advances, stop corruption for private gain, and ameliorate economic inequities. Now, new economic modifications are simply being put in place as a solution. Clearly there are advocates for “the Chinese path” within Cuba; others reject the "Chinese path" label but promote essentially the same mechanisms. Still, this pro-capitalist sector has not been given free rein, and most Cubans seem to favor ongoing controls on the extent to which foreign capital is allowed to impact society.
It is significant that the PCC has shown that it can respond to proposals and pressures from the mass organizations and the sentiment of the people. Contradictorily, even as Raúl appears to be tightening the reins of control from above, there appears to be some growing room for discussion of left perspectives. As long as this remains true, as long as the PCC cadre remain a living, responsive force, and not a frozen, impervious monolith, it would be a dangerous mistake and terrible disservice to the Cuban people to call for overthrowing the Cuban Communist Party.
Move toward a revolutionary course!
We believe that the best defense of the workers state lies in relying on the Cuban people themselves. All who passionately defend the Cuban Revolution should support those in Cuba who advocate the following: shifting the locus of political power from the bureaucracy to democratic organs of workers’ power; the institution of workers’ control and the right to strike at the point of production, in the factories, service industries and farms; democratization of the army and the right to elect officers; and real autonomy of the mass organizations.
On the economic front, we support those who advocate defending and strengthening the nationalized economy by reversing growing privatization, tightening the monopoly of foreign trade, and strengthening centralized planning under the direction of workers and peasants councils.
We also call on the PCC to immediately guarantee full freedom of speech and association to left critics and an end to all forms of political repression against pro-revolutionary, anti-capitalist forces within the regime or the party. The right of PCC members to form tendencies in order to discuss the crucial issues facing the country should also be enacted.
On the international front, we believe the Cuban people have a key role to play in insisting on foreign policies that put support for international revolutionary struggles above Cuba’s diplomatic relations with capitalist states seeking to crush or co-opt the world socialist movement.
There are some in Cuba who believe that the enormous respect accorded to Fidel means that anything that could be seen as a challenge to his leadership should be kept under wraps, and that when it comes, his death will create opportunities for raising new ideas. The problem in postponing this struggle until then is that it may be too late. The Miami vultures are waiting for his death as their chance to pounce. The time to prepare the best defense of the Cuban Revolution and its people is now.
Bringing Trotsky in from the cold is a critical part of this preparation. As he and Lenin made so clear when they were leading Russia—itself an embattled, isolated country like Cuba—there is no way to create a single socialist haven in a capitalist world, a fact substantiated by the collapse of the USSR. Without a world community of workers states, it is an illusion that any country, least of all a small isolated island, can achieve a workers democracy on its own.
And if socialism can not be built in one country, it means that a large portion of Cuba’s fate rests in the hands of the international working class and socialists organizing in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. We have work to do.
Among our immediate objectives in the U.S. should be building a movement capable of ending the blockade and stopping any and all forms of U.S. incursion against Cuba, whether economic, diplomatic, overtly military, covertly CIA or under-the-table funding for reactionary forces. President Obama has painted himself as “opening doors” to the island nation, but we have to be absolutely clear that he is no friend of revolutionary Cuba. He represents the ruling sector that believes unrestricted remittances and a flood of consumer goods can achieve what open political hostility and the blockade have not.
Ultimately, Cuba can only survive as part of a world economic system engaged in building socialism. This means the greatest onus is on those of us in other nations—especially the U.S.—to make revolutions on our soil. This will be the greatest act of solidarity of all.
The complete article can be read here:
http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/1266

 

May 27, 2010
Contact Us

MAIL
Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee
c/o Church Council of Greater Seattle
2701 1st Ave, Suite 240
Seattle, WA 98121
E-MAIL
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Committee Secretary Judy Zeh)
TELEPHONE
206 523-1720 (Committee Secretary Judy Zeh)

 

May 27, 2010
Links

AIN: Cuban National News Agency (official site).
www.cubanews.ain.cu/
Afro-Cuba Web: "Many people don't know that an estimated 70% of Cubans have African ancestors..."
www.afrocubaweb.com/
BCANC: B.C. Aid Network for Cuba (British Columbia)
www.bcanc.net/
CANF (Cuban American National Foundation): Miami-based right-wing Cuban exile organization.
www.canf.org/
Center for a Free Cuba: Right-wing site with news articles.
http://cubacenter.org/en
Center for Cuban Studies: Non-profit, tax-exempt educational institution in New York City.
www.cubaupdate.org/
Cuba.com: Commercial site with variety of Cuba-related news.
www.cuba.com/
Cuba Headlines: Commercial site with variety of Cuba-related news.
www.cubaheadlines.com/
Cuban Art Space: A gallery of regularly scheduled exhibits and cultural programs.
www.cubanartspace.net/gallery/index.php
CubaNews List: Yahoo group with news and information submitted by users.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/
CubaNow.net: Online magazine of Cuban arts and culture.
www.cubanow.net/
CubaSi: Spanish-language Cuba news and information portal (official site).
http://www.cubasi.cu/
DISARM Education Fund: Dedicated to normalization of relations with Cuba.
www.disarm.org/
Granma International: Global version of Granma, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
www.granma.cu/ingles/index.html
Havana Times: “Open-minded writing from Cuba”; make up your own mind about this site.
www.havanatimes.org/
IFCO / Pastors for Peace: "An ecumenical agency whose mission is to help forward the struggles of oppressed peoples for justice and self-determination."
www.ifconews.org/
INFOMED: Portal to Cuban Ministry of Health's computer network.
www.sld.cu/
Marazul Charters: Popular travel agency for legally licensed travelers to Cuba.
www.marazul.com/
MEDICC: Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba.
Non-profit organization working to enhance cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities.
www.medicc.org/ns/
Miami Herald: Cuba News section of this well-known American newspaper.
www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/cuba/
OFAC: US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control.
"Provides overview of US sanctions and travel related inquiries to Cuba."
www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/cuba/cuba.shtml
Prensa Latina: Cuba-based Latin American news agency.
www.plenglish.com/
Project InfoMed: Supporting Cuba's INFOMED Health Care information project.
www.cubasolidarity.net/
Sol y Son: Cubana Airlines in-flight magazine.
www.solysonmagazine.com/switch.php
The Cuban Five: Support site for five Cuban political prisoners being held by US Government.
www.thecuban5.org
The Literacy Project: 2010 movie documenting the Cuban Literacy Campaign during the early 1960s.
www.theliteracyproject.org
US Women and Cuba Collaboration: Women and organizations working in coalition with women in Cuba.
www.womenandcuba.org
Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba: Vancouver BC, Canada based organization dedicated to education, promotion and defense of the gains of the Cuban revolution.
www.vancubasolidarity.com/

 

May 27, 2010
News from Cuba

Recent Headlines
Raul Castro elected Cuban Communist Party chief
English.news.cn
April 19, 2011
HAVANA, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday was elected chief of the ruling Cuban Communist Party (CCP) .
The appointment of Raul Castro as first secretary of CCP's Central Committee came at the party's 6th congress, which concluded here Tuesday.
The party also elected First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura second secretary of the Central Committee and announced a reduction of the size of its Politbureau.
Raul Castro announced that out of the current 115 members of the Central Committee, women now make up 41.9 percent, or 48 members, while 36 are of African descendant, representing 31.3 percent of the power balance.
The CCP made it a policy to increase the presence of both social groups in charge of direction considering that in many sectors these groups of people are the poorest and most exploited, he said.
Within the new Central Committee, the presence of women has increased three times while that of members of African descend has increased 10 times.
Raul said that he will take on his new post "with commitment and honor" and that his goals are "to continue perfecting the socialism and not ever allow for the return of the capitalist regime" to Cuba.
The Politbureau now consists of 15 members, down from 24, Castro said, adding that the CCP Secretariat has been left "untouched" until the next CCP congress on January 28, 2012, when "another composition" will be created.
US analyst, wife sentenced for spying for Cuba
By PETE YOST, Associated Press
July 16, 2010
WASHINGTON – The 73-year-old great grandson of Alexander Graham Bell was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for quietly spying for Cuba for nearly a third of a century from inside the State Department. His wife was sentenced to 5 1/2 years.
Retired intelligence analyst Kendall Myers said he meant his country no harm and stole secrets only to help Cuba's people who "have good reason to feel threatened" by U.S. intentions of ousting the communist Castro government.
But U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Myers and his 72-year-old wife, Gwendolyn, had betrayed America and should receive heavy punishment.
"You never know what the effect will be" from stealing classified information, said the judge. Someone "could be killed."
Justice Department prosecutor Michael Harvey said the couple received medals from Cuban intelligence and were flown to the island nation for a visit with Fidel Castro in 1995. They pleaded guilty last November.
The couple's overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution, Myers told Walton. He said that he and his wife tried to accurately report what U.S. policy was toward Cuba, to warn Cuba and to try to assess the nature of any threat.
"At the expense of the United States," Walton interjected.
In a sentencing memo to the judge, prosecutors said Myers, a descendant of Bell, the inventor of the first practical telephone, was a child of wealth and privilege, attended a private boarding school in Pennsylvania and Brown University and obtained a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.
"Kendall Myers could have been anything he wanted to be," they wrote. "He chose to be a Cuban spy."
According to prosecutors, Myers, who began teaching at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute in 1978, was contacted by the Cuban intelligence service to be a covert agent, and he recruited Gwendolyn in 1979. The couple married three years later. The Cubans referred to him as Agent 202, his wife as Agent E-634.
Myers rose to director of European studies at the Institute, and then in the eight years before he retired in 2007 he was a senior intelligence analyst at State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Prosecutor Harvey said Kendall Myers had daily access to classified information and pursued government colleagues for more.
Court documents described the couple's spycraft changing with the times, beginning with code messages over a short-wave radio and shopping carts exchanged in a grocery. By the time they retired from the work in 2007, they were said to be sending encrypted e-mails from Internet cafes.
At the same time, they were enjoying the fruits of living in the United States, spending inherited wealth on a yacht, said Harvey.
One of the couple's lawyers, Tom Green, said the two lived a very modest lifestyle.
Divergent views of loyalty and country dominated the hourlong sentencing hearing.
"The United States is not a perfect nation," Walton said, noting that he has ancestors who were born into slavery. The judge told Myers that "neither is Cuba perfect." It is "not a beacon of liberty."
If they felt so strongly, he told the couple, "you should have defected" to Cuba.
Prosecutors had written that Mrs. Myers could have faced 10 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Defense attorney Green argued for less because she has suffered a heart attack and minor strokes and the full amount "could be a life sentence."
Walton gave her 81 months, with time off for the 14 months she has already served. That works out to a sentence of just over 5 1/2 years.
The sentencing came just a week after the U.S. swapped 10 deep-cover Russian spies to Russia for four men serving sentences for betraying Moscow to the West. The 10 were allowed to plead guilty to being unregistered foreign agents and then were deported.
Unlike the Myerses, who are U.S. citizens, the 10 Russian spies were all foreigners, mostly Russians, and the government said it had watched and tracked them for more than a decade and saw no benefit to be gained from imprisoning them. The government said the 10 had not transferred any secret information to the Russians.
Green said that the Myerses had undergone hundreds of hours of debriefings by interrogators from multiple federal agencies. The FBI concluded that Kendall Myers had withheld some information during that questioning, though Green disputed that. He said Myers had worked diligently to recall all information relevant to the criminal case.
Kendall Myers was caught in an FBI sting operation launched after he retired from the government. He was videotaped telling an undercover agent, posing as a Cuban agent, that he wanted to resume his work for Cuba.
"I was actually thinking it would be fun to get back into it," Kendall Myers said on the videotape, according to the prosecutor.
In June 2009, right after the arrests, Fidel Castro questioned the timing — just 24 hours after the Organization of American States voted to lift a decades-old suspension of Cuba's membership in that group.
"Doesn't the story of Cuban spying seem really ridiculous to everyone?" Castro asked, without commenting on its validity.
There was no immediate reaction from Havana on Friday to news of the sentences.
The Myerses have six children and seven grandchildren, and the judge agreed to recommend that the Bureau of Prisons lock the couple up near each other to make visits easier on family members.
The couple agreed to forfeit $1.7 million, the amount Kendall Myers was accused of defrauding the government of by receiving a federal salary while working for Cuba.
Cuba set to free 52 political prisoners
By Isabel Sanchez
Agence France-Presse
July 08, 2010
HAVANA – Cuba agreed to free 52 political prisoners beginning Thursday, in a breakthrough church-state deal set to yield the biggest prisoner release since President Raul Castro formally took power in 2008.
The release, to include five dissidents, exceeds a bold demand by a hunger-striker near death that some two dozen ill political prisoners be freed in the only one-party communist regime in the Americas.
The five dissidents were to be freed "in the coming hours" and would travel "shortly" to Spain with their families, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, announced late Wednesday.
The breakthrough talks Wednesday involved Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who said the pending move opens "a new era."
"We are quite satisfied. A new era is opening in Cuba, with the will to settle once and for all the political prisoner issue," he said.
Later, he told reporters that "the Spanish government has accepted the proposal that all those who are released travel to Spain, if they so wish."
The pending release of the 52 -- who were part of a group of 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003 and sentenced to jail terms of six to 28 years -- was announced at a meeting of Castro, Ortega and Moratinos, a statement from the Archdiocese of Havana said.
Moratinos said that Castro, during their six-hour meeting, assured him that relatives and the exiles themselves would be able to return to visit Cuba and that the property of dissidents who leave the country would not be confiscated -- measures that would imply a change in Cuban policy.
The remaining 47 dissidents will be freed within the next three to four months, Roman Catholic church officials said in the statement.
The Cuban government has insisted it would not be "blackmailed."
But it is also keen to deflect attention from the case of hunger striker Guillermo Farinas, protesting with his life on the line; his and other recent hunger strikes are huge political embarrassments for Havana, drawing an international outcry.
The church statement did not identify the political prisoners to be freed, nor did it mention Farinas, who is said to be near death from a months-long hunger strike.
Bishop Arturo Gonzalez visited with the hunger striker and was told Farinas was waiting for the actual release of the five dissidents before he ends his hunger strike.
The head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, described the announced prisoner releases as "excellent" news and said he hoped it would prompt Farinas to end his strike.
Farinas's deteriorating condition has been reported, unusually, in the official Communist Party newspaper Granma, in what observers say is an attempt to defuse international criticism should he die.
The psychologist and online journalist has been refusing food since February while demanding the release of 25 political prisoners with failing health.
Farinas, 48, said he could end his strike when the five dissidents are freed, having dropped his original demand for all 25 once church mediation was under way.
"I am skeptical. Until our brothers are on the street, we do not trust the authorities," Farinas said by phone from hospital in the central city of Santa Clara.
Other foes of the government voiced surprise.
"I am stunned -- we were expecting 10, 12, maybe 15 to be freed and then maybe in six months some more," said Laura Pollan, a leader of the Ladies in White group of family members of the 75 political prisoners picked up in the 2003 sweep.
"I will believe it when I see all 75 out on the street," she said.
The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission -- an outlawed but tolerated dissident information clearinghouse -- estimates there are 167 political prisoners in the Caribbean nation of more than 11 million people.
The church began a dialogue with the government on May 19. As a result of the talks, one prisoner was released and another 12 were transferred to facilities closer to their families.
Moratinos has said if his visit was a success, it would help toward lifting the EU common position on Cuba, which has, since 1996, conditioned relations between the European Union and Havana on progress in human rights here.
He also said he hoped the United States, Cuba's longtime foe in the region, would "take note" of Havana's decision to free dissidents.
Statement by the Cuban National Assembly on the recent Israeli flotilla attack:
June 4, 2010
"Several days have passed since the Israeli Army launched its premeditated and criminal attack against the fleet that was taking to the Gaza Strip -a Palestinian territory subjected to a cruel and inhuman military blockade- very much needed humanitarian help, in a supreme gesture of solidarity.
"Governments, parliaments and institutions from many parts of the world have denounced the assassination perpetrated, and have demanded that the international community to express its strongest condemnation of this action carried out by the Israeli government.
"The statement by the UN Security Council, in spite of regretting what has happened and asking for an impartial investigation, does not vigorously condemn Israel and does not mention the need to put an end, unconditionally, to the prolonged siege laid to the Gaza Strip.
"The Commission for International Relations of the National Assembly of the People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba considers that the only solution possible is that the Israeli government immediately puts an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and that the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to create an independent State in its legitimate territories prevails.
"It is urgent to prevent, by way of the most determined action of the international community, serious crimes like these remaining unpunished, and that the use of time-wasting strategies on the part of Israel and its allies makes it possible to maintain, and even intensify in the future, the current and unsustainable situation of the Palestinian people."
-Commission for International Relations of the National Assembly of the People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba.

 

May 27, 2010
Cuba Solidarity in Seattle, Part 1: the early 60s

by Tom Warner
Tom WarnerIt was 1960. And I had been a merchant seaman not long before, plying the many seas and witnessing that most of the world was a colony of some European country or the United States – and the conditions of these people were just horrible.
I saw rail thin barely clad workers in Iran baking in the searing sun and too many with a strange ailment called “elephantitius” which involved super swelling of parts of the body. We were told not to eat ashore because of the danger of dysentery – but it occurred to me that the residents HAD to eat ashore – and were probably only too glad to have food.
To a lesser extent I saw the racism of the Belgians toward the Africans in the Congo. It was much the same all over Africa and Latin America (I never got to Asia but it was the same there.) And I wondered why these people didn’t make a union and get themselves some decent working conditions.
I rejoiced as the colonial coloration of the map began to change from the replica of the color of the “mother country” to independent nations all over the world.
The folks were finally making some kind of unions and changing their condition, I thought.
Fidel in New YorkThen Fidel and Che came down from the Sierra Maestra and declared the Triumph. Right next door! And then it became quite clear that the United States would not countenance an independent Cuba right on its door step. Vice President Nixon did not like what Fidel had to say when he came to New York and Fidel moved out of the swank part of town and stayed in Harlem where he was surrounded by thousands of admirers.
A bunch of prominent people formed a new group called the Fair Play For Cuba Committee and we got one going here in Seattle. Clara Frazer, who later became one of the founders of Radical Women was the head of it and my life companion at that time was the secretary. I still have the Rolodex of the two letter and four number telephones of the members of that day.
As with any new and dynamic group, there were factions in FPCC and there were drop outs when Cuba nationalized US holdings and when Cuba developed a fraternal relationship with the Soviet Union – and other divisions based on ideology. Clara did not like the de facto leadership of FPCC at one point and when he came to Seattle he was featured as TV Lee instead of V. T. Lee, for instance.
About this time Leslie (secretary of FPCC – Seattle) and I headed off to a leftie conference in New York City and while we were there we naturally dropped in to the office of V. T. Lee and national FPCC and picked up many hundreds of pamphlets to deliver on our return trip. It was kind of a honeymoon so we didn’t mind taking a circuitous route. We were going to drop some off in Chicago and some in Los Angeles and up the coast toward Seattle.
Russian ship Kasimov. We had barely gotten started when the Cuba/US missile crisis erupted. In every gas station and restaurant that we used, every TV station or radio was tuned on to the news of this stand off. Russian ships were headed toward Cuba with regular cargo from the East Block – like fruit jams and tractors and wheat and stuff – probably. And the island was blockaded by a huge armada of US naval war vessels that were dedicated not to let them pass. And they kept steaming westward toward Cuba. Both countries had nuclear weapons and most reasonable people were VERY concerned that their last days were being experienced.
We got to Chicago and delivered a portion of our literature to a nice Cuban couple and I remember that the anti Cuban press was chanting about how chicken was being rationed in Cuba now. These folks told us that the only time that their family had chicken in Cuba was on Christmas. The pre revolutionary rationing was economic and unforgiving.
So then we headed south – away from the chilly fall weather and since we had a delivery in Los Angeles, we figured that we would at least be warm on the trip. Meanwhile, the Soviet ships continued steaming westward and the sabers kept rattling.
Marcus GarveyWhen we got across from the town of Matamoros MX, we thought that we would peek in. I had never been to Mexico. We drove across and found a cheap hotel and peeked around this little border town and I popped into a bookstore that had a book in English that caught my eye, It had a picture of a Black man with an admiral looking hat on and it was about Marcus Garvey and was called Black Messiah. It was actually a thesis done by a white college student about the Garvey Movement and Marcus Garvey.
When we crossed back into the US the customs asked if we had purchased anything we lied and said “No” despite Marcus Garvey. Well! He opened the bonnet on our VW bug and there were hundreds of speeches by Fidel Castro. And this was right in the midst of the missile crisis. But what caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stiffen was not Fidel, but Marcus Garvey. This was the deep South and it was well before the Sit Ins and the Freedom Riders and this Red Neck border guard was so reviled by this thesis on Garvey that he hardly paid attention to the Cuba lit.
After calling headquarters and a very long wait all of our printed matter was returned to us.
And eventually, Kennedy and Kruschev traded missile sites in Cuba for ones in Turkey and the atomic clock was reset from seconds before midnight to a quarter to – or so. And we went on to deliver our Fidelista wisdom io Los Angeles and bring some home to organize Seattle.
(To be continued)

 

May 27, 2010
Bicycling in Cuba

by Victor Odlivak
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

 

May 27, 2010
Donate

You can make a financial donation to the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee through our sponsor, the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Please send your check to:
Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee
c/o Church Council of Greater Seattle
2701 1st Ave, Suite 240
Seattle, WA 98121
Checks should be made out to Church Council of Greater Seattle with an accompanying note specifying that the
"donation is for the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee."
*All donations are tax-deductible*
Thank you very much.

 

May 27, 2010
Friendshipment Caravan History

This will be an article summarizing the history of Seattle participation in the Pastors For Peace Friendshipment Caravans, which we have done since 1991. Would somebody be willing to write it?

 

May 27, 2010
Welcome to the Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee is a Seattle-based organization dedicated to educating Western Washington citizens of the truth about Cuba, and to working for normalized relations between our two nations.
We are a project of the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

 

July 20, 2009
Revised website up-and-running.