Holguin, Cuba, August 2, 2013 — On Sunday, August 4, 32 members of the Venceremos Brigade will fly to Canada from Cuba, having traveled to the sanctioned island in defiance of the U.S. government’s restrictions two weeks prior. On Monday, August 5, they will complete their “travel challenge” by marching across the International Peace Bridge into Buffalo, N.Y., confronting U.S. Customs officials, and holding demonstrations on both sides of the border.
In the face of loosening travel restrictions under the Obama Administration, which appear to make the travel ban and blockade less and less significant in the U.S., the Venceremos Brigade asserts the importance of engaging in civil disobedience through travel challenges as the most effective means of mounting pressure on the U.S. government to change these policies and work to establish normal relations between both nations.
This year marks the 44th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade and the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, recognized as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. Members of the Brigade were invited to participate as guests of honor in the national celebration of July 26. Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke in commemoration of this historic occasion. Recently elected President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, President of Uruguay, Jose “¨Pepe” Mujica, and President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, were also present and spoke in solidarity. Miguel Rodriguez, 21, native of the Bronx, NY and second-time brigadista, expressed the significance of this event: “Considering what we hear about Cuba on a daily basis in the United States, it was breathtaking to witness such powerful solidarity among the heads of state and admiration for Cuba.”
Brigade members, representing seven states nationwide and coming from diverse backgrounds, also delivered nearly 2,000 pounds of material to the island, volunteered on civil projects including restoration of housing destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and exchanged with experts and ordinary citizens from various sectors of Cuban society. Sephirah Feinberg-O’Toole, 30, of Vermont, a first-time participant, stated: “I was truly moved by the conviction, warmth, and spirit of perseverance that resonated in each encounter, as we visited numerous historical sites and witness the passionate commitment to preserving the story of the Revolution in the present memory.”
Members of the Venceremos Brigade will be available for interviews before and after crossing into Buffalo, N.Y. from Fort Erie, Ontario on the morning of August 5th, and upon arrival in New York City that evening.
The Venceremos Brigade is a U.S.-based anti-imperialist educational work project that travels to Cuba annually. Since 1969 it has provided over 9000 U.S. citizens the opportunity to see Cuba for themselves. The Venceremos Brigade asserts that the travel ban is unconstitutional and that the economic embargo is inhumane, immoral, and contrary to the principle of national sovereignty. The Brigade stands in solidarity with the Cuban people and in protest of the U.S. government’s failed policies toward Cuba, calling for the lifting of the travel ban and blockade and for the immediate and unconditional release of the Cuban Five.