The Caravanistas participating the 23rd Friendshipment caravan organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace who were held up at the border of Vancouver and Washington State are free and on their way to Cuba!!!
After a 24-hour struggle ALL the aid the Caravanistas were carrying was delivered across the Canadian border to the United States WITHOUT a license and WITHOUT the payment of a bond. Customs officials had initially insisted that a bond needed to be paid in order for the aid to be transported across the border. Last year, Caravanistas encountered the same problem but with the help of legal counsel were able to successfully argue that humanitarian aid is exempt from the bond requirement. We held our ground then and we did so again at Vancouver.
The success was due to a combination of efforts --
- a continuous spirited protest at the border by Caravanistas and supporters on both sides of the crossing,
- an incredibly organized news conference at the border attended by various news outlets during which some of the deflated basketballs and other used sports equipment were put on display for the world to see just the US government chose to target the caravan this year,
- calls from supporters and our emergency response network to their elected officials to demand the release of the sports equipment
- the creative efforts of our committed social media activists
- and of course the brilliant legal advice of our attorney Linda Backiel with additional support from many other attorneys across the country
During this encounter we were reminded of the earlier caravans. Indeed, the incident in Vancouver is reminiscent of the encounters we've had over the past 20 years where small inconsequential items are targeted by the US government. First toasters and bibles, then bicycles and computers.....now used sports equipment.
When we asked the customs officials whether they really planned to hold up our caravan because of a box of old used baseball mitts and soccer balls, the official replied "yep".
Thankfully our earnest, hardworking and dedicated supporters on either side of the Vancouver/Pacific Highway border won the day.
For twenty years IFCO/Pastors for Peace has enjoyed a strong partnership with our international partners from Europe, Canada and Mexico in fighting the US blockade of Cuba. This victory is another example of the importance of our international effort to break the blockade and is a wonderful way to kick off the 20th anniversary US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba.
We are happy to report that the Caravanistas at the border are free and on their way to Cuba,
Thank you all so much for your wonderful support!
Onward to Cuba!!