34th Venceremos Brigade

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34th Venceremos Brigade

Participants

"The embargo and travel ban policy of our country really hurts them, as well as hurting us," said VB sub-brigade leader Bonnie Massey, 22, of New York City. "It denies them a lot of material necessities, and it denies us the opportunity to learn about a whole other people."

Massey went on, "Cubans are a friendly people and the travel restriction just doesn't make any sense. Cuba's economy is suffering because the United States has had a blockade in place for more than 40 years. ... This has been a life-changing experience for many of us. We got to learn many things that we don't get to learn at home. It makes us better people."

The U.S. government requires travelers to obtain a U.S. Treasury Department licence before going to Cuba. Members of the Brigade refuse to get the licence as a protest against the travel restrictions.

Many of the contingent were getting their first taste of political resistance by participating in what amounted to a mass act of civil disobedience.

"Some of us are nervous," said Sierra Thai-Binh, 29, prior to the border crossing. "We are about to head back home and we are here to take a visible stand. We know our rights and the rights of Cuban people."

The crossing occurred without incident after authorities in Washington, D.C., directed U.S. Customs to allow the protesters to return without arrest. The U.S. government apparently did not wish to draw attention to its unpopular travel ban to Cuba. However, Brigadistas still face the possibility of civil penalties from the Treasury Department, which they are prepared to fight.

The large, racially diverse and predominantly youthful contingent--one quarter were high schoolers--experienced what amounted to a crash course in socialism. Many, including this writer, were making their first visit to the revolutionary nation.

The Venceremos Brigade, a friendship and solidarity organization, began in 1969 when hundreds of young people express ed solidarity with the Cuban government and people by helping in the sugar harvest.

Annual, unlicensed work trips have followed. This year's visit saw brigade members deliver over two tons of material aid, paint a polyclinic outside Havana, and work side by side with Cubans.

The travel challenge is a joint project with Pastors for Peace, which delivered a caravan of food and medicine into Cuba through Mexico last month.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Kathe Karlson of New York City. "It's very important to make friends with people around the world ... we want to be able to travel without restrictions and find out the truth for ourselves."[1]

Kendra Guild, 27th, 31st, and 34th Brigades,and planning on the 35th.[2]

Jashaun Sadler, Isaac Weiler, Australia Fernandez, 34th Brigade.[3]

References