By Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) · Yesterday ·

Just before 5pm today, Saturday, June 27, 2015, a van full of humanitarian aid for Cuba crossed the Canada/U.S. border, breaking the illegal, immoral and unjust U.S. blockade against Cuba! This great victory was accompanied by a loud, colourful and energetic rally at the Peace Arch border crossing, which had supporters of Cuba from both British Columbia and Washington State chanting, “Lift the Blockade on Cuba NOW! Abajo el Bloqueo!” as the van full of humanitarian aid entered the U.S. customs area. Our united voices ensured that the all of the humanitarian aid, including wheelchairs, walkers, canes, sewing machines, hand tools and sports equipment continued on the road to Cuba as part of the 26th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba.

The victory this year was especially important because all of the humanitarian aid crossed through the Peace Arch Park border crossing, despite the initial objections of the U.S. border officials. In the last few years activists bringing humanitarian aid through the border have been told that no aid would be allowed to pass through the Peace Arch Park border crossing. Initially, this year was no different, with the border officials declaring “You know we will not let you through here, why did you bother coming?” But Caravan supporters stood their ground and in the end all of the humanitarian aid was allowed to cross!

This year is also an important year for the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba as, after over 50 years of hostile U.S. policies towards Cuba, a new dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba has begun. However, despite this opening, the over 50-year old criminal U.S. blockade on Cuba remains in full force. Now it is more important than ever for people from around the world to demand an end to this cruel policy and increase our efforts to end to the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

Before the victory at the border, supporters of Cuba from across Washington State and B.C. gathered in Peace Arch Park for a potluck picnic complete with delicious food, poetry, live music and a featured speaker, Nino Pagliccia, Editor of the new book "Cuba Solidarity in Canada: 5 Decades of People-to-People Foreign Relations"(Friesen Press, 2014). The MC of the day, Tamara Hansen, the coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), introduced a diverse program that began with poetry from Vancouver organizer Shakeel Lochan and Ruth Caspell from Nanaimo, BC, who read a poem from Cuban 5 hero Antonio Guerrero. Next there were words from Judy Zeh of the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee and a first time Caravanista. Judy also introduced everyone to Xochitl Garcia, a recent U.S. graduate of the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba.

The gathering also took time in the program to recognize the great contributions of two fighters for Cuba that have passed, the founder of Pastors for Peace, Rev. Lucius Walker Jr. and a leader in the Cuba solidarity and social justice movement in Seattle, Tom Warner.

The event then received greetings from Pastors for Peace organizer Manolo de los Santos who called from Boston to wish participants a successful border crossing. The program closed with the beautiful music of Maria Luisa Melendez, who inspired the crowd as they picked up signs, banners and flags and began the march to challenge the U.S. blockade on Cuba that would end in victory.

This victory at the Canada/U.S. border is the first test for this year’s Pastors for Peace Caravan. We ask that all of our supporters and co-fighters stay on alert for the U.S./Mexico border crossing on Thursday, July 16, where the caravan could face another challenge on their route to make sure the humanitarian aid reaches Cuba!

This year’s border crossing was co-organized by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee and endorsed by ANSWER Seattle, US Women & Cuba Collaboration, Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver and the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five (Seattle).

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