U.S. Customs Releases B.C. Charity Goods Truck Bound for Cuba Print

By John Colebourn, The Province July 3, 2012

U.S. Customs officials on Monday changed their minds and allowed a pickup truck full of humanitarian aid for Cuba to go through the border.

A B.C. group transporting the humanitarian aid to Cuba was denied entry into the U.S. on Sunday.

After a demonstration by the group outside the Peace Arch border crossing Monday afternoon, an organizer with the Pastors for Peace Caravan met with the border and customs officers, and the truck was allowed through.

The truck was stopped July 1 at the Peace Arch Border Crossing when customs officials asked to see the paper-work required to transport charitable goods across the U.S.

The humanitarian aid destined for Cuba is part of the 23rd annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. The goods include medical supplies, wheelchairs, walkers, educational supplies and sports equipment collected from various com-munities throughout B.C.

The truck was diverted to the commercial Pacific Truck Border Crossing.

Janine Solanki of the B.C. Aid Network to Cuba said in past years they have been able to truck goods through the states to get the needed items to Cuba.

She said the truck was to drop the goods off to a bus that would then travel down the U.S. into Mexico, where the goods are shipped to Cuba.

She said it appears customs officials did not like the used sports gear going into the U.S.

Solanki said it was unclear why the U.S. border officials let the truck through.

"They didn't say why they said no yesterday and yes today," she said. "They went through and it was a big relief for us."

Solanki said they initially were told they will have to get a bond to transport the goods across the border.

"We are refusing to pay for any sort of bond," she said. "It is a matter of principle."

The group also said they were protesting the economic blockade between the U.S. and Cuba.

Solanki said in the past they were not required to have any paperwork when they crossed the border.

"We have crossed into the U.S. 23 times and this is the first time they said we needed a bond," she said.

"We are not transporting commercial goods into the United States, this is humanitarian aid that does not require a bond."

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VICTORY FOR PEACE CARAVAN TO CUBA: AFTER PROTEST CANADIAN SOLIDARITY ASSISTANCE TO CUBA ALLOWED INTO U.S.

After initially refusing humanitarian aid for Cuba to enter the U.S. from Canada, U.S. customs relented and allowed the 23rd Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba to cross the border. This victory is a testimony to the resilience and tenacity of the Caravanistas, who in the spirit of solidarity have opposed demanded an end to the illegal and internationally condemned U.S. economic blockade of Cuba.

For further information on the 23rd Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba contact:

Janine Solanki - Contact on Canada side - 778-881-6156

Tamara Hansen - Contact on US side - 778-882-5223

Bill Hackwell - Caravan route speaker from Oakland, US. On Canada side - 415-269-7917