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End the Blockade Against Cuba!
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] comcast.net)
Sunday Jul 29th, 2007 11:55 AM
The Venceremos Brigade returned from Cuba yesterday (Saturday, July 28, 2007), marching across the Peace Bridge into Buffalo New York where they were warmly greeted by supporters.
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End the Blockade Against Cuba!
Lift the Travel Restrictions Now
By Mike Rhodes

Fifty eight members of the 38th Venceremos ("We Shall Overcome") Brigade to Cuba defiantly returned to the United States Saturday, July 28. They marched across the “Peace Bridge” that links Fort Erie in Canada and Buffalo New York. On the US side they were greeted by supporters and welcomed with a picnic. Three of the members of this year’s brigade are from Fresno (see the photo below).

Venceremos Brigade members go to Cuba each year to work with and learn from the revolutionary example of the Cuban people, where human needs are valued over corporate profits. This year, brigadistas worked weeding mango and guava fields. They also attended cultural events, learned about the history of Cuba, and made many new friends.

Vanessa Rhodes, one of this year’s brigade participants, said “the Venceremos Brigade wants an end to the travel ban to Cuba, we want an end to the embargo, to stop Bush’s plan to further undermine Cuba, we demand freedom for the Cuban Five, and we want to encourage more people to people exchanges.”

The travel ban is an attempt by the US government to limit and stop citizens from going to Cuba and seeing that country for themselves. Venceremos Brigade members overtly challenge this travel ban by openly going to Cuba and returning as publically as possible. There are a few exceptions to the travel ban for some scholarly work and other professional exchanges, but in general, US citizens are told they can’t travel to Cuba.

Those who challenge the travel ban are threatened with severe and somewhat vague legal sanctions. But, when the US interferes with Venceremos Brigade members travel to Cuba, their legal team is there to defend them. Venceremos Brigade attorneys are ready for any US legal challenges and expect to prevail because the travel ban is both illegal and unconstitutional.

The Venceremos Brigade is opposed to the economic embargo because it creates unnecessary hardships and suffering on the Cuban people. Not only does the US make direct trade with Cuba by American companies illegal, the economic embargo extends to other nations as well. For example, under the US embargo a foreign ship can’t stop in a Cuban port if they want to trade with the US.

The Bush plan, which Venceremos Brigade members vigorously oppose, would worsen the economic embargo and make it harder for US citizens to visit the island.

The Venceremos Brigade demands freedom for the Cuban Five. The story of the Cuban five is not told very often in the corporate media. These five Cubans were arrested several years ago and are now in jail for the crime of trying to stop terrorists from attacking Cuba. These brave men had come to the United States to uncover the plots of anti-Cuban terrorists. After some success in uncovering terrorist plots against their country, they provided information about these plans to the US government. Instead of arresting the terrorists, the Cuban Five were arrested and put in jail.

The Venceremos Brigade has been organizing people to people exchanges with Cuba since 1969 as a means of showing solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working side by side with Cuban workers. This year’s brigade members, the vast majority of them in their teens and twenty’s, experienced first hand what is going on in Cuba today.

Cody Iyall, one of the brigadistas from Fresno, said he enjoyed his free time in Havana and was particularly excited to run into a group of Hip Hop musicians. There is an active Hip Hop music scene in Cuba which seems to create the same generational gap as we have in the US. Older Cubans prefer more traditional music and many of the youth enjoy Hip Hop, which they say can be just as revolutionary as folk or salsa music. Cody is a musician and this was his second trip to Cuba.

Several Brigadistas mentioned a children’s play as the highlight of their trip. Cinderella, which was performed to the background of Beatles music, was an opportunity for brigadistas to learn about theater and culture in Cuba.

Vanessa Rhodes, from Oakland California, said brigade members met with the families of the Cuban Five. Vanessa said “the terribly ironic thing about this case is that these five men where doing exactly what US government officials say they are trying to do - stop terrorism.” They are now in US prisons. The families of the Cuban Five, according to Vanessa, are working hard to build and strengthen the struggle to free their husbands, children, and brothers. For more information about the Cuban Five, see: http://www.freethefive.org/

While on the island brigade members were able to participate in the first graduation ceremony of US students from a Cuban medical school. All educational expenses were provided by the Cuban government to these students. The doctors will now return to the US to practice in poor and under served neighborhoods in their communities. For more information about this Free Medical School in Cuba, go to http://www.ifconews.org/MedicalSchool/main.htm

The Venceremos Brigade will begin organizing the 39th contingent to Cuba shortly. If you are interested in being a part of this historic experience, contact them at http://www.venceremosbrigade.org/
§The Bridge
by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jul 29th, 2007 11:55 AM
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These Venceremos Brigade Members are walking across the Peace Bridge from Fort Erie Canada into the US.
§The Return
by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jul 29th, 2007 11:55 AM
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Venceremos Brigade members (with their backs to the camera) have just gotten out of customs and are joining supporters in Front Park in Buffalo. This is the same group that is seen in the top photo heading towards the park.
§The Local Connection
by Mike Rhodes Sunday Jul 29th, 2007 11:55 AM
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Three of these Venceremos Brigade members live in Fresno and the fourth grew up there. From Left - Right: Cody Iyall, Tony Bracamonte, Vanessa Rhodes, and Simone Whalen-Rhodes. Vanessa now lives in Oakland.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by DLi
Sunday Jul 29th, 2007 10:43 PM
As a former brigadista(1970), let me salute these brave and committed young people from the USA who dared to challenge the immoral travel ban by the U.S. gov't to keep Americans from learning the positive lessons of the Cuban Revolution. In reality, the USA Evil Empire is getting more and more isolated around the world. Keep spreading the word about the valiant struggle of the Cuban people to overcome underdevelopement(caused by decades of colonial rule by Washington) and their attempt to find the socialist alternative to the Capitalist 'Abyss of Evil'.

Revoluccion Cubano, Si! Imperialismo Yanqui, NO!

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