On Sunday, July 19, 2015, 29 U.S. citizens, followed by 16 additional on Friday, July 24, 2015, will defy the United States [U.S.] government’s travel restrictions by going to Cuba with the 46th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. Members of the Brigade will participate in what they call a Travel Challenge, protesting U.S. government policy toward Cuba by traveling to the sanctioned island without a license and publicly confronting U.S. Customs officials on their way back into the U.S. Among this year’s contingent will be members from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since 1962, the U.S. government has restricted travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens and residents as part of its blockade of the island, only allowing travel for those licensed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC]. Despite these restrictions and facing threats from OFAC, as well as FBI intimidation, the Brigade proudly travels to Cuba without government permission, sure in its stance that travel is a constitutional right, as recognized by Supreme Court Justice William Douglas in 1965 with his statement, “The right to know, to converse with others, to consult with them, to observe social, physical, political and other phenomena abroad, as well as at home, gives meaning and substance to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
Brigade members, known as brigadistas, will deliver over 1,000 pounds of material aid to the island, volunteer on civic projects and participate in celebrations for the 62nd anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. Brigadistas will also interact with experts and citizens from various sectors of Cuban society to be informed about Cuba’s healthcare, educational and political systems, as well as visit important cultural and historical sites to learn about Cuban history.
Returning to the U.S. on Sunday, August 2, 2015, the Venceremos Brigade will march across the International Peace Bridge from Canada into Buffalo, New York, holding rallies and/or press conferences on each side of the border. Although the recent negotiations towards normalizing relations between the two countries were announced by both President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014, the travel ban and U.S. blockade against Cuba are still in place and the Brigade asserts the importance of engaging in civil disobedience through public Travel Challenges as one of the most effective means of mounting pressure on the U.S. government to change these policies. The Brigade will continue to do so until both the travel ban and blockade have been eradicated, Guantanamo military base is returned to Cuba, funding ceases to USAID and other organizations attempting to create political chaos and unrest in the country and the U.S. respects Cuba’s right to national sovereignty and self-determination.
The Pastors for Peace Caravan, and interfaith group traveling to Cuba and returning to the U.S. via Mexico, will also be engaging in civil disobedience along with the Venceremos Brigade. There will be also be a contingent traveling to Canada to meet the Brigade to march across the International Peace Bridge and engage in the Travel Challenge, but whom will not have traveled to Cuba.
BRIGADISTAS ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS BEFORE THEIR DEPARTURES ON JULY 19 or 24, 2015 AND AFTER THEIR RETURN ON AUGUST 2, 2015.
The Venceremos Brigade is a U.S.-based anti-imperialist educational work project that has traveled to Cuba annually since 1969 and has provided over 9,000 U.S citizens the opportunity to see Cuba for themselves. The Brigade asserts that the travel ban is unconstitutional and that the blockade is inhumane, immoral and contrary to the principle of national sovereignty and stands in solidarity with the Cuban People and their right to self-determination. It remains firmly against the U.S. government’s failed policies toward Cuba, calling for the immediate lifting of the travel ban and blockade.