Media and Press

45 U.S. CITIZENS TRAVEL TO CUBA IN PUBLIC DEFIANCE OF TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

VB 46 Press Release Photo

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.

 

 

Statement on the Release of the Cuban 5 and Changes in U.S. Policy Towards Cuba

December 22, 2014

 

December 17, 2014 will be remembered as a joyful day in the history of Cuba–U.S. relations.

The Cuban 5, their families, and Raúl Castro. Photo: www.cubaminrex.cu

On this day, our three brothers, Gerardo, Antonio, and Ramón, were released from US prisons after more than 16 years of unjust incarceration. They were reunited in their homeland with their families, with their comrades, René and Fernando, and with the people of Cuba, who have been engaged in an unwavering struggle for their freedom since 1998.

On this day, too, President Obama announced some of the most significant changes in US policy toward Cuba since diplomatic ties were broken in 1961, two years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. These changes are to include the restoration of diplomatic relations between our two countries, further loosening of the ban on travel to Cuba from the US, easing of trade and financial restrictions, and increased cooperation in the fields of health care, disaster response, and telecommunications, among others.

Celebrating the return of the Five at the Concert of Silvio Rodriguez in the Estadio Latinoamericano, Habana, Cuba. Photo by Hector Planes.

The release of the remaining members of the Cuban 5 is a testament to the heroic strength of each one of these men and to the collective resistance of the Cuban people and their government. It affirms what we have maintained since our brothers were arrested: that theirs was a political case determined by political factors; that they were political prisoners; and that a solution would only be motivated by political calculations. Indeed, this is, above all, apolitical victory, won through years of tireless struggle in all corners of the globe—a victory made possible by solidarity.

Likewise, the move toward normalization of relations between the US and Cuba represents a momentous political victory for the Cuban people, their revolution, and their allies. Over more than 50 years, Cuba has built and successfully defended its revolution against relentless aggression from the US government. Facing the most powerful enemy on the planet, the people of Cuba have waged a battle of ideas and demonstrated through unity, discipline, and sacrifice that even a poor country burdened by an inhumane blockade can feed, clothe, and house all its people, provide them with an adequate and equitable education, and share their resources with those in need around the world. The policy changes announced by Obama, though not framed this way in the US media, must be seen as an admission of Cuba’s success and proof that another world is not only possible, but exists.

On December 17, alongside our Cuban friends, vencimos—we overcame. But our work is not done. While we applaud President Obama’s decision, we know there is still much to overcome. The travel ban and blockade are still in place. Obama may do all that he can to relax travel and trade restrictions, but Congress must be made to act in order to fully normalize US-Cuba relations. This is a time for celebration, but also a time for analysis, vigilance, and action. We must not be complacent in our success; rather, we must use the energy from this victory to redouble our efforts toward the complete lifting of the criminal blockade and unconstitutional travel restrictions. As members in the vanguard of the international movement in solidarity with Cuba, it is our duty to keep the pressure on—to continue, as we have for 45 years, to defend Cuba’s national sovereignty and right to self-determination, and to trust that the Cuban people will do the rest.

Today, this mission is as important as ever. As masses of people are rising up against racist state terror and proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, it is imperative that we lift up Cuba as an alternative model of social development based on the principles of equality and solidarity. We must draw the connections between the struggle to affirm the value of black life and the struggle to defend a revolutionary society from attack by the same forces responsible for the deaths of Mike Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Eric Garner, Tarika Wilson, and many, many more. We must understand and learn from Cuba’s great victory not only in terms of its overcoming US imperialism, but also — and especially in this moment — in terms of its historic commitment to racial justice and international unity. We must remember Cuba’s decisive contributions to the movements for African liberation, Cuba’s leading role in battling Ebola in West Africa, and Cuba’s principled decision to grant political asylum to Assata Shakur. Now more than ever, when we assert Cuba’s sovereignty and right to national self-determination, we defend this past, present, and future.

We urge you to join the Venceremos Brigade in this historic moment by:

  • Calling (202-456-1111) or emailing President Obama to thank him and let him know you support full normalization of relations with Cuba.
  • Calling or emailing your Senators and Congressional Representatives to let them know you support the repeal of the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts and an end to the blockade and travel restrictions in their entirety.
  • Donating by check to the VB Education Fund, Ansonia Station, P.O. Box 230527, New York, New York 10023
  • Joining the 46th Contingent of the VB to celebrate the release of the Cuban 5, to raise your voice against the continued attack on Cuba’s sovereignty, and to see the Cuban reality with your own eyes. Email vbrigade@gmail.com for more info.

Venceremos!

From Ferguson to NYC to Cuba

From Ferguson to NYC to Cuba flyer

The Venceremos Brigade and Black Lives Matter present an open dialogue and panel discussion on solidarity movements for racial justice

Monday, January 19
2:00 – 5:00 pm
Correctional Association of New York
2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Suite 200
New York, NY

Refreshments will be served

22 U.S. Citizens Travel to Cuba in Public Defiance of Travel Restrictions

For Immediate Release
July 19, 2014

Contact: Miguel Rodriguez | Malcolm Sacks | Jessica Taube
(646) 309-9137 | (646) 265-5327 | (646) 299-0260
vbrigade@gmail.com

On Sunday, July 20th , 2014, 22 U.S. citizens will defy the U.S. government’s travel restrictions by traveling to Cuba with the 45th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. Participants in the “travel challenge” will protest U.S. government policy toward Cuba by going to the sanctioned island without a license and publicly confronting U.S. Customs officials on their way back into the U.S. Among this years contingent is the 2014 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana.

Brigade members, known as brigadistas, will deliver over 1,000 pounds of material aid to the island, volunteer on civic projects including organic urban gardens and, participate in celebrations for the 61st anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. Brigadistas will also interact with experts and ordinary citizens from various sectors of Cuban society. They will visit hospitals, factories, and important cultural and historical sites in order to learn about Cuba’s health care and educational systems and cultural and political heritage.

Returning to the U.S. on August 3rd , the Venceremos Brigade will march across the International Peace Bridge from Canada into Buffalo, New York, holding rallies/press conferences on each side of the border. In the face of loosening travel restrictions under the Obama Administration, which appear to make the travel ban and blockade less and less significant in the U.S., the Brigade asserts the importance of engaging in civil disobedience through travel challenges as the most effective means of mounting pressure on the U.S. government to change these policies and work to rectify relations between the two nations.

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 F.B.I. 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: “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.”

The Pastors for Peace Caravan, an interfaith group traveling to Cuba and returning to the U.S. via Mexico, will be engaging in civil disobedience along with the Venceremos Brigade. There will also be another contingent from the US joining the Venceremos Brigade travel challenge they: will not be going to Cuba, but will stand in Solidarity with us as we march.

The Venceremos Brigade is a U.S.-based anti-imperialist educational work project that travels to Cuba annually. Since 1969 it has provided over 9000 U.S. citizens the opportunity to see Cuba for themselves. The Venceremos Brigade asserts that the travel ban is unconstitutional and that the economic embargo is inhumane, immoral, and contrary to the principle of national sovereignty. The Brigade stands in solidarity with the Cuban people and in protest of the U.S. government’s failed policies toward Cuba, calling for the lifting of the travel ban and blockade and for the immediate and unconditional release of the Cuban Five.

Some reasons why I traveled to Cuba – A Brigadista’s Retrospective (VB 43)

1.) I oppose and fully disagree with the Travel ban the United States has against Cuba

– I believe that people have the freedom to pursue travel to any place on this earth and should not be restricted, limited nor hindered by forces outside their own connections. Especially not by the government in which they live.

2.) I oppose and fully disagree with the Economic Blockade that the United States has against Cuba

– I believe the particular blockade that the United States holds against the Country of Cuba is a poor representation of how countries with an abundance of resources should behave in the international market. The blockade has unjust foundations and unreasonably blocks the progress of Cuba in a way that infringes on the rights due to any country that is independent, democratic and moving towards its goals and objectives which do not cause any threat to American life.

3.) I advocate, educate and organize of behalf of the Cuban 5 and and all other Political Prisoners

– The United States of America has a horrid record of slavery, policing, incarceration and clearly hosts a dysfunctional and problematic criminal justice system. Beyond the structural issues, there is a deep woundedness in a culture that has either been blinded or has not used its power to address practically the issues that are the root causes of this wound. The Cuban 5 and other political prisoners and their cases raise the inherent contradictions within this very real system of cause and consequence and would require a strong push from people of conscience to make a change.

4.) To listen, learn, hear, be heard and to participate in the world movements for social change and transition

– To put into practice what I believe, think and see in the hopes of making a way for myself and others. To give what I can to others and to receive from others. To recharge my beliefs and spiritual anchorings/groundings. Also, to understand what challenges and difficulties that Cuban’s are experiencing that make it a society of struggle as much as any other nation.

this is just a short list and I could add much, much more along the lines of culture, art, history, family, fun, new air to breathe, identity, thought and dream life but the points above are the most central and unified goals of the group that I traveled with and what we agree upon.

***staying internationally conscious and domestically aware.

140+ Americans returning from Cuba August 3rd in defiance of U.S. Law

For Immediate Release
July 13, 2009

Contact: Diego Iniguez-Lopez
(201) 294-0941
diniguezlopez@gmail.com

On August 3rd, over 140 members of the Venceremos Brigade will return from Cuba in an act of civil disobedience against restrictions on travel to the island. This year’s Brigade-the 40th contingent since 1969-will be exercising their constitutional right to travel while demanding rectified U.S./Cuba relations.

While the Barack Obama administration has eliminated travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, restrictions on other U.S. citizens and residents remain, including many hoping to learn about Cuba and exchange culturally with its people. The Brigade will do just that, working side-by-side with Cubans through volunteer work and learning firsthand about Cuba; it’s hurricane relief efforts, youth development, Hip hop, environmental initiatives and struggles for women’s and LGBT equality, among other historical and cultural aspects.

Though Cuba is the only country illegal for Americans to travel to (since 1961), the Brigade’s members are proudly going there in solidarity with the Cuban people and in condemnation of a U.S. policy unpopular with Americans, Cuban-Americans and the international community.

The Brigade’s trip comes at a politically relevant time, as the Obama administration has taken steps towards dialogue with Cuba, there are currently bills proposing ending the travel ban on Cuba in both houses of Congress, and the Organization of American States (OAS)-of which the U.S. is a part of-recently decided to rectify the act of excluding Cuba 47 years ago.

Despite mounting public pressure and political momentum towards the normalization of relations, the travel ban and U.S. embargo on Cuba remain

Therefore in July, the Venceremos Brigade is once again traveling to Cuba (for the fortieth consecutive year) without requesting any license in order to push for the lifting of all travel restrictions, and a lifting of the nearly 50-year old embargo on Cuba. Though members risk fines from the U.S federal government for seeing Cuba firsthand, they act with Martin Luther King Jr.’s conviction that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

In the past, Brigade members threatened with fines have challenged government reaction. They will be joined in their civil disobedience by the U.S-Cuba Labor Exchange and the Pastors for Peace Caravan, an interfaith group returning to the U.S. via Mexico.

Brigade members are available for interviews before their departure on July 19th, 2009, and upon their return August 3rd, when they will be entering the U.S. through the International Peace Bridge in Buffalo, NY, holding demonstrations on both Canadian and U.S. sides of the border.