“Friendshipment” to Cuba this Summer

Central New Yorkers remember Hank Strunk as they organize to support the Pastors for Peace15th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba, June 20 to July 19. The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace (P4P) is seriously challenging the Bush administration’s hostile Cuba policy by organizing what we hope will be the biggest Friendshipment Caravan yet.

Syracuse has participated in earlier Caravans and is dedicating this Caravan to the memory of Hank Strunk, who went to Cuba ten years ago with Pastors for Peace. Hank, a founder and resident of Common Place land trust in Truxton, is remembered for the immense positive energy he brought to the peace movement in Central New York. A tireless organizer, he could be seen at most events with his audiotapes and informational materials trying to get people involved. He died of leukemia in July of 1995 at the age of 60.

According to P4P, “More than 35 ultra-right-wing Cuban Americans are currently serving in key Latin America positions in the Bush administration. They work largely unchecked to spread lies and rumors in the US and provoke sabotage and unrest in Cuba.” In 2003, both houses of Congress passed identically worded legislation ending Treasury Department enforcement of the travel ban to Cuba. White House pressure on the conference committee removed this language from the final bill; the Treasury Department continues to selectively harass people who travel to Cuba.

Joining the Caravan is a great opportunity to spend a week in Cuba and be involved with an organization that has passionately challenged US policy. Caravan groups come from all parts of the United States as well as Canada, and over a two-week period, engage in educational and political activities across the US before converging in Texas for a week-long orientation. Participants will then cross the border into Mexico and fly from Mexico to Cuba. Nineteen year-old Becky Vaden, from Sacramento, CA has been on three caravans: “It allowed me to see a whole new world and meet great people. It allowed me to see there are injustices all over the world. And you get a great feeling to do something about it.” Although Pastors for Peace is a faith-based organization, it draws support from across the progressive community. Further information can be found at: <www.ifconews.org>.

We hope to have someone from Central New York participate in the Caravan and expect to have fund-raising events as well as collect material aid. There is much work to do. Please contact Doug Igelsrud at 471-5749 to get involved.

–Doug Igelsrud