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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.

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