July 19, 2004 More than 100 Federal Agents “Welcome” Pastors for Peace Ambassadors As They Return From Cuba More than 100 officers from Homeland security, the Treasury Department, Customs, Immigration and Border Patrol were on hand at the Hidalgo/Reynosa border crossing this morning, to “welcome” the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan, which is challenging the travel ban against Cuba. After three hours of meticulous searching through each item in every caravanistas luggage, the federal officers confiscated about a dozen items such as a book of Cuban poetry, a paper flag on a stick, a bag made in China that had the name Cuba on it, maracas, and a tambourine made in Mexico. The aid the caravan was bringing back as a gift from the people of Cuba – sixty-five one-pound bags of Cuban coffee and ninety-one plastic teddy bears jars of Cuban honey were also seized. ”We were astonished by the number of agents made available this morning, “ said Lucius Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “At a time when our nation is in economic crisis and supposedly fighting a war on terrorism, it is immoral that our government wasted a days salary of more than 100 officers to monitor a group of peaceful US citizens who are exercising their constitutional right to travel.” As elderly women were forced to answer questions about where they bought each individual item of clothing in their suitcase, young girls were brought to tears by insistent questioning. An underage minor was separated from her guardian and coerced into signing a form. Despite threats from the Bush Administration, Pastors for Peace delivered over 100 tons of humanitarian aid and visited schools and hospitals in Cuba. This year marked the 15th Anniversary of the caravans to Cuba. ### July 18, 2004 Despite Threats, Pastors for Peace Ambassadors Return from Cuba Despite threats from the Bush Administration, Pastors for Peace will cross back into the US over the International Bridge in Hidalgo, Texas on Monday, July 19th at 8:30 AM, where they will meet the press and supporters. The group is returning from a ten-day stay in Cuba, where delivered over 100 tons of humanitarian aid and visited schools and hospitals. In a "reverse challenge", they will carry with them on their return symbolic quantities of Cuban honey and coffee which represent some of the trade possibilities that exist with Cuba. "These 120 people have taken the responsibility to be goodwill ambassadors to Cuba. We represent ourselves and millions of people in the U.S. who don't agree with the immoral and unjust US policy. We challenge the U.S. law. We base ourselves on love and not on hate. " said Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "We don't represent Bush, we don't represent the right-wing Cuban-Americans in southern Florida. We represent the millions of people in the U.S. who want a better relationship with Cuba." The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department has threatened the group with fines and imprisonment for defying the Bush administration's tough new sanctions against Cuba. "We don't know what awaits us when we attempt to cross back into the US from Mexico on July 19th." said Ellen Bernstein, IFCO's associate director. "The US government may try to harass or intimidate us, but we are determined to continue to express our good will to Cuba and our moral right to travel there. Cuba is not our enemy. " Pastors for Peace crosses back over the US - Mexico border on the same day and time that the Venceremos Brigade and the African Awareness Association return to the United States by foot over the International Peace Bridge into Buffalo, NY. These Cuba travelers spent two weeks in Cuba -- also without securing a "license" to travel from the Bush Administration. Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency based in Harlem. Since 1992, the group has educated US citizens about the immorality of current US policy toward Cuba.