Pictured: Humanitarian aid, such as medical and educational supplies were packed into a truck, that is set to be delivered to Cuba as part of the Pastors for Peace caravan. Daniel Pacheco and John Sutcliffe loaded up the truck as Dallas Darling of Alice assisted. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

Group delivering educational, medical supplies

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Daniel Pacheco and John Sutcliffe, both New Yorkers, made a stop in Alice Thursday as they make their way to Cuba as part of a humanitarian caravan to deliver educational and medical supplies.

They will join others in the two-week caravan trip where they will converge in McAllen on Tuesday before traveling on to Cuba without U.S. treasury department licenses.

"This is our last stop and we will be going to McAllen to prepare for the crossing," said Pacheco, caravan coordinator, as he travels to Cuba for his second time. "We call it the travel challenge because physically we get through, but many times our supplies are detained."

Pacheco said that in 1983, a school bus packed with medical supplies was detained and in 1996 and 2005, computers were detained, but eventually were released.

The annual event of the 18th Friendshipment Caravan will traverse 14 separate routes across the country stopping in 48 states and six Canadian provinces. In their packed large U-Haul-like truck, they have medical supplies such as X-ray machines, baby monitors, crutches, tubes and educational supplies.

This year, communities have particularly collected aid for Cuban elders, organizers said.

"As people of faith and conscience, it is our duty to resist and condemn this cruel U.S. policy," said Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., executive director and founder of IFCO, a 40-year old ecumenical agency, in a written statement. "IFCO/Pastors for Peace rejects this licensing system as both immoral and illegal. It is immoral because it endangers the lives of millions of Cubans and inflicts suffering on innocent children, as well as adults.

"It is illegal under international law because it uses medicine and food as weapons of war to force another nation to change its government. Licensing is also unconstitutional because it requires people of faith to submit their acts of conscience and friendship to government licensing, in violation of our right to freedom of religious expression, political thought, association and travel."

Since 1992, Pastors for Peace has used hunger strikes and mass mobilizations to successfully challenge U.S. government attempts to confiscate vehicles and humanitarian aid bound for Cuba.

Pacheco said despite the challenges, the end result is rewarding.

"People are very supportive in Cuba," Pacheco said. "It's a sign of neighborly friendship."