Media Release: October 29, 2021
On Sunday, October 31 at 1 PM, Milwaukee’s sixth Caravan to lift the US economic blockade against Cuba will gather in the Mitchell Park Domes parking lot. This coincides with President Biden‘s meeting on Friday with Pope Francis, who played a major role in facilitating the thaw in US/Cuba relations during the Obama-Biden administration, and both governments publicly thanked him for doing so. However, Biden has so far accepted all of the over 200 unilateral measures taken by his predecessor against Cuba, in reversing Obama’s historic move towards normalization.
Prominent Catholics in Cuba and Cuban-Americans have asked Francis to again raise this situation in his meeting with President Biden this week, consistent with the long standing positions of both the Vatican and the US Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops opposing the 60 year old U.S. economic blockade, and the added sanctions even during the pandemic designed to “starve” the island (according to Mike Pompeo, the last U.S. Secretary of State).
One of the speakers at the send-off rally before the caravan this Sunday will be Dr. Raul Galvan, a member of Gesu parish, who was born in Havana. He observed: “In the past, Pope Francis has been called a goodwill ambassador in the reconciliation efforts between the U.S. and Cuba. I hope that in meeting with President Biden, he is able to convey to the President that the US needs to resume President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with the Island. A good start would be the complete reopening of the US Embassy in Havana.”
All recent popes have visited Cuba including the Polish-born John Paul II, and each of them called for the US to end its isolation policies against the island, which since 1960 had been explicitly designed “to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government“ in Cuba. (State Dept. memo, April 6, 1960)
“This has caused cruel injury to the people of Cuba and to Cuban families, as a result of escalated sanctions which the Biden administration has continued, blocking most remittances and visits between Cuban Americans and their relatives. It has also greatly hampered Cuba’s attempts to overcome Covid 19, interfering with life-saving medical shipments and delaying production of its own vaccines which have now been widely administered,” according to Atty. Art Heitzer, former Marquette University student body president and an organizer of this event, who personally discussed US policy towards Cuba with the late Jaime Cardinal Ortega. “We met after a mass that Cardinal Ortega had celebrated in the Cathedral in Havana, and he re-stated his long-standing call for an end to U.S. sanctions.”
Other speakers will include Donald and Roberta Thurstin-Timmerman, who represented the Casa Maria Catholic Worker community at the founding meeting of the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, at St. Benedict’s church hall over 25 years ago.