August 22, 2019

Bike donation to challenge trade embargo against Cuba

BRUNSWICK — Two Maine residents are using bicycles to challenge the United States trade embargo against Cuba.

Pamelia Edgerton of Brunswick and Steve Burke of Wiscasset are joining a nationwide effort organized by the group Pastors for Peace.

Volunteers with the group plan to meet in Laredo, Texas, and then cross into Mexico Nov. 20 to place bicycles, baby food, school supplies and other relief supplies aboard a Cuba-bound freighter, organizers said.

Edgerton closed a bicycle shop, the Yankee Pedaler, last month.

She said she donated the bikes because their use in Cuba is “a matter of survival.”

After the Soviets cut Cuba’s oil supply, bicycles became a major form of transportation there, she said.

Burke left with the bikes last week, headed toward Texas. Edgerton will fly to Cuba to receive the shipment.

“We are going to do all we can not to get arrested,” Burke said before he left. “We will not back down.”

Federal officials say they’re aware of the group’s plans but haven’t decided how to react. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, violators could be fined up to $250,000 or sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The United State has recently toughened its trade stance against Cuba.

The “Cuba Democracy Act” signed by President Bush three weeks ago prohibits American subsidiaries operating abroad from doing business with Cuba and bars ships that visit Cuba from docking at U.S. ports from six months afterward.

The pastors’ group refused to apply for a special export permit because it believes the embargo is immoral and objects to any government control over religious relief efforts.

Burke acknowledged that the action is civil disobedience. He said he views the mission as “a direct confrontation” and “a human rights challenge.”

Organizers say the goods — with a total value of $100,00 to $250,000 — will go to religous groups, not the Castro regime.

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