Left Justified: Cuban cigars vs. American hamburgers

Rockford Peace & Justice is trying another stunt to attract attention against the Cuban embargo. We are giving away a Cuban cigar to the highest donor to a Pastors for Peace relief caravan. Pastors for Peace started sending medical and school supplies to Cuba 13 years ago when there appeared to be a chance that the U.S. government was going to drop its 40-year embargo.

Cuba had a revolution in 1959, and the evil dictator Fidel Castro confiscated all the casinos and sugar plantations, which upset United Fruit Company executives. All the rich Cubans escaped to Miami and now decide American presidential elections. And they want to return and punish all those Cubans who stayed behind.

The embargo’s been keeping out American and foreign companies that wish to trade in America. The Soviet Union stepped in but then stepped out in the 1990s, and now Cuba’s been rebuilding its economy along the lines of China.

Fidel is still in charge, but he’s getting old. I, of course, want to drop the embargo and trade with Cuba because I think trade will loosen Fidel's reins and not give him an excuse to throw people in jail. Right now, he calls this “economic warfare,” and anyone who disagrees with Fidel must be the enemy.

Anyway, this history is provided to explain to you why there are a number of Americans who wish to visit Cuba, me included. We want to help, and we are led by religious leaders like Pastors For Peace, who buy vans and school buses, drive around the country collecting donations for the people of Cuba, and then they drive to Mexico and get on a boat to Havana.

I’ve been to Cuba a number of times, often with religious groups but never with Pastors for Peace. They travel more ruggedly than I. But Pastors for Peace is sending one of their vans to Rockford on Monday, June 28. They’ll pick up donations from the Rockford peace group. As a way of increasing donations, a just-returned compadre brought back a Cuban cigar that he donated to the group. Since we can’t sell it, we will give it to the highest donor. For those of you interested, the cigar is a Romeo and Juliet No. 1, made in Havana, and in an aluminum container. It’s a mighty fancy thing, and I’m tempted to smoke it myself, but I gave up the evil weed six years ago, and I know if I smoked anything, I’d be buying Marlboros until I'm stuck in an iron lung. As an ex-smoker, I don’t approve of the dirty habit, but I realize the historic collectability of such a find as a Cuban cigar in Rockford.

So if you are interested, please send the donation to Rockford Peace & Justice at 623 Seventh St., Rockford, IL 61104, or call 964-7111. You can make the check out to “Pastors for Peace.” You can welcome the Pastors for Peace van when it comes to Rockford on Monday, June 28, at noon in the parking lot west of the Federal Building, 211 S. Court St., in downtown Rockford. They will have an evening program in DeKalb. at First Congregational Church, 615 N. First St., at 7:30 p.m. See you in a free Havana!

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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