For a quarter century, the IFCO / Pastors for Peace organization has organized multiple aid caravans loaded with donations of all kinds, including medicines, vehicles and school supplies, to Cuba and other nations.
According to Gail Walker, executive director of the organization, these efforts are an expression of love and solidarity with the Cuban people, in opposition to the blockade.
Pastors for Peace was recognized asa non-profit organization by the U.S. government, due to its fundraising work or action in support of a specific cause or set of causes. As such, the organization has enjoyed tax-exempt status.
As Walker stressed in an interview with Rosa Miriam Elizalde, published by Cubadebate, the organization’s work with Cuba provides no motive for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to strip it of its non-profit status, as it is attempting to do.
The executive director explained that given President Obama’s opposition to the blockade, they had hoped that the efforts of the IFCO / Pastors for Peace would be respected. But the reality is that despite the new approach to Cuba among many sectors in the U.S., this renewed attention is not always beneficial to the island or its friends.
Walker noted that we must recognize that the United States government continues its campaign to undermine Cuba and its revolutionary principles.
Walker explained that should the IRS strip the organization of its status, it will be required to pay taxes on income received from donors, thus negatively impacting on its budget and ability to remain functioning.
She added that certain donors would likely reduce or discontinue their donations, as these would no longer be considered tax-exempt humanitarian contributions.
Similarly, projects that we support financially will have to find other sponsors whose non-profit status remains intact, she said.
Therefore, we have asked our support network to assist us in a number of ways. These include an online petition to President Barack Obama, the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and a dozen members of Congress who have held progressive positions and have declared themselves in favor of improving relations with the island, Walker explained.
She noted the organization’s hope that a large number of signatories will serve to bring this senseless attack to the attention of many lawmakers who have advocated for the end of the blockade.
However, she stated that regardless of the penalties imposed against Pastors for Peace by the U.S. government, the organization will continue steadfast in its mission: to assist the dispossessed and fight against human and civil rights injustices.
Of course, the island did not hesitate in expressing its support for Pastors for Peace.
The Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) made public its condemnation of the situation, and called on all friends across the world to show their solidarity and support for the organization.
“We stand in solidarity with our IFCO / Pastors for Peace brothers and sisters, who (...) have promoted social-community projects in defense of the poor classes inside and outside the United States and have defied the blockade imposed by that government on our country for more than 50 years,” read the statement, published on the ICAP website.
ICAP added that organizations like this “are necessary in this world marked by war and social injustice,” and that “an attack on IFCO is an attack on solidarity.”
One of the sectors most benefited by IFCO / Pastors for Peace has been education, concentrated in recent years in the donation of school supplies, as Cira Piñeiro Alonso, first deputy Education minister told Granma.
She added that the technical and vocational education sector has received learning support materials, instruments and tools for developing skills in the island’s trade schools; while special education has benefited from the donation of school buses.
Notebooks, colored paper, pencils, crayons and toys for pre-school day care centers have also featured among the contributions.
According Pineiro, these resources have enabled the Cuban state to overcome the limitations resulting from the blockade, which prevent the purchase of essential teaching materials. As such, the Cuban education sector reiterates its gratitude and solidarity with Pastors for Peace.