U.S. prioritizes travel over safety
Published Jan 23, 2006 8:35 PM
When you heard about the
miners trapped in West Virginia, did you think about Cuba? I did.
West Virginia workers died in the International Coal Group’s Sago mine on
Jan. 2. Another young man barely survived and is still critically injured. They
suffocated on carbon monoxide, leaving grieving families and neighbors.
The non-union Sago mine has a record of safety violations that is
criminal. Over the past two years the Mine Safety and Health Administration
issued 270 citations against the horrible conditions in the mine. The owners
were fined a total of just $24,000. According to the AFL-CIO, in the past year,
the mine was cited nine times for failing to enact a proper mine ventilation
plan, a key to preventing fires and explosions in the mine. Those West Virginia
mine safety cases are heard before Administrative Law Judges.
where Cuba comes in. In 2004 the price of coal was going up and the mine owners
carried profits to the bank. Instead of stepping up mine inspections and filling
the hearing dockets with safety cases, the U.S. government reassigned Bureau of
Mine Safety Administrative Law Judges to hear cases against people who traveled
to Cuba - threatening to fine ordinary people, instead of unsafe mine owners. (www.treasury.gov/press/releases/js1161.htm)
The United States is
the only government that tries to stop its residents from traveling to Cuba, in
violation of the U.S. constitutional right to free association and travel.
In recent weeks, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division
of the U.S. Treasury Department, has conducted a blitz attack on hundreds of
travelers to Cuba. Members of the Vencere mos (We Shall Over come) Bri gade and
the Pastors for Peace Friend shipment Cara vans, who have done nothing more than
travel to an island less than 90 miles away, have been issued official letters
demanding information and threatening more than 200 travelers with fines
totaling more than $1.5 million dollars.
Here in Michigan, the U.S./Cuba
Labor Exchange is threatened with a $27,000 pre-penalty notice. Two health care
workers from Port Huron are currently fighting fines for delivering medicines to
a convent in Cuba. Surely traveling to Cuba cannot deserve fines larger than a
corporate mine owner operating an unsafe and deadly mine.
hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world go to socialist Cuba.
They go for vacation. They attend conferences and concerts. They visit family.
They go for school—the Latin Amer ican School of Medicine provides full
scholarships for young men and women to become doctors in underserved
communities in their home countries. They go for medical care—in
collaboration with the Bolivarian Venezuelan government, free eye operations are
restoring vision for thousands of South Americans.
And we go from the
United States, too. We know that if you don’t use your democratic rights,
you lose them. That’s why during the 2006 summer, Pastors for Peace,
Venceremos Brigade, the US/ Cuba Labor Exchange and other organizations will
again exercise and defend their constitutional rights by organizing and
traveling to Cuba.
But fining harmless travelers while murderous coal
corporations get slapped on the wrist is only the tip of the 45-year U.S.
government blockade and war against that small but independent island nation.
As mine workers’ advocate Mother Jones told us, “Pray for the
dead, and fight like hell for the living.” That fight includes safe
working conditions, ending U.S. military aggressions, a national single-payer
health system, the right to a job, to live free from racism and oppression and
the right to travel to Cuba, too. The time to act is now — your help and
solidarity will make the changes that poor and working people need.
more information on this summer’s travel challenges to Cuba:
Pastors for Peace www.ifconews.org; Venceremos Brigade www.venceremosbrigade.org; U.S/Cuba Labor Exchange
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