JP activists travel to newly open Cuba

Three Jamaica Plain-based activists are part of a 150-strong delegation traveling to Cuba this week, following the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Laura Foner, Emily Achtenberg and Mary Meehan are taking part of the CODEPINK-organized trip. CODEPINK is a women-led peace and human rights organization.

“I am so excited to be visiting Cuba at this historic moment. I hope our trip contributes to the full restoration of diplomatic relations, and the ending of the travel ban and the trade embargo,” Foner told the Gazette.

The delegation plans to meet with government officials; talk to doctors who combat Ebola in Africa; meet with entrepreneurs about the new business possibilities; and interact with local people.

They also plan to visit members of the “Cuban Five”—Cuban spies who were convicted of espionage and other charges in the U.S. in the 1990s and recently released as part of a prisoner exchange.

Foner, the former children’s librarian at JP’s Connolly Branch Library, travelled to Cuba in 2001, touring library facilities there. She also attended the annual meeting of Cuban historians to accept an honor on behalf of her father, who wrote extensively about the history of Cuba and its relations with the United States.

“I am eager to see the changes in Cuban society since I visited in 2001 and look forward to hearing from Cubans about their hopes for the future,” Foner said.

Achtenberg, a 40-year JP resident, is an affordable housing advocate and consultant. She is the author of the North American Congress on Latin America’s (NACLA) “Rebel Currents” blog and has joined delegations to various Latin American countries and regions. She previously visited Cuba in 1980 and in 2013.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what Cubans expect and fear for this great historical moment,” Achtenberg said. “How can they manage the influx of U.S. dollars and tourism without unwarranted U.S. interference in their political and economic system? It’s a great challenge.”

Meehan is a software engineer who has lived in Jamaica Plain for 22 years. She has organized retreats on immigration and environmental stewardship through Egleston Square’s St. Mary of the Angels Church. She has previously participated in citizen delegations to El Salvador, Haiti and the former Soviet Union.

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