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Challenging the ban on Cuba trips, travel groups return home without a hitch

Associated Press / August 4, 2009

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BUFFALO - Groups of travelers who defied the federal government’s ban on most travel to Cuba returned to the United States with some fanfare but no holdups yesterday, passing without incident through checkpoints at the northern and southern borders.

Opponents of the ban have been making such protest trips for 40 years but said recent overtures from the Obama administration have lifted hopes that US relations with Cuba will improve.

About 140 members of the Venceremos Brigade walked from Canada into the United States at Buffalo wearing orange T-shirts and chanting for an end to US sanctions. Meanwhile, about 130 members of the “US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan’’ reentered the United States at the Hidalgo International Bridge from Reynosa, Mexico.

“It went pretty smoothly,’’ said Bonnie Massey, returning from her 11th Cuba trip, after being cleared by US Customs and Border Protection officers in Buffalo. The Bronx woman, traveling with her 7-month-old son, said she and others in the group were allowed to pass even after declining to answer written questions they thought might be incriminating, like how much money they had spent.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Kevin Corsaro said no one in the group was detained.