The Venceremos Brigade is a politically motivated international organization founded in 1969 by members of the Students for a Democratic Society and officials of the Republic of Cuba. Carl Oglesby, Bernardine Dohrn, Julie Nichamin, Brian Murphy, Allen Young and other members of SDS were primarily responsible for the idea, organization and negotiations with Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and other members of the Cuban government. The first trip in November 1969 numbered 216 and left from Czechoslovakia to skirt the U.S. government's restrictions on travel to the island. It was formed as a coalition of young people attempting to show solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working side by side with Cuban workers, challenging U.S. policies towards Cuba, including the United States embargo against Cuba. The yearly brigade trips, which as of 2010 have brought more than 9,000 people to Cuba, continue today and are coordinated with the Pastors For Peace Friendship Caravans to Cuba.
The first Brigades participated in sugar harvests and subsequent Brigades have done agricultural and construction work in many parts of the island, although the "work" portion of their trips has become largely symbolic. Conflict emerged between Brigade organizers and gay members of the Brigade and their allies, partly due to the homophobic policies of the Cuban government and of Brigade organizers. An example is the Brigade's policy on gay recruitment issued in 1972. Racial issues also caused some conflicts. According to debriefing statements made to the FBI by a Cuban Intelligence officer who defected in 1983, the Veceremos Brigade was controlled by Cuban Intelligence officer Alfredo Garcia Almeida, chief of the North American Section of the Americas Department and former political counselor at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City.
Despite this accusation, the organization as a whole has experienced little censure from U.S. authorities. But the FBI has questioned individual travellers over the years. In 2010, at least 12 brigade participants were visited by FBI agents, but were left in peace when they declined to be interviewed.
A contingent of Latinos led by the Young Lords' Field Marshals David Rivera and Raul Lugo traveled from the Young Lords People's Church in Chicago in 1969.
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- Venceremos Brigade Report back 2009 YouTube videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47HE9yxm2No
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- Debriefing of former Cuban Intelligence officer, Jesus Raul Perez-Mendez to FBI upon defection in 1983. http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/Perez-Mendez-debriefing.pdf
- FBI Questions American Travelers to Cuba http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/30/travelers-to-cuba-are-bei_n_519215.html