Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Teacher Risks Jail to Give Aid in Cuba


Bucks County Courier Times

Fran Bradley doesn't want to go to jail. But he purposely broke the law.

A teacher at George School since 1971, Bradley spoke Friday morning to students and teachers about his personal choice to bring aid to impoverished Cuban citizens last summer in violation of U.S. sanctions. The Pastors for Peace, an interreligious community foundation, organized the effort.

"The government was trying to starve my neighbors and friends," Bradley told a crowd of more than 500 people.

The law Bradley broke - a U.S. blockade - restricts travel and sending money to Cuba and limits family visits to once every three years, according to Bradley and the U.S. Treasury Department Web site.

As he spoke to students Friday, Bradley described a strained relationship between America and Cuba, including times when traveling to Cuba was illegal.

But under former President Bill Clinton, Bradley said George School was granted a license to travel to Cuba. He and the school forged a relationship with many citizens there through athletic exchanges and religious trips. The Treasury Department revoked that license in 2004, Bradley said.

"Countries all over the world think what the U.S. is trying to do is illegal," Bradley said.

So, last summer, Bradley traveled with about 100 other volunteers to bring bikes, medical supplies and computer equipment to Cuba. Bradley said he told the government that he was going to break the law.

Bradley was "tense and quite nervous" when the several buses full of donations faced customs agents as they attempted to drive across the Mexican border. The buses were loaded onto boats to Cuba. Bradley said he and the other volunteers stayed in local hotels before flying there.

"The Cubans were frightened," Bradley said as his voice choked and cracked with emotion. "It was helpful for them to know [what we] were willing to risk ... on their behalf."

A week after he returned, Bradley said he received a letter from the Treasury Department requesting the names of those who traveled with him, where they stayed and how much money they spent. Bradley responded by saying he disagreed with the government and refused to answer questions.

For that, George School teachers and students gave Bradley a standing ovation Friday.

"It brought home the idea that George School thrives on social justice," said Alley Mazzullo, a junior at George School. "Clearly, he illustrated what it means to be a thoughtful citizen."

Bradley said he's still waiting to see if the Treasury Department will prosecute him. He could face 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. The Courier Times was unsuccessful Friday afternoon in reaching Treasury Department officials for comment.

"I hope he doesn't go to jail," said George School junior Owen Henry, 17. "But if he does [the Treasury Department's] going to have a lot of angry high school students up in arms."

Rachel Canelli can be reached at 215-949-4191 or rcanelli@phillyBurbs.com.

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