At the end of August the IRS rejected an appeal by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization of the federal tax agency’s decision to revoke the group’s tax-exempt status. The revocation could take effect “within the next few weeks,” Walker wrote to supporters and friends Sept. 1, appealing for support in this latest stage in the group’s yearslong fight against harassment by the IRS.
IFCO, which was founded in 1967, is best known for its yearly “Friendshipment Caravans” that have brought humanitarian aid to the people of Cuba since 1992. This has included over 4,000 tons of goods such as school supplies and medicines, as well as 300 school buses, noted Granma, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. The group also administers the scholarship program that allows U.S. students to study at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, and other solidarity projects.
The IRS probe, which began five years ago, initially targeted IFCO’s support to a project called Viva Palestina, which delivered food and medical supplies to people in the Gaza Strip. In response to accusations by Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman and Republican Rep. Sue Myrick that the group had ties to terrorism, the IRS audited IFCO’s books from 2009 and 2010. This charge was subsequently dropped, since the official Charity Commission in the United Kingdom recognizes Viva Palestina as a legitimate charity.
The IRS then accused IFCO of violating the U.S. “Trading with the Enemy Act” for its caravans to Cuba. “We said that the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had never come after us on this issue” over more than two decades, Walker told the Militant, “so this was also dropped.”
In denying IFCO’s appeal, “the IRS said it was not Cuba work or support to Viva Palestina but because of bad recordkeeping” that the tax exemption is being revoked, said Walker. “They’re trying to make it an administrative issue,” she said, but it’s a clear “attempt to stop our progressive work.”
“This pressure being exerted on IFCO/Pastors for Peace is an intentional attempt to undermine solidarity and fraternity between our two peoples,” said a Sept. 1 statement from the Cuban Council of Churches and its associate members, including the Hebrew Community of Cuba.
In an Aug. 29 interview appearing on the Cubadebate website, Walker was asked, “Why is the Obama administration doing this now?” Despite the opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba and negotiations on normalizing relations, “in the U.S. there is still a campaign to undermine Cuba and its revolutionary principles,” she replied. “That’s why we continue to stand in solidarity with Cuba and why we continue to call on the U.S. government to end its efforts to achieve ‘regime change’ in Cuba.”
Walker urged everyone backing IFCO’s fight to sign the online petition to the IRS and members of Congress at http://bit.ly/saveifco and leave comments along with it.
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Fidel Castro’s 2008 book discusses how Cuban fighters took power, course of leaders of FARC
Rebel Army’s moral values key to overthrow of Batista
UN caused cholera epidemic in Haiti; Cuban doctors fought it
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