Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the July 24, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper

World Youth Festival to spotlight international solidarity

By Brenda Sandburg in San Francisco

Cuba, I hear the word many times,
drums begin to pound in my head.
lightning strikes the tree next to me,
a match and some wood at first,
then a blazing fire starts.
Like most fires, it needs to be fed
and it has been fed by people,
Cuban people.
They need supporters like me and you.
That's why I'm going to Cuba.
What about you?

Sade Bonilla, 10-year-old delegate to the World Youth Festival in Cuba, read her poem "Cuba" to a standing-room- only crowd in San Francisco July 12. The program, sponsored by the U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan and International Peace for Cuba Appeal, raised funds for young people going from here to the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba July 28-Aug. 5.

More than 50 delegates from the San Francisco Bay area will be among 10,000 people from 137 countries attending the festival.

The meeting also celebrated the anniversary of the Cuban revolution--which began on July 26, 1953, when a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada army barracks.

The keynote speaker was Felix Wilson, the first secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. His rank is equivalent to a deputy ambassador if Cuba and the United States had diplomatic relations.

Wilson discussed the history of U.S. policy toward Cuba.

"Since 1959, the U.S. government has blamed Cuba for the state of relations between our two countries," Wilson said. However, U.S. policy has been the same since the United States came into existence. "Even the U.S. founding fathers wanted to annex Cuba to the U.S.," he noted.

"Benjamin Franklin wanted to bring the sugar-producing islands into the U.S. Cuba was the largest. Thomas Jefferson, in our view, was one of the most important promoters of annexation of Cuba."

It is important to remember the historical facts, Wilson asserted. "In 1898, the U.S. intervened in the Spanish- American War just when Cuban fighters were about to defeat Spain." The result was the Treaty of Spain, under which the United States annexed Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam, and took control over Cuba with a U.S. military government.

Washington forced Cuba to accept the Platt Amendment, in effect from 1902-1934, which gave the U.S. government control over the country--including the right to intervene militarily. At that time, "the U.S. bought Cuban land for $1 per acre and established U.S. companies in Cuba," Wilson said.

"Cuba has never invaded the U.S. Cuba has never sent anyone to the U.S. to kill American citizens. Cuba has no naval base in the U.S.," Wilson said.

Answering a question about U.S. propaganda, Wilson said, "When the U.S. speaks about human rights it is talking about the right to overthrow the Cuban government."

Washington demands that Cuba have elections like those of the United States, he said. But "the U.S. has relations with Saudi Arabia. Do they have elections? Why oppose Cuba? Because the U.S. wants to impose on Cuba what they want us to do."

Patsy Behrend, of the U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment, described the seventh Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba, which took place in May. Known as the "Caravan for the Children of Cuba," its entire itinerary was arranged by Cuban children.

"Cuba knows very well that the children are the future," Behrend said. "Everywhere we went we were entertained by very sophisticated choreography, singing, bands and orchestras and beautiful costumes, all planned and executed by the children."

She told of a moving panel discussion at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, where Cuban children and children on the caravan discussed the U.S. blockade's effects on the Cuban population.

Richard Becker of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal said the U.S. government policy is to isolate Cuba, and the World Youth Festival is doing just the opposite. "The U.S. isn't likely to sit back and let this happen," he said.

The bombings of the Nacional and Capri hotels in Cuba on July 12 "are undoubtedly the hand of the CIA and counter- revolutionaries," he said. "We must be on the alert for other actions the U.S. may undertake in coming weeks to disrupt the festival and attack Cuba."

The meeting was co-chaired by Alicia Jrapko of the U.S.- Cuba Friendshipment Caravan and Tahnee Stair, who is also participating in the Venceremos Brigade and World Youth Festival and a member of Peace for Cuba.

Forrest Schmidt of the Venceremos Brigade and Workers World Party and a delegate to the World Youth Festival explained what a unique opportunity the festival presents to young workers and students in this country and around the world. Participants in the Venceremos Brigade will work in the La Guinera community of Havana for one week before the festival begins.

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