Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the March 20, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper

Cuba prepares for World Youth Festival

By Gloria La Riva

Cuba is carrying out an impressive national campaign to host upwards of 5,000 youths from around the world at the 14th World Youth and Student Festival.

From July 28 to Aug. 5, Cubans of all 14 provinces and the Isle of Youth will open their arms and hearts to youths of every continent for this historic encounter.

World Youth Festivals had been a tradition since the end of World War II. When the Soviet Union and other socialist countries existed, these festivals were held every four years in a different host country.

Workers World spoke by telephone with Armando Rama Martell in Havana. Rama is with the Department of International Relations of the Young Communist Union (UJC), which is busy organizing for the festival.

Rama said: "We want to rescue the movement of the festivals which were celebrated for 50 years, the last one being 1989 in Pyongyang [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]. It is an opportune time for all the youth to talk about concerns and problems of the new generation, and become more aware of the problems.

"The 14th festival is taking place at a time when Cuba has economic difficulties, and shows once more that Cuba supports the right of youth to think freely, to be able to solve the problems of the world. There will be a whole series of political discussions, cultural presentations, fiestas-and the most important thing, it is a broad festival and open to all organizations, regardless of race, national origin or ideology."

For the first week, the festival will be in Havana. Then on Aug. 1-3 the delegates will fan out throughout Cuba to visit the provinces.

Rama said: "We want to show Cuba's reality to the youth, so they'll be hosted in the homes of Cubans to learn about their lives. And so that the delegates can take back a more complete image of the country, they will visit the other pro vinces for three days."

In the United States, building for a U.S. contingent is under way. The second national organizing meeting will be held in New York the weekend of March 15. Leslie Cagan, an organizer of the U.S. Organizing Committee for the festival, said, "We've sent out over 500 of the application forms and my sense is that there's a tremendous amount of interest."

Cagan attended the international preparatory meeting in Havana, where 135 people from 55 countries met to plan the festival. She said: "It is very exciting and interesting. Seeing people from so many countries brought the whole thing to life."

An estimated 5,000 youths and students are expected to attend. But Cuba is prepared for many more if needed.

Workers World also spoke with Teresa Gutierrez of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal. She said IPCA was building toward the World Youth Festival in conjunction with its work on a national protest march in Philadelphia April 27 at President Bill Clinton's "Volunteer Summit."

"We will be bringing a contingent to the march, which will call for ending the blockade against Cuba and protesting the Helms-Burton Law. We will also recruit for the festival among the students and young worker activists who come to the demonstration," Gutierrez said.

One concern is the cost of travel from Asian and African countries to Cuba. Airfare from those continents can be prohibitive. An international fund has been set up so people can contribute to help more youth from Asia and Africa attend.

Cubana de Aviacion, Cuba's national airline, has agreed to make the fares as low as possible. For more information readers can call the U.S. Organizing Committee at 212-866-7270 or IPCA at 212-633-6646.

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