Report from World Youth and Students Festival - Venezuela hosts 20,000 ‘for peace and solidarity’

By LeiLani Dowell
Caracas, Venezuela

Aug. 9--This city is covered with signs and placards welcoming the delegates to the 16th World Youth and Students Festival, now being held in Venezuela's capital. The theme for the next week is “For peace and solidarity, we struggle against war and imperialism!’

Over 20,000 delegates from more than 100 countries are attending. The level of work and organization that has been put into hosting us all is very impressive and courageous, given the imperialist pressure that Venezuela is under as it continues to build its Bolivarian Revolution.

Members of the U.S. youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together), one part of the U.S. delegation, are being housed in a military barracks in Los Teques, in the mountains near Caracas. The staff at the barracks are Venezuelan youth, and several have gone out of their way to thank us for attending and expressing solidarity with their country.

The festival's opening on Aug. 8 was an amazing celebration of culture and political struggle.

The largest delegations are the Colombians (about 4,000), the Cubans (about 1,500) and the Brazilians. The U.S. delegation is the fifth largest, at around 700. There is a very large Angolan delegation. When they passed by the Cubans, both groups chanted to each other, "Cuba and Angola! Angola and Cuba!"

The delegation from Palestine has a huge Palestinian flag. During the opening ceremonies, the FIST delegation went over to them and chanted "Long live Palestine!" and "Viva Viva Palestina!"

For the first time at a World Youth Festival, the very front of the U.S. delegation was occupied by Indigenous peoples with their own banner, which preceded the U.S. flag.

The Venezuelan delegation featured a contingent of several hundred Indigenous people who marched together in a procession, as well as a very dynamic and militant organization called Rumbo al Socialismo (Course to Socialism).

At the opening ceremony, Ruth Vela of San Diego FIST initiated a chant: "Que viva Chávez, que viva Venezuela.’ That became, at least for our section of the U.S. delegation, the chant of the night. Folks on the sidelines went crazy over it, chanting along with us and waving Venezuelan flags. At one point, two Venezuelan men came down to the bottom of the bleachers, pointed at us and yelled: "We love you! we love you!" over and over, and we, of course, chanted the same back to them.

President Hugo Chávez formally welcomed the delegates to the festival. One of the banners hanging overhead carried his words, which we translate here: “It is necessary to cast away the fear of the sword and to fight with ideas and conscience in hand, if we really want to save humanity. Only the young people have the purity to make the revolution of the 21st century.’


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