The Guardian July 23, 2003


Cuban and US youth to exchange views

by Tony Pecinovsky

On July 23 over 250 young people participating in the 3rd US-Cuba Youth 
Exchange are due to begin a nine-day trip to Cuba, where they are to meet 
Cuban youth and students and discuss many of the pressing issues of the day 
 issues like peace, education, health, culture, unemployment, racism and 
sexism.

The US-Cuba Youth Exchange will bring together youth delegates from across 
the US. For many in the Youth United Delegation (YUD), one of the 
delegations going, this will be their first experience in Cuba.

While travel to the socialist island nation is becoming more difficult in 
the face of the US Government's increasing hostility, the Youth Exchange 
delegates will learn first hand what Cuban society is really like.

In a clear attempt to intimidate would-be travellers, the Bush 
administration, in March, ended the "people to people" educational licences 
that allowed Americans to legally explore Cuba.

Further, since Bush took office, over 1200 Americans have received letters 
from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, 
threatening fines of up to US$55,000 for violating the travel ban to the 
island. Last year 160,000 Americans had approval to visit Cuba, while 
60,000 others went without government approval.

While the Bush administration pursues a policy of war rather than 
diplomatic and peaceful co-existence, the YUD, like its predecessors, is 
pursuing a policy dedicated to "people to people" diplomacy, exemplified by 
the multiracial, working class delegation of US youth and students.

For YUD delegates like Julie Rodriguez from Los Angeles, "it is important 
that we continue to maintain relationships on a personal level despite the 
restrictions that the administration tries to impose."

YUD co-ordinator Jessica Marshall said, "Many of the delegates want to go 
to Cuba because they don't believe what Bush has said. . It is important 
for people to get first-hand impressions of Cuba, rather than the corporate 
media's impression."

"US policy towards Cuba is out-of-date. It is hurting the Cuban people", 
said Molly Kelley, a delegate from Iowa and a leader of the Young Communist 
League. "The Cuban and American people should know a lot more about each 
other. It is a twenty-minute flight. Unfortunately most people only know 
what the media tells them."

Noting the diversity of the delegation Alcy Montas, an activist from Uptown 
Youth for Peace and Justice, NYC said "we come from so many different 
backgrounds  dealing with police brutality, budget cuts, attacks on 
affirmative action, war and attacks on working people ... that's what makes 
us the most effective ambassadors for peace, and that's why we're going to 
Cuba."

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The author can be reached at tonypec@pww.org People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party USA

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