CARACAS, Venezuela — More than 17,000 young people from around the world concluded the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students here Aug. 15 with a colorful ceremony of music, dance and fighting spirit. The festival slogan was “For peace and solidarity we struggle against war and imperialism.”
David Velasquez, president of Venezuela’s festival preparatory committee, told the crowd that packed the Poliedro de Caracas stadium for the closing ceremony, “Youth have the power to unite the people for a better world.”
The stadium was filled with waving flags, banners and the roar of chants and songs from movements around the world.
Over the course of a week, starting with a stirring opening ceremony Aug. 8, some 17,200 delegates from 144 countries mingled in hundreds of political forums and seminars, conferences on the pressing issues of the day, cultural and sports events, concerts, tours of the communities of Venezuela and informal get-togethers.
A key aspect of the festival, the first held in South America, was giving the delegates from around the world a glimpse into the Bolivarian Revolution taking place in Venezuela. Festival delegates visited schools, factories and community centers to talk with Venezuelan youth about their experiences and perspectives on the radical changes unfolding in their country. Delegates learned about the country’s literacy and health care programs. They talked with some of the thousands of young people who have engaged in volunteer projects to feed the poor and register voters.
The delegates also had the opportunity during the festival to hear directly from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias. The very fate of the planet is a stake, Chavez told them, and socialism is the only hope for humanity.
Festival activists say the gathering is not just a joyous event for sharing friendship among the youth of the world — it is a representation of the millions of young people around the globe who are struggling for dignity, rights, peace and freedom. The festival’s final declaration, presented at the closing ceremony, declared the determination of the young generation to struggle against the many injustices they face in the world.
Many of the participating organizations are members of the World Federation of Democratic Youth. “For two years, thousands of youth in various countries of the world have worked to make the festival a success,” Miguel Madeira, WFDY president and head of the festival’s International Organizing Committee, told the crowd as he thanked Venezuela and its president for their hospitality.
The festival was officially closed by Aristobulo Isturíz, Venezuela’s minister of education. Performances by Venezuelan musical groups followed, including Jesus “Gordo” Paez, Francisco Pacheco and the Afro-Venezuelan group Calypso de Callao. The delegates formed a massive conga line through the stands of the Poliedro, cheering and dancing.
The youth made their way home to countries around the world with the words of the final declaration ringing in their ears: “During the years until the next festival, we will meet each other on many occasions, struggling and increasing our reach with more determination and strength.”