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International economic cooperation and the defense of socialist principles highlighted the visit of the Vietnamese delegation to Havana, led by President Tran Duc Luong, for the first meeting of the Group of 77 heads of state and government, according to official Cuban sources.

The group is composed primarily of under-developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere, with some 133 nations now holding membership.

The visit demonstrates the continued adherence to socialist principles and the use of capitalist investment to improve the lot of socialist nations.

The Vietnamese delegation arrived Saturday and will be one of many participating in the first international G-77 conference being held in Havana this week.

Cuban President Fidel Castro personally invited the delegation to Cuba.

Radio Habana, the official broadcasting service of the Cuban government, carried the report.

Cuban-Vietnamese relations have always been based upon the principles of friendship and cooperation in the defense of socialism and the interests of the third world, reported Radio Habana.

The official visit of the Vietnamese delegation follows the annual session of the communist-dominated Latin American and Cuban Student Organization. Delegates from the student conference attended the 39th anniversary celebration of the Pioneers Children’s Organization, a communist youth group composed of grade school children.

The Castro government is also anticipating the largest May Day celebration in the island’s history.

May Day, May 1, celebrates the observance of International Workers Day, a traditional day of communist speeches and parades. A spokesman for the Confederation of Cuban Workers stated that the May 1 “mobilization” would be larger than in any other year previous.

Far from withering away, Cuban communism is thriving. Not only is it active in the lives of its people, Cuban influence is growing internationally.

Interestingly, the number of nations with groups espousing “solidarity” with Cuba and its Revolution has risen from 40 to 120, according to Cuban sources.

Russia continues to be an important supporter of Cuba, even after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Both the Yeltsin and Putin governments have consistently maintained friendly relations with Cuba.

Communist China has been not only a supporter of Cuba, but also even an inspiration. In November 1995, Castro visited China for the purpose of observing Beijing’s economic reforms. Castro stated that those reforms would be a model for similar changes in Cuba.

Cuban reforms are beginning to pay off as many nations around the world are investing in the island. Italian interests are revitalizing part of downtown Havana; Japan Air Lines is expanding its service and hoping for an increase in Japanese tourists to the island; and Canada has assisted in modernizing Havana’s airport, to name a few examples of international investment in the island.

U.S. companies do not want to be left out. American businesses have found ways to avoid the U.S. embargo against Cuba, and negotiations involving American and Cuban interests occur regularly. Executives from some 100 U.S. companies will meet with Cuban governmental and business leaders in Cancun, Mexico, and Havana, Cuba this upcoming June 6 and 7.

Money is to be made in Cuba, but Castro still rules with an iron hand and remains committed to the Revolution. He is not a man to allow embarrassment to himself or to the Revolution.

Elian Gonzalez is an embarrassment.

During the recent celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the Pioneers Children’s Organization, Castro personally handed out the “flag of honor” of the Communist Youth League to a group of young people who had performed particularly well their assigned work tasks. During the festivities, a Communist Youth League leader demanded the return of Elian Gonzalez from the U.S.

Will Castro one day hand out a flag of honor to a teen-aged Elian? Critics of the administration’s policies say that with the help of Janet Reno and Bill Clinton, it may well happen — and business with Cuba will prosper.

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