October 31, 1998
Cuba declares Alicia Alonso a national heroine

                  HAVANA (Reuters) -- Communist Cuba has honored its world famous
                  ballet star, Alicia Alonso, giving her the title "Labor Heroine" and awarding
                  her and the Cuban National Ballet company with one of the nation's highest
                  civil decorations.

                  Cuban President Fidel Castro presented the awards on Friday night at the
                  Palace of the Revolution in Havana.

                  Alonso, who is 77 and had kept on dancing until just three years ago,
                  received the title "Heroine of Labour of the Republic of Cuba" and was also
                  awarded the Lazaro Pena Order, a civil decoration. This award was also
                  given to the national ballet company she founded 50 years ago.

                  Culture Minister Abel Prieto, making the presentation speech, praised
                  Alonso's artistic genius and paid tribute to "her sense of Cuban identity, her
                  patriotism, her loyalty to principles, to the Revolution and to Fidel."

                  "Today we are rewarding not only a life dedicated to art but also an example
                  of self-sacrifice, of tenacity in adversity, of social commitment and vocation
                  and of conscious responsibility in the defence of national culture," he said.

                  Alonso, clearly moved, thanked Castro for his support for the Cuban
                  National Ballet, which survived and prospered after the 1959 Cuban
                  Revolution to become one of the world's best-known and admired national
                  ballet companies.

                  The award ceremony took place during an International Ballet Festival being
                  held in Havana to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban National


                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.