HAVANA – Cubans in their hundreds of thousands marched on Tuesday to celebrate International Workers’ Day, though recognition of workers’ rights was notably absent, and with all attention directed toward support for the new president and the continuing importance of the Revolution.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel, accompanied by his predecessor Raul Castro, still secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba (PCC, the only legal party), presided over the principal act celebrated in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Habana, through which paraded, according to official sources, some 900,000 people, with a greater presence of young people than in other years.
Wearing a white shirt, a cap with the national colors and waving a small Cuban flag, Diaz-Canel followed the two-hour parade together with Castro, dressed in a military uniform, which sent the desired message of continuity.
The May Day celebration, one of the largest to take place in Cuba every year, kicked off at 7:30 am to avoid the intense heat of the Caribbean sun later on in the day.
Following the custom established by his predecessor over the last decade, the new president, who took office last April 19, did not speak but had Ulises Guilarte, secretary of the CTC, the country’s only permitted labor union, address the crowd.
The late former President Fidel Castro, however, gave one of his very long speeches every May Day, and was it was on this date in 2000, six years before he became ill and retired from the presidency, that he revealed his famous “concept of Revolution,” considered gospel on the island to this day.
This Tuesday Guilarte said “there are more than enough reasons and arguments to make this International Workers’ Day a demonstration of support for the Revolution, for Raul and for the new direction of the state and government.”
The CTC leader spoke of “the strategic battle in the economic area” and called for the “contribution” of workers in the state and private sectors to increase production, imports “and improve the population’s standard of living.”
On the rest of the island Cubans also took to the streets, as in Santiago de Cuba, which had the second largest turnout after Havana, and Villa Clara, where 130,000 people commemorated the guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara, buried there.
In all, according to official media, some 6 million Cubans took part in May Day events, or half the entire population.