Thousands celebrate in Cuba’s May Day parade

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Hundreds of thousands of Cubans march in the traditional May Day parade at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. The banner reads in Spanish: “Years of principles, unity and history.” (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

In Cuba, May Day is a festive occasion, seen as a show of strength and support for the revolution. The country’s new president also showed support and attended the rally.

CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Revolution Square in Havana.

The official website of the May Day parade says 900,000 Cubans marched in Havana.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans lined up to march through Havana’s Revolution Square—the first May Day parade under the new President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

But it was the outgoing president and head of the Communist Party, Raul Castro who led the dignitaries to the platform. This was as much Castro’s swan song as Diaz-Canel’s first major public appearance.

The leader of Cuba’s Revolution, Fidel Castro, used these May Day events to give keynote speeches, often lasting for hours. When his brother Raul Castro took over the presidency, he ended the tradition, leaving the speech to the head of the trade union movement.

“The strategic economic battle requires the contribution of all workers to increase, in a sustained way, production, boost exports, lower imports and improve service quality,” said Ulises Guilarte, the Secretary General of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation.

It’s been fewer than two weeks since Diaz-Canel became president, and he has already hosted a number of key allies such as Venezuela’s leader Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, as well as chairing the first council of ministers meeting which focused on the economy.

So what do those marching through Revolution Square make of the handover?

“I think young people can contribute more, much more and we’ll do so,” said Ernesto Perez, a high school student in Cuba. “We are very happy to know that there is continuity of the revolution with Diaz-Canel.”

“My expectations are that everything will work out well,” said Idalia Lopez, a teacher. “We are going to continue with the revolution.”

This is the first time in decades that Cuba has a head of state who is not a Castro. It’s a historic transition though one that emphasizes continuity rather than radical change. But at some point the new president will make his mark.