Cubans mark May Day with parades across island

World Today

Cubans mark May Day with parades across islandCubans march during the May Day rally at the Revolution Square in Havana, on May 1, 2019. (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP)

Cubans marked International Workers Day with traditional May Day parades across the island.

As CGTN’s Luis Chirino reports, Cuba’s leadership oversaw the festivities in Havana.

The May Day parade opened with blocks of workers marching on Havana’s Revolution Square. Presiding over the event was First Communist Party Secretary Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

This was the first time that the historic rally did not open with an official speech, although just a week earlier Cuban unions held their national congress, which focused on the demands and challenges of Cuban workers — along with current realities facing the country, like the latest sanctions imposed by the U.S. Trump administration.

“We Cubans will not be intimidated by new measures and lies, most of which we have already faced and defeated many years ago,” Second Communist Party Secretary at Workers’ Congress Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said.

May Day marchers carried signs, many against the U.S. and its most recent threats to tighten sanctions. Others shouted their continuing support of the Cuban socialist system and the leadership of President Diaz Canel – in office now for one year. Demonstrators also expressed solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their president, Nicolas Maduro.

Cuban workers now number nearly 4.5 million, including more than a million employed in private and cooperative enterprises. And, those here echo the government’s message that the joint work of all sectors is needed to increase local production of goods, diversify exports and increase efficiency; key to achieving economic stability and growth.

Cuba’s current domestic and external challenges do not suggest much optimism in the short term. However, this march reveals that the people are closing ranks to face the country’s economic tensions and the U.S. policy of sanctions against the island.

“We see it as our joint work to defeat the U.S. blockade and the Helms-Burton Law, which they want imposed on us, but which will only make our unity stronger,” Municipal Government Worker Jose Castaneda said.

“In this May Day, the Cuban people, the youth, the workers and the families gathered here are sending a strong message against U.S. aggression and proving that we all continue to build a different system and different model,” Foreign relations worker Heidy Villuenda said.

These demonstrations in Havana and across Cuba are seen as an expression of unity and commitment to the Revolution begun by Fidel Castro 60 years ago.