Cuba holds smaller May Day event 4 days late
Havana, May 5 (EFE).- Cuba celebrated a smaller and atypical May Day event here Friday, with the event pushed back by four days due to a storm earlier this week on the western part of the island and moved to an alternate site in this capital owing to a fuel crisis.
For the first time in decades, not including the years (2020 and 2021) it was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, no mass parade was organized and the event was relocated from Havana’s iconic Plaza de la Revolucion.
Instead, several thousand people gathered before dawn at the Cuban capital’s seafront Malecon boulevard for the day’s main event, which was attended by top officials including Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his predecessor, Raul Castro.
Many of the participants held small Cuban flags and wore the colors of that emblem (red, white and blue). They chanted political slogans and the designated phrase of this year’s May Day event, “A la patria, manos y corazon” (Heart and Hands for the Fatherland).
Some carried signs featuring slogans, the name of their companies or government agencies or images of revolutionary leaders like Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara or Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.
Unlike in other countries, the celebration of International Workers’ Day in Cuba is a festive and patriotic event held with the government’s official backing, as opposed to an occasion for protests.
“We’re here showing we remain united in support of the revolution,” Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, secretary-general of the Central Union of Cuban Workers (CTC, Cuba’s lone legal trade union federation) and member of the politburo of the Communist Party, said in a speech.
He referred to Cuba’s serious economic crisis and spoke of the need to improve the availability of basic products, get inflation under control and mitigate the decline in ordinary citizens’ purchasing power.
Over the past two years, Cuba has suffered severe shortages of food and medicine, frequent blackouts and an inflationary spiral that has caused prices in the formal market to double over the past 24 months. More than 3 percent of the population emigrated in 2022 alone.
The situation is partly attributable to the impact of the pandemic, which devastated the Communist-ruled island’s vital tourist sector; the ramping-up of US sanctions; and economic and national monetary policy missteps.
The crisis has been further exacerbated by fuel shortages in recent weeks, leading to long lines at service stations and the rationing of gasoline and diesel.
The lack of fuel, a situation the government says will last at least until April or May due to supplier countries’ failure to comply with delivery schedules, has caused widespread disruptions, including the hampering of food distribution to universities and delays with garbage collection.
The CTC even said the fuel problems triggered a decision to cancel the traditional large-scale May Day parade through the Plaza de la Revolution and instead hold small gatherings in the communities.
Guilarte, who also spoke in his speech about the need to secure a better future for Cubans, blamed the current difficulties on the tightening of the US’s economic embargo but also on administrative “shortcomings.” EFE