Havana, May 1 (EFE).- The traditional parade for International Workers’ Day was held once again in Cuba on Sunday after being suspended for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, a festive occasion with a massive turnout – tens of thousands of people – chanting slogans and carrying signs supporting the island’s communist government.
Participants began marching at 7 am and the parade continued for about three hours with Cuban music playing and speakers addressing the crowd loudly through megaphones as the marchers passed by the stage where government officials, headed by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, and his predecessor Raul Castro, watched the proceedings.
The former president, who since stepping down from his post as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba a little over a year ago has engaged in only limited public activities but retains his clout within the Cuban regime, witnessed the parade and greeted the public multiple times and chatted with the officials near him.
The first to pass through the Plaza of the Revolution, the site of many huge pro-government events over the six decades since the late Fidel Castro established the current Cuban regime, were 50,000 doctors and scientists responsible for developing the local vaccines against Covid-19, and it was to this cohort of workers that this year’s parade was dedicated.
Following the physicians and scientists were groups of workers from all the government ministries, institutions and state enterprises, the Central Bank and the Supreme Court, with members of each carrying a sign with the name of the institution where they work.
In addition, many people carried Cuban flags and posters with slogans such as “Let’s go!” “Fatherland or death” and more, along with images of Cuban leaders such as Fidel Castro and Jose Marti, along with Diaz-Canel, Ernesto (Che) Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Many of the signs and posters were also critical of the US embargo on Cuba.
The march was organized by the state-controlled Cuban Workers Central (CTC) and, as has been a regular feature of the yearly May Dy parade, similar events were held in all the major cities around the country.
Also participating in the parade were more than 1,000 international delegations from 60 countries and representatives of 219 organizations and associations, parade organizers said.
Young Uruguayan union leader Mariana Nieves told EFE that she had come to Havana for the first time, calling it a “very emotional” experience for her and one way of supporting “the struggle of the Cuban people against the economic bloc of the United States.”
Meanwhile, English activist Gemma said that she was here with many people from the United Kingdom and Ireland “in solidarity with Cuba, with the Revolution” and planned to return to her country to tell everyone about how incredible Cuba is, adding “Viva Cuba!” at the end of her remarks.
And Duane Stilwell, representing the US non-government organization Saving Lives Campaign, described his visit to the island as “an inspiration.”
This Arizona retiree, a union member for many years, also said that Cuba is a beacon, unique in the world, going on to explain the campaign in his country to collect money and send more than three million syringes to the Caribbean country.
Before the parade got under way, CTC general secretary Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento said that the international situation at present is “complex and challenging,” denouncing the increase in “hostility” and the US economic blockade against the island as “the main obstacle” to Cuba’s development.
The union leader added that all this simply results in the scarcity of basic products and inflation on the island, which is going through a severe economic crisis.
This scenario of shortages and high inflation, is the result of the combination of the consequences of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and the failures of Cuba’s national macroeconomic management.
The May Day parade this year, which was attended by a similar number of people as in past years, was the first massive political event after the antigovernment protests of July 11, 2021, and an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its power to turn out huge numbers of supporters.
Opponents and voices critical of the government called on the public to remain at home and not to participate in the parade, given the economic difficulties and noting that there is no reason for anyone in Cuba to be celebrating.
Some activists and independent journalists, starting on Saturday, have reported that they have been threatened by state security agents and have even been forced to remain inside their homes.