Jeff Franks (Reuters) reports on Cuba’s May Day, or International Workers Day [Día Internacional del Trabajador], celebrations, where—under the slogan “Preserve and Perfect Socialism”—a sea of Cubans marched through Havana’s Revolution Square in a massive parade. Meanwhile, Prensa Latina focused on Camaguey, where students from 70 countries (mainly from Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean) marched to express their solidarity with Cuba. Franks writes:
With President Raul Castro looking on from beneath a giant statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti, hundreds of thousands of workers wearing red shirts and waving red flags filed through the vast plaza where Cuba holds its biggest political rallies. The theme for this year’s parade was signaled early when the first row of marchers carried a sign that said “Preserve and Perfect Socialism,” which has become the mantra of Cuba’s aging leaders.
Raul Castro, 80, has launched a series of reforms encouraging more private initiative and reducing state dominance of the fragile Soviet-style economy put in place after Cuba’s 1959 revolution. [. . .] Lest the message was not clear, the national television broadcast of the parade focused on a sign that read “To Capitalism We Will Never Return.” [. . .] The words “Unity and Victory” and “Long Live the Socialist Revolution” were flashed across the television screen.
Fidel Castro, who is 85 and led the country for 49 years before stepping down in 2008, did not attend the parade for the sixth straight year. The president’s older brother has said he cannot endure long periods under the tropical island’s intense sun. President Castro, who wore a straw hat against the sun, waved and smiled at the marchers but did not speak, leaving that to Communist Party official and labor leader Salvador Valdes Mesa. [. . .] ”The revolution and socialism are fused,” Valdes said. “Unity will be the key to preserve and consolidate the nation and the economic and social conquests (of the revolution).”
The reforms include plans to slash a million jobs from the government’s bloated payrolls and, in a break from the past, to encourage people to start their own small businesses. The country of 11 million people now has more than 371,000 people working for themselves, according to government figures. As they did last year, some of the self-employed, or “cuenta propistas” as they are known in Cuba, marched in Monday’s parade alongside the state workers, who make up most of the island’s labor force.
Cuba’s May Day celebration always brings in labor leaders from around the world, including 1,800 from more than 100 countries this year. [. . .]
For full article and photo by Adalberto Roque (Getty Images), see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/cuba-may-day_n_1467467.html and for a Spanish language article, see http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2012/05/01/1192443/raul-castro-preside-masivo-desfile.html
For article on Camaguey, see http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=502582&Itemid=1