Cubans were called “to work harder and sacrifice” in support of the Cuban revolution and the island’s Socialist model during Saturday May first International Workers’ Day.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans that took to the streets and plazas also rejected international criticism of the island’s human rights policies. In Havana, where the main celebration took place, President Raúl Castro and a podium full of dignitaries looked on from beneath a giant statue of national hero José Martí. Absent for the fourth consecutive year was former leader Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba for 49 years but has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.
President Castro, wearing a straw hat and a traditional white guayabera shirt, did not address the rally: the task was left to Salvador Valdés Mesa, chairman of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC) who said the best way to defend the revolution from enemies was to work harder and be more productive thus helping the fragile Cuban economy. The economic battle—we workers know that, as never before—is vital for preserving our social system. And to achieve it with success means everyone has to do his part, said Valdés.
The day's core messages were underscored on television and on signs carried by parade participants and posted around Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square). Cuba billed the annual parade as a show of solidarity against condemnation from the United States and Europe for the February death of dissident hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and the rough treatment of opposition group Ladies in White in recent protests.
Your attendance reaffirms your irreversible decision to defend and build socialism, as the most energetic and firm response to those who, from the centres of power of the United States and the European Union, backed by small groups of internal mercenaries, try to discredit us, Valdés said. ”Those who stand up for Cuba stand up for all time against the lies, against the calumnies of the empire (United States) and the European Union, said an announcer on the national broadcast of the parade. Unity, Strength and Victory read one sign in the parade, while another said Spend less and produce more.
We call on all workers and the people to support the updating of our economic model which will require extraordinary efforts and sacrifices, fully aware that by dignifying work we will ensure economic and social growth of Cuba”, underlined Salvador Mesa.
The precarious situation of the Cuban economy is not new and has been openly admitted by government officials, including President Raúl Castro who less than a month ago said that “the government has a surplus of one million workers” which is one out of four. Mesa emphasized that the institutional and labour re-organization “involves and is the responsibility of all Cubans.”