14ymedio, Havana, 1 May 2017 — The mobilization for the May Day parade began in Havana before midnight the day before. With the first light of dawn, the mass rally in Plaza of the Revolution began, with allusions to the late President Fidel Castro, slogans about unity and an emphatic commitment to the Government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
Minutes before the parade began, Cuban opponent Daniel Llorente mocked the security cordon and ran waving a US flag in front of the grandstand while shouting several slogans and was quickly removed from the scene by the security forces. It is not known whether he acted on his own or did so on behalf of an opposition group.
Llorente held a similar demonstration a year ago, when the cruise ship Adonia reached the coast of Cuba. On that occasion he was repressed by the police, who removed him from the place.
The main speech was delivered by the general secretary of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), Ulises Guilarte De Nacimiento. A political cadre aligned with the orthodoxy, he called for work to “generate greater wealth, reduce prices and gradually lead to increases in income.”
The leader of the only union allowed in the country called for “mobilization of leftist forces” in Latin America and rejected “political maneuvers and diplomatic harassment” against the Venezuelan government on the part of “the discredited Organization of American States (OAS) And other reactionary sectors of the region.”
“We support the military civic union led by President Nicolás Maduro,” emphasized Guilarte De Nacimiento in the middle of a speech without news or announcements. During most of the event Raul Castro remained seated on the stage under the close watch of his grandson, bodyguard Raul Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, but did not speak publicly.
The streets near the site were filled with buses at dawn with thousands of participants brought from the nearest provinces. Traffic was disrupted and most of the area’s private businesses closed, although some street vendors took advantage of the crowd to sell everything from sweets to popcorn.
An immense canvas on the National Library showed the image of Raúl Castro, in the center, watched over by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara. It was a novelty in the iconography of these events, which traditionally has filled the walls of the nearest ministries with photos of deceased leaders.
The official announcers emphasized the presence of young people on the march. The first block to parade in front of the platform was formed by students and militants of the Union of Young Communists, in a context in which several government figures have denounced the effects of globalization and the “cultural war” against young people.
High schools and universities, state labor centers, cooperatives and the self-employed sector were all part of the crowd that rushed past the grandstand to avoid the inclement sun. By nine o’clock in the morning it was all over.