May Day With a New President, Fewer Resources and Reggaeton

Thousands of young people did not have classes today so they could attend the May Day parade. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 May 2018 — Unlike previous years, the May Day parade in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution was held without the crowds brought from the rest of the country. Only the capital city’s inhabitants participated while the heads of the other provinces organized their own events.

The lack of resources and, perhaps, the premiere of a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, explain this change as well as some other details, such as the rhythms of conga and reggaeton that marked the end of the parade. For the rest, everything was the same.

The parade started early, at 7:30 in the morning, and lasted more than two hours. The ceremony, designed to highlight the continuity of the current leadership, in the hands of Diaz-Canel, was also graced by the presence of Raul Castro and the leaders of the Government and the Communist Party.

Under the slogan “Unity, commitment and victory,” the crowded gathering lacked, as it has in previous years, any grievances on the part of labor or demands for higher wagers.

The event was broadcast live on social networks, a practice that was premiered at the last session of the National Assembly. Castro, who chairs the Communist Party, remained with Diaz-Canel throughout the ceremony. To the right of the president was Lázara Mercedes López Acea, first secretary of the Party in Havana and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.

Also present were Ramiro Valdés and Guillermo García Frías, as well as several intellectuals close to power, such as the former minister of culture Abel Prieto and the president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Miguel Barnet.

With a difficult economic situation, thousands of workers wonder what the new government of Diaz-Canel will bring. (14ymedio)

The first secretary of the Union of Young Communists, Susely Morfa, known as the “millionaire psychologist” for her role in the Summit of the Americas in Panama, also sat with Raúl Castro during most of the parade.

The General Secretary of the Cuban Workers Union (CTC), Ulises Guilarte De Nacimiento, took advantage of his speech to show “unconditional” support for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, who has brutally repressed popular protests in his country.

In front of the stage, where the leaders of the Government and the Party were present, several banners could be seen in different languages, almost always with slogans related to the left.

Guillarte praised the economic reform undertaken by Raul Castro and castigated the island’s independent civil society. These comments were delivered in the midst of the slowdown in the expansion of the private sector – as of last August there has been a freeze in the issuing of new licenses – and the official attack against dissident groups after the Summit of the Americas, last month in Lima, Peru.

Guilarte described a grim outlook in the countries of the region, arguing that “recent labor reforms in several countries have eliminated collective bargaining agreements.”

Some of the self-employed take advantage of the parade to sell water, soft drinks and ice cream. (14ymedio)

He denounced “the pockets of poverty and precarious nature of work” in those countries but did not mention any of the Government’s unfulfilled promises to the workers, among them, Raúl Castro’s famous “glass of milk” which he promised to every Cuban when he came to power.

As usual, many of the protesters carried numerous posters with images of former President Fidel Castro, who died in 2016. There were also images of Raúl Castro and even the new president, Díaz-Canel. The protesters chanted the well-known slogans “I am Fidel,” “Don’t mess with Cuba” and the already classic “Viva Fidel” and “Viva Raúl.” No slogans referenced Diaz-Canel.

Unlike in previous years, the music animating the parade was not only the old hymns in the voice of Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés and Sara González, but in a nod to the youth, which according to the Government should continue the Revolution, they could listen to more youthful rhythms like conga and reggaeton. Nor could the music of the Buena Fe band be missing, while giant screens showed images of Fidel Castro and the multitudinous marches of the first decades of the Revolution.

With Raúl Castro accompanied by Díaz-Canel singing the Communist International, the massive event ended. After the parade dozens of people waited in the hot sun in Fraternity Park for transportation to return home.


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