14ymedio, Havana, 1 May 2019 — Unlike what happens in the rest of the world, the thousands of Cubans who marched this May Day did not ask for wage increases and better working conditions.
And, unlike in previous years, there was no speech from any of the authorities present; neither president Miguel Díaz-Canel nor the general secretary of the Communist Party, Raúl Castro, spoke.
The only “authority” who “spoke” was the late head of state, Fidel Castro, whose recorded voice could be heard as far as Sport City, over a mile away, thanks to the new sound amplification system.
Under the motto Unity, Commitment and Victory, the participants waved placards in favor of the Government and carried posters with the faces of Fidel and Raúl Castro, along with Díaz-Canel. Those who did speak repeated, with emphasis, the word “continuity,” which over the last year has been the motto of the mandate of the 59-year-old engineer who assumed the presidency in April 2018.
May 1st, Workers’ Day, is a holiday throughout the Island, with most of the shops closed and state workplaces silent. The official deployment calling everyone to parade in the most important squares of each province occurs this year amid a worsening economic crisis on the island, one that is especially obvious in the poor supply of food and drugs.
Many residents of Havana, where transportation problems have worsened in recent months, lamented the cancellation of bus routes, which stopped running the night before, as the buses were reserved by the authorities to bring participants to the parade.
Contrary to what was expected, the ruling party did not take advantage of May 1st to make clear its support for Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, whose stay in power is threatened by an uprising led by the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.
Instead, the marchers carried some burlesque Donald Trump cartoons and messages of support for Maduro, along with several Venezuelan flags linked to the Cuban banner.
The official pronouncements and the slogans have focused on internal politics and on demonstrating the support of Cuban workers for the Government.
Raul Castro, dressed in a military uniform, greeted the participants of the march from the rostrum but did not make any public address, in an act that was characterized by the lack of a major speech, thus breaking with tradition. Not even Ulises Guillarte de Nacimiento, general secretary of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), the only union allowed in the country, took the floor.
Meanwhile, Television broadcasters made several allusions to “imperialism” a day after US President Donald Trump threatened sanctions “of the highest order” against the island if Havana does not withdraw its military and intelligence forces from Venezuela.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.