Cubans lead May Day resurgence
From South News, May Day 1998
Havana: A million people took part in the main parade at Havana's Revolution Square. Cuban President Fidel Castro watched from a reviewing stand as workers paraded through the square sacred to revolutionaries.
Marching 40 abreast, they filed past the huge likeness of Menendez, and opposite a permanent mural of Cuba's Argentine-born revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara. This year's mobilization is in tribute to the late, charismatic labor leader in the sugar industry, Jesus Menendez, assassinated in 1948 by security forces on the eve of a strike in 1948.
At the start of the event, Pedro Ross, secretary general of the Cuban Workers Confederation (CTC) gave a speech urging the crowd to "defend our conquests" -- the official slogan for the 1998 May Day parades.
Cuban officials billed the march as a denunciation of the U.S. economic embargo and a celebration of a recent U.N. Human Rights Commission vote defeating Washington's anti-Cuba resolution for the first time.
With Friday's march, he added, "we are reminding the world that this is the socialist and democratic revolution of the workers, and that no one or nothing can ever take away from us our condition as owners and protagonists of our own lives."
Turning to Washington's 36-year economic embargo on the island, he pledged Cuban workers' "determination to continue resisting until we defeat the criminal economic war imposed on us for more than four decades by the government of the United States."
"Never like today has the imperialist blockade policy, that inhuman attempt to annihilate an entire people through hunger and illness, appeared so isolated by the international community, been so repudiated, and looked so bare in its total lack of morality," Ross added.
Cuban flags and palm leaves rose from the river of marchers, along with banners saying. As light rain fell on the square, workers applauded the speech, waving palm leaves and banners with slogans such as "Down with the Yankee Blockade!"
The Cuban president's brother and designated successor, Raul Castro, presided over celebrations at the second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, in the west of the island. Raul Castro also heads Cuba's armed forces.
State news agency Prensa Latina said six million Cubans, or more than half the population, were taking part in Friday's marches, joined by about 1,000 trade union members from other countries. Last year, in Havana alone, some one million 300 thousand Cubans paraded through the capital's Plaza de la Revolucion on May 1st.
Elsewhere in Latin America about 100,000 Venezuelans from more than 300 labor unions rallied in Caracas, demanding a higher minimum wage and a halt to hikes in the price of goods and services. And in Mexico City, unions held their first Labor Day marches since wages plummeted in the 1994 peso crisis. More than 30,000 members of the Mexican Workers Confederation, marched into the capital's central plaza waving banners and Mexican flags.
South News is a weekly feature of the South Movement