News / Americas

On May Day, Cuba Remembers 'Best Friend' Chavez

Posters during the annual May Day march in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba show images of Fidel Castro and Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez ,  May 1, 2013.
Posters during the annual May Day march in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba show images of Fidel Castro and Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez , May 1, 2013.
Reuters
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans filed through Havana's Revolution Square on Wednesday in a May Day parade that paid tribute to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who was the Caribbean island's top ally and benefactor before his death from cancer in March.

A sea of workers, many wearing red shirts like those favored by Chavez and carrying signs with his image, paraded past a giant statue of 19th century Cuban independence hero Jose Marti in the vast square where Cuba holds its biggest political rallies.

They waved pictures of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his younger brother President Raul Castro, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine who fought alongside them in Cuba's 1959 revolution, and of Chavez, with the words "Our Best Friend" beneath his smiling face.

A large version of the Chavez picture hung from a nearby building, with the same caption, which came from a newspaper column written by Fidel Castro after Chavez' death in which he said the Venezuelan socialist had been Cuba's best friend ever.

Chavez, 58, died on March 5 after a long battle with cancer, much of it fought in Cuba under the care of Cuban doctors.

He had a close friendship with Fidel Castro and poured oil and money into Cuba to rescue it from the financial ruin that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the island's previous top ally. The aid helped keep Cuba's struggling economy afloat.

"We pay special homage to the unforgettable commander Hugo Chavez Frias and express our deepest affection and admiration for that giant," said Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa in the speech kicking off the parade, which is a big event each year in one of world's last communist countries.

CUBAN WORRIES

Cubans have worried that Chavez' aid might disappear with his death, but his successor, newly elected President Nicolas Maduro, visited Havana this past weekend and pledged to maintain the close alliance of the two countries.

The heart of the alliance is a daily shipment of 110,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil to Cuba in exchange for cash and the services of 44,000 Cuban workers, most of them medical personnel.

Cuba depends on Venezuela for about two-thirds of its daily oil consumption.

A poster carried by some parade participants showed the mustachioed Maduro, wearing an oil worker's safety helmet, with the words: "Chavez, I swear to you oil will continue being of the people."

The two countries also have a number of joint ventures and say they are working toward integration of their economies.

Fidel Castro, who ruled the island for 49 years before stepping down in 2008, did not attend the parade for the seventh consecutive year. Castro, 86 and frail, has said he cannot endure long periods in the sun.

The other theme for the heavily orchestrated event was "United for a prosperous and sustainable socialism," which is the goal of a wide-ranging modernization of the Soviet-style economy undertaken by President Castro.

He has launched reforms to increase private enterprise while reducing the role of the state, which employs most of the Cuban workforce and provides various social benefits but pays salaries that average the equivalent of just $19 a month.

The 81-year-old Raul Castro, wearing the traditional white guayabera shirt of Cuba, waved at the passing crowd from his seat beneath the Marti statue, but did not speak, leaving that to Valdes.

Valdes said Cubans all over the country were parading "to express the unity of the people and their indisputable support for the revolution, socialism, Fidel and Raul."

"In the strategic economic battle in which we find ourselves, it is imperative to continue raising in a sustained way levels of production, productivity of work, quality of services, growth of exports and substitution of imports," Valdes said.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More

After Tax Reform Triumph, Chile's President Faces Rockier Road

'Honeymoon' may be over for Michelle Bachelet as protests rise and economy, security outlook worsen
More

Mexico: Texas Governor's Border Deployment Politically Motivated

Rick Perry says he is sending up to 1,000 troops to Mexican border to deter criminal activity caused by drug cartels
More