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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies in Canada

Vladimir Katriuk, 93, had denied allegations that he took part in killings of civilians in Soviet village of Khatyn, now part of Belarus
More

Allies, Ex-players, Fans Abroad Cheer US Move Against FIFA

Soccer devotees flood Twitter with praise, ask why countries with richer traditions in the sport had ignored suspicions of corruption for so long
More

Soccer Great Pele to Join New York Cosmos on Cuban Trip

Goodwill mission will include exhibition match between Cosmos, Cuban national team
More

Researchers: No Foul Play in Death of Chilean Poet Neruda

Chilean government reopened investigation into Neruda's death in January, with new tests designed to look for protein damage caused by poisoning
More

US Senator: Momentum Growing to Lift Sanctions on Cuba

Sen. Tom Udall led a delegation of four Democratic lawmakers to Havana
More

Latin American Soccer Fans Cheer FIFA Corruption Sweep

Latin American fans have long booed officials assumed to be on the take, amid deep public disgust at graft in the game
More