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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Republican Candidates Focus on Immigration Ahead of First Debate

Fourteen of 17 major Republican contenders took part in forum ahead of party's first official debate; Donald Trump did not participate
More

Venezuela Prevents Opposition Leader From Running

Election officials reject Maria Corina Machado's attempt to register as a candidate Monday for upcoming congressional elections
More

Mexico City Mayor Vows Full Probe of Journalist Slaying

Journalist groups had expressed fears authorities would not consider Ruben Espinosa's murder as being related to his work, even though colleagues say he fled state he covered fearing for his safety
More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession
More

Brazilian Police Arrest Lula Minister in Bribery Scandal

Jose Dirceu is one of most senior members of ruling Workers' Party to be detained so far in corruption scandal engulfing state-run oil company Petrobras
More

Poll: Disapproval of Chile's Bachelet Hits Record High

Chileans have soured on president as slow economic growth and scandals involving money in politics have marred her message of addressing deep inequality
More