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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Russia, Venezuela Seek to Combat Oil Price Woes

The price of oil has roughly halved since last year due to oversupply and a decision by the OPEC cartel not to cut production
More

Brazil Denies Rumors Finance Minister Will Quit

Government dismisses market rumors Joaquim Levy quitting because of disagreements over his austerity plan
More

Guatemalan President Resigns Over Corruption Scandal

Judge orders Otto Perez Molina to remain in detention while decision on whether he'll stand trial is pending
More

Video US Men's Soccer Team Eyeing Matches Against Peru, Brazil

Team hoping to bounce back from a disappointing result in Gold Cup, when Jamaica upset US 2-1 in semifinals
More

Guatemala Congress Opens Door for Prosecution of President

With 132 of 158 lawmakers approving a measure to strip immunity, prosecutors now can file criminal charges against Perez Molina just like any other citizen
More

Rio Olympics Official: Water Will Be Clean for Games

Recent report says waters so contaminated with bacteria and viruses from human sewage that athletes could become ill
More