Caribbean: May Day marches focus on “sacrifice”

Cuba‘s president Raúl Castro led some 800,000 people in the traditional May 1 march to Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. In a brief speech, Salvador Valdés, head of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), asked workers to support the government’s economic plan, which he said “will require extraordinary efforts and sacrifices” but is “vital for preserving our social system.” In April President Castro called for a reduction of public spending, the elimination of subsidies and of the black market, a stimulus for agriculture, and layoffs of as many as 1 million workers, about a fifth of the workforce, from their current employment. Castro said the government would seek to create conditions so that everyone would be able to find a productive job. (Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador, May 1 from AFP; La Jornada, Mexico, May 2 from correspondent)

In Puerto Rico the Broad Front of Solidarity and Struggle (FASyL) union coalition, the All Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico Coalition and other groups led a May 1 march from the Luis Muñoz Rivera park in San Juan to the Fortaleza, the governor’s official residence, ending up at the Plaza Colón in the capital’s old city. These groups led a massive demonstration on Oct. 15 against Gov. Luis Fortuño’s plans lay off nearly 17,000 government employees, but participation in the May 1 demonstration was reportedly in the hundreds.

Striking students at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) were “setting an example of struggle and combative spirit,” Wilberto Jiménez, head of a university employees union, told the marchers, and people “are going to copy them and take to the streets.” The students, who began a protest against budget cuts at the state university on April 21, were still occupying the campus on May 2, despite the UPR administration’s plan to resume administrative work on May 3. The students launched their own radio station, Radio Huelga (“Strike Radio”) at 1650 AM, on May 2. (Primera Hora, Puerto Rico, May 2, May 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 2.

See our last post on this year’s May Day mobilization.