Cuba faces last May Day parade under Fidel Castro

The Cuban government`s traditional May Day parade Monday is the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro -- and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.

AFP| Updated: May 01, 2017, 10:48 AM IST

Havana Province: The Cuban government`s traditional May Day parade Monday is the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro -- and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.

The May 1 rally draws hundreds of thousands of Cubans into Havana`s Revolution Square in a sea of red, white and blue national flags and portraits of Fidel Castro.

But he died in November and Raul Castro, after just over a decade in power, has said he will step aside in February 2018.

Raul Castro has been cautiously opening up Cuba`s state-run economy and strengthening its foreign relations -- notably by re-establishing diplomatic ties with the United States.

But Monday`s parade has the feel of the end of an era. It is not clear who will take Castro`s place next year.

Most rumors suggest it will be Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, vice-president of the State Council. Despite ministerial experience and party credentials, he is seen as lacking a support base in the military.

"There is very high uncertainty about 2018," said Pavel Vidal, a former official of Cuba`s central bank and an academic at Colombia`s Javeriana University.

"One could expect a process of continuity" of Raul Castro`s reforms, he added, "but not at the same speed."

Cuba`s economic fortunes depend largely on another country that will see May Day marches on Monday: Venezuela.

Monday`s parade in Havana will make a show of support for Venezuela`s leftist government which is facing violent opposition protests, top Cuban labor union leader Ulises Guilarte said.

Venezuela sells cut-price oil to its leftist allies in Havana. Cuba is currently in recession, dragged down by its ally`s economic crisis.

Analyst Andrew Otazo of Washington-based Cuba Study Group told AFP that Cuba has started looking to other oil exporters in case the Venezuelan government collapses.