HAVANA, May 2 (Xinhua) -- "I have never missed coming to the Revolution Square on May 1 to show my support to the Revolution and Fidel (Castro)," said Ruben Perez, who fought with the Castro brothers in the guerrilla war against dictator Fulgencio Batista, after he finished this year's May Day parade in Havana.
The 76-year-old veteran got up hours before dawn and walked several kilometers to participate in the parade in the capital city of Havana on Friday, together with over 2 million Cubans in the massive rallies throughout the country.
VICTORY AGAINST ISOLATION
This year's May Day parade in Havana was held in an atmosphere of optimism generated by Cuba's recent political and diplomatic victories, including bringing the United States to the negotiating table after more than 50 years of hostility and being the virtual guest of honor at the recent Summit of the Americas, a gathering it was previously not even invited to.
Raul Castro, accompanied by staunch ally Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, presided over the central rally in Havana on Friday, which was held under the banner "United in the Construction of Socialism."
"Cuba shone with its own light at the 7th Summit of the Americas...in Panama ... the (current) political stage is characterized by the U.S. government's recognition of its failed policy of harassment, aggression and blockade against our country," said general secretary of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC), Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento.
REFORMS TAKING SHAPE
Full of joy from recent victories and expectations for the upcoming future, Cubans marched dressing in red, blue and white, the colors of the national flag.
Leading the main rally in Havana were the members of the Cuban Five, most of whom were released as part of an exchange of prisoners with the United States after the two countries announced their intention in December to restore diplomatic ties.
Hailed as heroes back home, the men led the health-care workers contingent, including the doctors and nurses who helped fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, who were regarded as examples of firmness, determination and faithfulness to the homeland.
Workers from the private sector have been new power in the May Day parades in recent years.
Since Raul Castro began the economic transformation in 2011, workers from the private sector started to gain strength and almost half million of them took part in the massive rallies this year.
According to Guilarte, the working class is to play a major role in the transformations undergoing in the country, both in the state-run companies and in the growing private sector.
The first priority of the Cuban movement is to achieve economic sovereignty, as the changes are taking place in this island, Guilarte said.
LONG WAY TO GO
The island's support to Venezuela, which has become Washington's new ideological battleground in Latin America, also featured this years parade.
Steps have been taken for the normalization of relations between Cuban and the United States, but there's still a long way to go, said Guilarte, according to Cuban News Agency (CAN).
The process should be developed on the basis of respect for the island's sovereignty, including the lifting of the economic blockage and the returning of the illegally occupied Guantanamo Bay.
He specified that the battle for ending the economic blockage against Cuba continues.
According to official media, the celebrations in Cuba also attracted over 2,000 representatives of 205 trade unions and social institutions from 68 nations.
Godfroy Christophe, a representative from France, told the National Information Agency (AIN) that he was very impressed by the amount of people in the rallies and their support for the socialist ideas and the Cuban Revolution.
"I will participate in the rally every year until my last breath. If it were necessary to raise a rifle again to defend the Revolution, I would," said the 76-year-old veteran Perez.