by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Millions of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate International Workers' Day and show support for recently approved economic and social reforms.
In Havana, the colorful parade was chaired by President Raul Castro, with more than 600,000 workers and their families divided into 18 union groups and marching along the capital's emblematic Revolution Square.
Cuban workers staged a massive rally on Sunday throughout the island's main squares and avenues marking the International Workers' Day and showing their support for the reforms carried out by the government to build a "prosperous and sustainable socialism" .
The demonstrations are also dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the landing of the Granma expedition led by the Castro brothers in December 1956, and the 55th anniversary since the victory of the Bay of Pigs, and the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution, both in 1961.
General Secretary of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC) Ulises Guilarte delivers a keynote speech, reaffirming the commitment of Cuban workers to the integration processes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Guilarte praised Havana's decision to restore formal ties with Washington but said the economic blockade against the island must be fully lifted and the territory occupied by the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo must be returned.
"This May 1st is a day to denounce the maneuvers aimed at undermining the regional integration processes in Latin America, reversing the progress made in social policies and destabilize the leftist and progressive governments in power," said Guilarte in his address ahead of the rally.
Demonstrators carried Cuban flags and banners in support of the revolution and its leaders, as well as symbols for the different economic sectors.
These celebrations in the Caribbean island for the International Workers' Day also attracted the participation of 1600 representatives from 68 countries and 209 union and solidarity organizations, as informed by the local authorities.
Workers from different sectors participated in the annual parade, including the budding private sector in the island, waving flags and banners with photos of the Cuban head of state and its former leader, Fidel Castro.
"May Day in Cuba is a celebration of the rights we have as state workers and a moment to reaffirm our support for the nation's leadership and the reforms President Raul Castro has undertaken," Sonia Garcia, a public workers, told Xinhua.
"We came here to support the revolution and our rights as workers. This is the true essence of our nationality and a symbol that defines us as a nation," said Otto Gonzalez, a college student.
For older Cubans, taking part in the rally is an expression of commitment and solidarity with the Castro administration that seeks to change its economic model without renouncing its socialist principles.
"I have been coming for over 40 years to this square and today we ratify our support to the government and our working class in this reform process," said Lidia Navarro, a retired teacher.
Representatives of trade unions from 68 countries were also invited to the festivities and seemed impressed by the enormous demonstration.
"Cuba continues to be the light that guides progressive governments in Latin America. Coming here today is very emotional as we can see how social justice and inclusion has led millions of workers in this country to have rights," said Ricardo Alvarez, a union leader from Argentina.