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Cuba gears up for May Day parade with Castro's attendance uncertain

Cuba gears up for May Day parade with Castro's attendance uncertain

Communist Cuba called out hundreds of thousands of workers for its traditional May Day march Tuesday, but it was uncertain if recovering leader Fidel Castro would join them.
The 80-year-old revolutionary for decades has attended the annual International Workers' Day march, but Cuban officials have refused to speculate on whether he would use this year's event to make his first public appearance since undergoing intestinal surgery nine months ago.
There was no word on Cuban state television's nightly newscast.
"I can neither confirm nor deny," National Assembly President Alarcon told reporters who asked him Monday if Castro would show up for the parade. "I don't have the slightest idea."
On Sunday, one Castro's main allies, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said the Cuban leader is once again "in charge" but declined to comment on statements by Bolivia's leftist leader that Castro could appear in public on May 1.
In the hours before the event, Castro himself gave no hint whatsoever whether he would make a May Day appearance when he issued the latest in a new series of communiques he has been writing in recent weeks.
Castro called for a revolution in energy production in his latest message and reiterated his opposition to U.S. plans to use food crops to produce ethanol for cars, predicting that American fuel needs would be provided with the labor of the world's impoverished sugar cane workers.
"Tomorrow the 1st of May is a good day to carry these reflections to the workers and all of the poor people of the world," Castro wrote in the communique dated Monday evening.
Cuba loyalists hoped to see the bearded visage of their maximum leader on Tuesday morning on a wooden platform on the broad Plaza of the Revolution, decorated for the event with huge banners bearing portraits of the island's communist heroes.
"I pray that he appears," retiree Manuel Otero said. "It would be satisfying to know that he has overcome (his illness) and is with us in the struggle."
But the urgent need by many to see the man who ruled this country for 47 straight years seems to have faded in recent months as life has continued normally under the leadership of Castro's younger brother Raul, the defense minister.
Occasional government photographs and videos of the elder Castro have assured Cubans he is still alive and recovering, appearing stronger and more robust in the most recent images.
Smaller marches will be held simultaneously in other cities around the island, with the government expecting several million of the nation's 11 million people to participate.
Those gathered also will protest the recent decision to free on bond anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles, pending his trial on U.S. immigration charges. Havana accuses the Cuban-born Posada of orchestrating a 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people _ a charge he denies.
Castro has not appeared in public in the nine months since he announced he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and temporarily ceded his duties to his 75-year-old brother.
He met separately in recent weeks with Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a top Chinese Communist Party leader, and has penned four editorials, including the one issued Monday evening.


Updated : 2021-06-14 10:50 GMT+08:00