Monday, April 30, 2007

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

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: April 30, 2007

HAVANA: Communist Cuba geared up Monday for its traditional May Day march featuring hundreds of thousands of workers, but an appearance by recovering leader Fidel Castro at the event was uncertain.

The 80-year-old Castro for decades has attended the annual May Day march, but there was no official word whether the leader would be well enough to make it on Tuesday.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma declared that marchers at the Tuesday event in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution will be "united and strong with the revolution and the party, with Fidel and Raul" Castro.

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.

Marchers 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 announcing he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and temporarily ceded his functions to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister.

The elder Castro has appeared only occasionally in government photographs and videos, appearing stronger and more robust in more recent images.

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 three editorials.

Cuban officials have given increasingly upbeat reports about Castro's health, but have declined to speculate about whether he will appear Tuesday.

Some Castro loyalists remained hopeful.

"I pray that he appears," said retiree Manuel Otero. "It would be satisfying to know that he has overcome (his illness) and is with us in the struggle."

"The whole world misses him," said public works employee Rose Elena Perez.

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