Hugo Chavez's memory takes leading May Day role in Cuba

Havana, May 1 (EFE).- The memory of Hugo Chavez took the leading role in this year's May Day celebration in Cuba, where pictures of - and praise devoted to - the late Venezuelan president were much in evidence at the regular huge parades held across the Communist-ruled island.

Chavez's face appeared on many of the posters and signs carried by Cubans to celebrate International Workers Day.

President Raul Castro presided over the main May Day event at Havana's emblematic Plaza de la Revolucion, where the only speaker was the head of Cuba's sole legal labor union, the CTC.

Salvador Valdes began his remarks by recalling the Venezuelan leader who died March 5 after a nearly two-year battle with cancer.

"On International Workers Day we pay special tribute to unforgettable commander Hugo Chavez Frias and we express the deepest affection and admiration for that giant," Valdes said.

The CTC leader also emphasized solidarity with Venezuela's new president, Nicolas Maduro, and expressed Cuba's determination to continue proceeding together with Caracas "on the road to the true and definitive integration of our peoples."

Maduro and Raul Castro last week ratified the strategic alliance their predecessors - Chavez and Fidel Castro - forged beginning in 2000 when they signed an agreement that converted the oil-rich South American country into the island's main political and economic ally.

Chavez and his petroleum provided salvation for Cuba in the wake of the harsh privations that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of generous subsidies from Moscow.

Caracas supplies Cuba with 100,000 barrels of oil per day, and the island reimburses Venezuela in part with the services of some 32,000 Cuban doctors who are deployed around the South American country.

On this day, authorities here also emphasized the "strategic economic battle" that Cuba must fight to overcome its acute crisis as encompassed in the economic reform plan pushed by Raul Castro to increase productivity and efficiency.