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Castro sits out this May Day

Published May 2, 2007


HAVANA - There was no sign of a convalescing Fidel Castro as hundreds of thousands of Cubans marched through Havana's Revolution Plaza to celebrate May Day, casting new doubts on his recovery and whether he will return to power.

Tuesday marked only the third time in nearly five decades that Castro has missed the sweeping International Workers' Day festivities - a major celebration here and around the world.

While recent images of Castro meeting with Chinese leaders indicated he had improved considerably since undergoing emergency surgery nine months ago, his absence at the parade through the Revolution Plaza raised questions about whether he is strong enough to run the country.

The 80-year-old leader announced his illness on July 31 and temporarily ceded power to his 75-year-old brother Raul Castro, the defense minister.

"It now seems more unlikely than before that he will fully resume the presidency, " said Wayne Smith, the former head of the American mission in Havana. "And the more time that passes, the more unlikely it seems."

Although Cuban life is little changed under Raul's leadership, loyalists missed the energy Fidel brought to events such as May Day.

"Everyone wanted to see him, but it's good that he recovers completely. Now the revolution is continuing with Raul, " said 68-year-old hotel worker Victor Reyes.

Russia: Hundreds of thousands of Russians took to the streets as an array of political forces held marches and rallies. The largest gathering was a progovernment rally in Moscow, estimated by police at 20, 000.

Germany: Germans demonstrated against right-wing extremism throughout the country. Most protests were peaceful, but violence broke out in several places.

Pakistan: Workers demanded better wages, education and health facilities. A local government leader in Karachi insisted at a rally of 2, 000 that the government had a good record on worker's rights.

Philippines: Riot police blocked thousands of protesters who tried to march toward President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's residence to demand higher wages and her removal from office. About 5, 000 leftists massed in Manila.

Zimbabwe: Police banned union-organized celebrations in three key towns. The state was accused of intimidating organizers in some districts. The ban did not affect smaller government-backed labor groups that held rallies.

[Last modified May 2, 2007, 01:55:35]

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