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May Day marches highlight workers

Mon., May 2, 2005

HAVANA – Cuban President Fidel Castro, leader of one of the world’s last communist regimes, commemorated May Day on Sunday by demanding the United States expel a Cuban-born militant accused of blowing up a civilian jetliner. Elsewhere in the world, millions of workers staged largely peaceful rallies to press for better conditions or protest government policies.

But in Moscow, celebrations of the international workers’ holiday turned violent when radical activists from the National Bolshevik Party and the Red Youth Avant-Garde political group clashed with riot police after several activists were detained.

In Zimbabwe, despite earlier fears of a ban on May Day gatherings, the southern African country’s umbrella group of trade unions held 17 rallies to celebrate the workers’ day holiday with no police interference.

China used the day to single out thousands of laborers and a few athletes for recognition, dubbing them ‘model workers,’ while the weeklong labor day holiday started with visits to squares and parks for recreation.

Up to 5,000 Bangladeshis demanded the country’s first minimum wage – $50 a month. The nation has 1.8 million workers in 2,500 garment factories.

Thousands of Russian communists rallied in Moscow as tens of thousands of labor union workers and opposition activists denounced social reforms that replaced subsidized medicines, utilities and transport with cash payments.

More than 500,000 Germans staged rallies, with many accusing executives of increasing earnings while squeezing workers’ wages and slashing jobs.

In France, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen urged his countrymen to reject the European Union constitution in a May 29 referendum.


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