(AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Prensa Latina)
Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro failed to appear at Tuesday’s May Day celebrations in Havana while the traditional workers’ holiday saw police and protesters clash in Turkey, Macau and the Czech Republic. Elsewhere workers took to the streets to demand better pay and conditions. Speculation had been rife that veteran leader Castro would resurface, with expectations heightened by the publication earlier in the day of a new press article bearing Castro’s name.
Interim president Raul Castro again took his brother’s place and presided over the country’s biggest parade on Revolution Square in Havana.
Castro, who delegated powers to his sibling nine months ago in order to recover from stomach surgery, has not appeared in public since July 26. Information on his health remains a state secret.
(AP Photo/Jose Tito Merino/Prensa Latina)
Meanwhile, violence marred the day in Turkey, Macau and the Czech Republic.
More than 550 people were arrested in demonstrations organized by trade unions in Istanbul after authorities refused permission for a protest at a site of where 34 people were killed on May Day 1977.
The city was brought to a halt, with authorities cancelling all ferries, trains and municipal bus services in a bid to stop people from joining to the protests.
In the Aegean Sea port city of Izmir, at least 50 people were arrested.
Police in the Chinese territory of Macau fired warning shots and used pepper spray on protesters as a May Day demonstration descended into a violent confrontation.
More than 100 police in full riot gear grappled with a group of aggressive protesters among about 3,000 demonstrators before four to five warning shots were fired into the air by police.
Labour groups have become increasingly militant in Macau in recent years, claiming the government is not doing enough to stop official corruption and an influx of migrant workers from China.
With teargas and bats, Czech police in the Moravian city of Brno broke up one of the biggest neo-Nazi rallies in the country so far, Czech news agency CTK reported.
Some 600 people had gathered for what was an authorized May Day event, but Brno authorities banned the gathering after unconstitutional symbols had been displayed, reports said.
When right-wing radicals began to throw stones and bottles, police broke up the crowd by force.
Meanwhile in Prague, a number of people were arrested during brawls between members of right and left-wing groups on the fringes of a May Day rally, reports said.
More peaceful demonstrations took place in Russia, Germany and Indonesia.
Addressing around 25,000 people at a rally in Moscow, Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia President Mikhail Shmakov demanded that minimum wages be adjusted to match the cost of living.
He said the minimum monthly wages for urban workers in Moscow, one of the most expensive cities worldwide, should be raised to 6,100 rubles (238 dollars) this year.
Human rights activist Lew Ponomaryov, at an authorized protest by the opposition in the city centre, meanwhile, demanded action against police for the manner in which they handled demonstrators in mid- April. Special police units used brutal force to dissolve unauthorized protest marches in Moscow and St Petersburg.
In many regions throughout Russia and in former Soviet republics, trade unions and parties held May Day demonstrations on Tuesday.
Trade unionists called for the implementation of a a minimum wage and for more just distribution of income at rallies throughout Germany.
Speaking at the main trade union rally of the day, Michael Sommer, chairman of the umbrella DGB labour federation, demanded a legally binding minimum wage of 7.50 euros (10 dollars) an hour.
Millions in Germany were working for “starvation wages,” Sommer told trade unionists in the Ruhr town of Gelsenkirchen.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, some 18,000 police officers were deployed to monitor thousands of protesters employed at industrial estates who marched through the city centre, said Jakarta city police spokesman I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana.
Security forces were on heightened alert because of rioting and vandalism that broke out in Jakarta during May Day rallies one year ago.
Around 5,000 workers marched to the parliament building. Heavy traffic jams were reported on Jakarta’s main thoroughfares but there were no reports of violence.
Workers also rallied in more than a dozen provincial capitals across Java, in South Sulawesi, North Sumatra and Lombok Island.
Hong Kong was shrouded in smog Tuesday as heavy pollution blighted one of the biggest holidays of the year in the former British colony.
Pollution levels climbed to 135 in some parts of the city on a scale of zero to 200, levels considered “very high” and during which people with heart or respiratory problems are advised to avoid strenuous exercise.
Greek state carrier Olympic Airlines canceled dozens of flights after transport workers across Greece called a 24-hour May Day strike.
The airline said 42 domestic and international flights had been canceled, including scheduled flights to Germany, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, France and Britain.
Other transport services including the suburban railway were also expected to be disrupted for 24 hours, while workers at trolley, bus and metro services called rolling work stoppages.
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