The Miami Herald
October 15, 2007
A phone chat between Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was broadcast live in Cuba, and Castro also was seen in a video recorded a day earlier
For the first time since falling ill last year, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was heard live on television and radio Sunday.
The occasion was a telephone conversation, lasting more than an hour, with his friend and ally Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, Chávez broadcast his regular Sunday radio and television show Hello President from the Che memorial complex in Santa Clara, Cuba. Cuban radio and television also transmitted the program.
In addition to the live phone conversation between Chávez and Castro, the program featured a 17-minute video, recorded the day before, of part of what was said to have been a lengthy meeting between the two leaders, in which they discussed Che's legacy.
Looking pale, thin and shaky -- but not significantly different from his last video appearance on Cuban television three weeks ago -- Castro left most of the talking to Chávez. But he was upbeat about the prospects for the world revolution they both espouse.
''The circumstances are more propitious than ever,'' Castro affirmed, ``for all those ideas -- and that revolution that Che spoke of -- to blossom.''
In the video and in the subsequent phone call, Castro agreed with Chávez that Guevara's call for the creation of ''two, three, many Vietnams'' in Latin America had been answered, even though the tactics were now different.
''The world is full of Vietnams,'' Castro said, ``in the face of a tyrannical power that is exercised over the planet.''
And he warned that the world was, ''very close -- very, very, very close'' to a nuclear war.
Chávez suggested that, for instance, ''Bolivia today is a Vietnam'' -- a remark that could embarrass his ally Evo Morales.
Former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga, who is visiting Venezuela, yesterday accused Chávez of fomenting ''upheaval'' in his country and called Morales a ''puppet'' of the Venezuelan leader.
Chávez assured the audience that Castro had now ''recovered'' from his illness, but admitted that he did not expect to see him again outside Cuba.
He treated the Cuban leader with a mixture of gentle humor and semi-religious reverence, intoning at one point a revolutionary version of the beginning of The Lord's Prayer: ``Father Fidel, our father who is, and always will be, in the earth, the sky and the waters.''
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Ramiro Valdés, information minister and a veteran of the revolutionary war, were guests on the program.
Conspicuous by his absence, however, was Raúl Castro, who has been running the government since his brother fell ill last year. Although his name was mentioned in passing, there was no evident warmth on the part of Chávez -- a fact that seems bound to reinforce the widely held view that the two men are not close.
The Associated Press reported that during the program, which ended after more than five hours, Chávez warned Morales' opponents that Venezuelans ''will not stand by with our arms crossed'' if someone tries to assassinate him.
''They had better be careful,'' The AP quoted Chávez as saying, adding that Chávez also said Venezuela and Cuba share ''just one government'' and that ``we joined ourselves together so that we will never be separated again.''