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Castro mourns fallen 'comandante'

Cuba’s leader had deep father-son bond with Chavez, and the loss will be more than he can endure.
Last modified: 8 Mar 2013 23:50

As I watched late President Hugo Chavez's funeral, attended by  high-level delegations from at least 50 nations, including more than 30 heads of state, I could not help thinking about another Latin American revolutionary whose age and frail health kept him away.

Chavez's death has devastated millions of compatriots who idolised him, and, of course, his  family.

Outside of Venezuela, however, no one is probably suffering his death more than another "comandante" – Cuba's Fidel Castro.

I lived and worked in Cuba for nine years and, during that time, had the opportunity to observe the relationship between Chavez and the founder of the Cuban revolution.

Chavez told me once that Fidel, as he is normally referred to, was the only one who recognised his potential after he was released from prison after leading a botched military coup in 1992 against Venezuela’s president.

Beyond mutual admiration

Castro inspired Chavez like no other living person [Chavez's other hero was national liberation hero Simon Bolivar].

By the time Chavez was elected president, the relationship had grown well beyond mutual admiration.

I remember their body language, and the way that Castro looked at Chavez, with profound affection, not afraid to lower his guard  and lean on his  much younger and stronger ally.

The affection was mutual.

The Venezuelan was the political heir that Castro  had always longed for.

It was Chavez who would finally spread the ageing leader's revolution throughout the Americas, and do so with an advantage that Castro had never had: billions of dollars of oil wealth.

The complicity between the leaders was obvious to all.

Political alliance

The Castro-Chavez political alliance is well known.

Cuba received oil and other economic aid from Venezuela in exchange for doctors, teachers and  ideological training of Venezuelan "social workers".

It was Castro who convinced Chavez to resist when he was briefly  overthrown in 2002.

And when Castro fell gravely in in 2006, and was forced to give up the power to his brother, he thought that at least he had Chavez to carry on his Socialist ideals.

Castro has outlived  every US administration since 1959. He has outlasted staunch enemies, including Jorge Mas Canosa, the much younger founder of the Cuban American National Foundation , and survived countless assassination attempts.

But those of us who were able to observe  the close father-son bond that 85-year-old Castro had with Chavez can only wonder whether the premature death of his protégé could be the one blow he will not be able to endure.