Photo: Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro said Monday that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was “the best friend” the Cuban people have ever had.
“On March 5, in the afternoon hours, the best friend the Cuban people have had in their history died,” the 86-year-old former head of state said in his first public reaction after Chavez’s death.
“Not even he himself suspected how great he was,” said Castro of the man who was Cuba’s main ally so far in the 21st century.
In a column entitled “We are losing our best friend” that appeared in Gramna, the Communist Party newspaper, the leader of the Cuban Revolution wrote that the “bitter” news of Chavez’s death was a heavy blow despite the fact that he knew the critical state of his health.
“I recalled the times he joked with me saying that when we had both finished our revolutionary work, he would invite me to spend some time along the Arauca River in Venezuelan territory, which reminded him of the rest he never had,” Castro said.
He also emphasized that he had the “honor of having shared with the Bolivarian leader the same ideals of social justice and support for the exploited.”
Chavez, 58, died of a massive heart attack after battling cancer for 21 months. He underwent four operations in Cuba, as well as courses of chemotherapy and radiation.
Besides being the main economic partner for the island over the past decade, Chavez maintained a close and very friendly relationship with Fidel Castro, whom he always considered to be his political mentor.
Castro has been retired since July 2006, when a serious illness forced him to delegate power to younger brother Raul, who assumed the presidency outright in February 2008.