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Opinion and Analysis: International | Politics

Castro Calls Chavez on Aló Presidente

Chavez: Let's see who is calling from Havana. Bring me some coffee please.

Castro: Hello. Hello. Do you hear me?

Chavez: Who is calling?

Castro: Can you hear me?

Chavez: I hear you.

Castro: Distinguished and dear friend, how are you?

Chavez: [Words inaudible]

Castro: I am listening to you on Hello President. All the figures you have cited, I find your argument very good regarding the growth of the GDP, over the drop in unemployment. Many interesting things.

Chavez: How are you?

Castro: Go ahead, go ahead. Ask me.

Chavez: [In English] How are you?

Castro: [In English] Pretty well. [Laughter]

Chavez: You have no idea how happy it makes us to hear your voice and to know you are well.

Castro: Thank you.

Chavez: We are surprised. We are pleasantly surprised. We were, as almost always, talking about you a while ago. Now, you know that.

Castro: I always knew I would end up on Hello President.

Chavez: Now we broadcast daily.

Castro: No. [Words inaudible. Laughter] I am studying a lot, above all.

Chavez: What are you studying?

Castro: I see that you do not let go of the books. When do you sleep?

Chavez: I sleep a little in the early morning. I sleep some. I study a lot. That is one of the responsibilities of every revolutionary. We follow your example. I am now reading -

Castro: [Interrupting] Yes. You have been reading for a long while. You have great talent to keep it all in, to remember everything. The only thing you sometimes forget is figures.

Chavez: I forget numbers but not that much.

Castro: However, you have them all bookmarked and never miss one. It is not easy to keep up with you.

Chavez: Do you know how many hectares of corn are needed to produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: To do what?

Chavez: To produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: Ethanol. I believe you told me about that the other day. Somewhere around 20 million hectares.

Chavez:[Laughing] Just like that.

Castro: Go ahead, remind me.

Chavez: Indeed, 20 million. You are the one with an exceptional mind, not me.

Castro: Twenty million. Well, of course. The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today.

I am happy to know that you have taken up the flag to save the species because... there are new problems, very difficult problems and therefore to see someone become a great preacher of the cause, a champion of the cause, an advocate of the life of the species. For that, I congratulate you. Continue fighting [words inaudible] to educate the people so they can understand.

There are things that I read and review every day. I am very aware of the threat of war, environmental threats and food threats. We have to remember that there are billions of people famished. These are realities, and for the first time in history, the governments are getting involved. Governments that are able and have the moral authority to do it, and you are one of those rare examples...

Forgive me for extending myself. I have stolen half of your show.

Chavez: No. Not extensive at all. It is 1949. We were remembering you today. As you know, today is 27 February. One of the reasons of the Caracazo is that when you came that time, you left here hundreds of agitators that set the flats on fire, as we say. We were analysing the causes including the topics of the foreign debt, Black Friday, the plundering of the country, the flight of capital, privatisation, inflation accompanied by a horrible recession, unemployment, the collapse of the middle class. Well, as Einstein said, we were reading it a while ago, I do not know if you heard it, when he reflects on socialism and concludes that capitalism generates chaos.

So, Fidel, we were remembering you in connection with the Caracazo [violent looting and disturbances in Caracas on 27 February 1989]. I was thinking that in those days I saw you from afar and I wanted to get close to greet you, but I could not, but we were already involved in the revolutionary movement. I wanted to tell the world I thought this Hello President programme, now that I am listening and talking to you, what an honour. Well, that day, the entire people rose against neo-liberalism. Fidel, as you know, the Caracazo was the first overwhelming and worldwide response to the neo-liberal plan as the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall were falling, and the onset of the end of history.

And 4 February stems from the Caracazo. You know that one does not make sense without the other. Then came this whole path, our revolution in which Cuba has always and will always be present, Cuba with you at the helm. There is so much to thank Cuba for. Without Cuba, the energy revolution would have been impossible. Now, we will continue to move forward with you...

Castro: I think it is all wonderful... Venezuela has a territory of nearly one million square kilometres. We are just a nut shell that the Gulf current pushed too close to our friends to the north. [Chuckles]

Chavez: [In English] Our friends Fidel, listen.

Castro: Well, you say that I know English. I did at one time.

Chavez: Did you forget it?

Castro: The trauma afterwards has made me forget it. This is why I no longer have that excellent memory you have, the capacity to summarise or your musical ear, your talent to remember songs. I cannot believe that you have partied so much as to remember all those songs.

Chavez: I never partied as much as you.

Castro: I envy you that.

Chavez: Not as much as you. Not as much as you.

Castro: I am talking about the essence of ideas. You have the right words. I have noticed that the [word inaudible] the exact words. In the end, you will be one of the greatest writers in this hemisphere. Do not worry, writers have increasingly more power with time.

Chavez: Can I ask you something?

Castro: Yes.

Chavez: What do you think of the latest news to have reached us? That 67% of Americans disapprove of Bush's policy in Iraq. You know that we are preparing to welcome Bush in South America?

Castro: Ah, you are going to welcome him. Yes, I have heard something. That there will be mass organisations all in a very peaceful and respectful spirit, but I bet that you do not know about two big news today.

Chavez: Tell me.

Castro: For example, the Shanghai Stock Market fell 9% today and the New York Stock Exchange, the queen of all stock markets, fell 4%. It is one of the greatest drops in recent years and that really proves our ideas.

Chavez: Well, those news -

Castro: [Interrupting] They lost there $800bn (£409bn). It is the queen of the stock exchanges. The fall was greater than during the South East Asia crisis. So, I do not know what will affect US leaders or whoever leads the US by Moto Propio, if the news of what happened there or his tour of South America.

Chavez: Yes. No. I tell you. I did not know the news of the fall of the Shanghai or New York markets. However yesterday, you should already know because you know everything, the [International] Monetary Fund is in a crisis. I said yesterday and today that they may have to ask [for] a loan from the Bank of the South. The Monetary Fund does not have funds to pay wages. They are selling their gold bars.

Castro: Yes. They are selling gold because that is the only thing worth anything today. What they should be selling is paper. Paper for the US to pay, or sell something. Well, the Bank of the South is a serious bank. It aspires to be a serious bank.

Chavez: It will be a serious bank.

Castro: The International Monetary Fund was never so, the crisis proves it. This happens three or more days before the fall of the stock exchange.

Chavez: It is the same crisis, as you already know, the crisis of the world economy, the capitalist system. Well, the alternative at the national level. Each one has its own model. We have socialism there in Cuba and here in Venezuela. [Words inaudible] at the international level, we have the Alba [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas]. As you know, we are moving forward quickly.

Well, everyone asks for you. Yesterday I was in Martinique, pardon, in Dominica. We went by Martinique. We were in Dominica and Saint Vincent. The prime ministers sent their greetings...

Everyone asks about you and I tell them what I know about your recovery, of your new Sierra Maestra [Cuban mountain range which Castro used as a base for starting revolution], of that struggle you are waging and in which we accompany you every day. Praying to God, whom as you said is helping Chavez and his friends, to continue helping you in your recovery. All of us. We are millions, as you know, in the world that want to see you again fully recovered as I am sure will be...

You are an example of resistance and now of offensive, Fidel. I do not want to let go of the opportunity of your surprising phone call that so encourages us and makes us happy to continue reminding our people of the courage of Revolutionary Cuba and your courage, your courage, your conscience. We were remembering that you were here in 1959 when the so-called democracy experience here, which failed miserably, was beginning. That failure led to the Caracazo and that to 4 February, and from there to what is happening here today. But you, Cuba and its example of dignity, of battle, courage and its infinite solidarity has always and will always be with us as an example.

Castro: Hugo, I wanted to tell you that I met the head of your delegation and we were talking when the news from over there arrived. So I am very happy. I will see if I can talk to him personally or some of the other figures later on. They are working a lot with great enthusiasm. Taking advantage of the short time we have left. Time cannot be overlooked. In my opinion, we have limited time.

Chavez: As you know -

Castro: [Interrupting] We are increasingly more aware of that. I thank you very much for your greetings, for your thoughts. Overall, I remembered to give you back the microphone because if I do not, I get going like you. I could not compete, but I can imitate you a bit. I also want to thank you for the greetings from the people of Venezuela, such heroic people that have undertaken the responsibilities that it has now.

History is being rewritten. Two hundred years ago everything was very different. The world has changed so much, especially in the last 70 years, that is the time we must take advantage of and over which we have to meditate a lot. I set time for that. I feel good because there is nothing more important...

I cannot promise you that I will visit you soon and accompany you one of these days, but I am gaining ground. I feel more energetic, stronger and I have more time to study. I have become a student all over again.

Chavez: Morals and Lights.

Castro: Morals and Lights. Those two words are stuck in my head. I do not forget that. This is the first time I see someone trying to win that moral battle on a foundation of winning the hearts and minds of the people. I do not know if you still have more time, but you were supposed to talk to Ramirez.

Chavez: No, I can talk to Ramirez tomorrow.

Castro: He is saying: what do I do?

Chavez: I can talk to Ramirez tomorrow. We are happily listening to you and we are happy to hear you and to hear about your recovery. Continue to recover. Do not forget about the tsunami.

Castro: No. No.

Chavez: Go ahead.

Castro: I almost forgot one thing. Everyone thanks you for relaying news about me. I speak and then silence. Total silence. I cannot be talking every day. They have to break the habit, the vice of having news every day. I appeal for patience and calm from everyone. I am happy. Everything is quiet. The country is marching along, which is what matters. I also ask for tranquillity for me so that I can fulfil my new tasks nowadays.

Chavez: Yes, Fidel. I have become, well, you have turned me into an emissary, a source. Anyone who wants to know how Fidel is doing, can come here, can call me, can talk to me. I always give them - Well, I tell them the truth about what is happening. Your recovery, your example, your perseverance. You have said that you cannot accompany me here soon on a trip, but it is not necessary because you are always here with us. I hope to return to Havana soon so we can continue talking, working, and gaining ground as you have said... Do you know how many people listen to the first hour of the programme? Forty per cent. As you know, the audience of Hello President is huge. Let's gain ground. We will win the battle for life. We will win that battle. Thank you for your call.

Castro: A million thanks.

Chavez: Let's give Fidel a round of applause. [Applause] A hug. Comrade, companion, and you know, I do not have any qualms about calling you father in front of the world. Onward to victory.

Castro: Onward to victory.

Chavez: We will prevail.

Castro: We will prevail. [Applause]

Source: BBC