Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s visit to Cuba Oct. 13-15 was distinguished by poetic homage to revolutionary Latin American heroes and by practical agreements aimed at strengthening both the Venezuelan-Cuban alliance and regional economic independence.
The visit roughly coincided with worldwide observances of the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara’s capture and murder by CIA-assisted Bolivian soldiers in October 1967. Chavez broadcast his weekly television program from the memorial and museum complex in Santa Clara dedicated to Cuba’s internationalist hero. The day before he talked for four hours with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The program included another long conversation with Castro and lengthy exchanges with Che’s surviving family members and comrades.
In his conversation with Castro, Chavez noted that Che had thought about joining guerrilla struggles in Venezuela against the U.S.-backed regime during that period. He also recalled Castro’s 1991 prediction that “In just a few years the revolutionary forces will arise in Latin America again [and that] Bolívar’s great homeland will play a decisive role.”
Castro replied: “We are seeing Che’s prophecy come true in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. There is an ever-increasing awakening of peoples’ consciousness in Latin America. This is part of the Bolivarian idea of regional brotherhood.”
Affirming Cuba’s commitment to the Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, Castro quoted Jose Marti, the Cuban national hero: “Should Venezuela command me to do anything, she will find a son in me.”
Chavez extolled Castro as a “sower of awareness [and] the father of all revolutionaries in this continent.” He emphasized, “We have a commitment to sow again and to harvest in order to save humanity. Only socialism can save humanity.”
In Havana, on Oct. 15, Chavez and acting Cuban President Raul Castro signed 21 economic agreements, including the creation of joint ventures to build cement factories, develop commercial fishing, conduct petrochemical research, and exploit nickel and oil deposits. They also signed agreements to expand telecommunication capabilities, including Cuba’s Internet service, and to build a tourist hotel.
At the signing ceremony, Raul Castro said ties between Cuba and Venezuela have grown within the context of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), initiated by Cuba and Venezuela in 2001 and since joined by Nicaragua and Bolivia.
Raul Castro noted that the founding document declared, “Commerce and investment must not be ends in themselves, but instruments for achieving a just and sustainable development, since true Latin American integration can not be the blind creature of the market.”
The day before, Chavez had journeyed to Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s southern shore, to inaugurate a refinery and industrial complex being built by a Venezuelan-Cuban joint venture. He congratulated workers for nearly completing the Camilo Cienfuegos Refinery with its anticipated daily capacity of 65,000 barrels of crude oil.
Chavez pointed to the area’s refinery, petrochemical complex, and re-gasification plant (with Venezuela supplying the liquid natural gas) as examples of ALBA in action, adding, “The union of Cuba and Venezuela is demonstrating how to make a regional power.”
Manufacturing plans at the complex include the production of oil by-products, plastic goods, fertilizer, cosmetics and cleaning materials.