“Today we are living the jost promising and encouraging time in our history. This is the fruit of the Cuban people’s stoicism: their faith in the revolution and their confidence in the commander in chief, present even in the jost critical moments,” said Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage at the closing of a week long tribute to Fidel Castro for his 80th birthday.

The ceremony, held at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana on Friday afternoon, was part of activities organized by the Guayasamin Foundation of Ecuador. It was presided by First Vice President Raul Castro and was broadcast live on national and international television and radio.

Carlos Lage assured that when the day comes that Fidel is no longer with us, his life’s work, ideas and example will be ever present. “We know that such a commitment is the best present that those of us that admire and love him can give him today. In Cuba there won’t be succession, their will be continuity.”

Lage said there will not be another Fidel and that nobody will try to imitate him. “Many of us will follow him. There won’t be ambitions, egotism or vanity. We will not allow that; we have a party. I’m not talking about today, but about the future. Fidel is recovering; we will have him among us. He will continue leading us, we ask him to do so for several more years.”

When speaking of the health of the Cuban leader, Lage said that not even in the darkest moments was there a break in his voice, or a minute when he stopped thinking about his people. “He is up to date on everything, he keeps informed, approves and helps; he said he is like the Granma [yacht], plowing the seas. That’s how he travels through history; impetuous, unstoppable, and victorious.”

“We still don’t fully comprehend that before in Cuba, and in many parts of the world today, a person can go blind because of a curable disease. We don’t understand that here because 80 years ago on August 13, Fidel was born; the Cuban people have been able to rely on his talent, honesty, intelligence and optimism to advance despite the US blockade.”

Lage thanked all those present for their solidarity. “We are committed to continue the work, to strengthen socialism and to maintain the struggle for all justice.”

He said the Guayasamin family had given Fidel the embrace that Oswaldo would have given Fidel on his birthday.

Bolivian President Evo Morales was among the guests who spoke at the tribute to Fidel. He called the Cuban leader “a wise man, a friend, a brother and a permanent comrade in the struggle against imperialism.” He said his conversations with Fidel had been a school for him and added, “For my people he is a symbol in defense of humanity.”

Morales noted that both Fidel and Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, have helped him consolidate his presidency and govern. He referred to the nationalization of his country’s hydrocarbon resources and said legal tools now exist to end large landholdings. He also expressed the gratitude of Bolivians who thought they would forever be blind but will now see again and of those who are now studying thanks to the collaboration of Cuba, via the Operation Miracle eye-surgery program and the literacy campaign.

“Today, there is not just one country and one comandante fighting against imperialism “"we are more. Cuba and Fidel have taught Latin America and the world how to govern with dignity and sovereignty. There will be many Fidels. We have Venezuela, Cuba, and why not say, Ecuador and Nicaragua; and I believe we must advance towards Africa and form a great alliance with the Middle East to end imperialism,” added the Bolivian president.

Nicaraguan President-elect Daniel Ortega called Fidel Castro a source of inspiration for Sandinistas. “Like Marti, you are the teacher of a generation that struggles and will continue to fight using your example and ideals.”

Ortega said that both during happy and bitter moments the friendly hand of the Cuban people and Fidel have always been present. “This makes us more sensitive, human and steadfast to defend the noblest causes of humanity. Fidel, I bring you the victory of the Sandinista Front as a birthday present.”

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said he had come to the festivities with an embrace of love and solidarity from the Venezuelan people and President Hugo Chavez. He said Venezuela is an example of the immense love and solidarity shown by Cuba and Fidel and that the social programs applied in the South American nation are the “beautiful synthesis of the accomplishments of the Cuban revolution and 21st century socialism.”

Maduro said the battles fought by his country over the last eight years and the presidential elections to take place on Sunday will be “marked by the solidarity and example of the Fidel of 80 years and the Fidel of all times.”

Rene Preval, president of Haiti, wished good health to the Cuban leader whom he called an extraordinary combatant and friend. He went on to thank Fidel for the Cuban doctors working in Haiti and for aljost one thousand Haitian students studying in Cuba. “They are the vanguard for social, economic and political transformation in Haiti,” said Preval.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, put the Cuban president in a select group of exemplary leaders of the likes of Lenin, Mao, and Gandhi. He said Fidel assumed the conviction of Marti that ideas are armies of the mind that in time will triumph.

“I see him as a father figure. He once told me that I was like a son to him,” said Gonsalves. The prime minister went on to highlight the ties of friendship and internationalism that unite the two Caribbean nations. “Fidel allows us to see light before the dawn; we love him and will have him among us for a long time.”

Alfredo Vera, speaking on behalf of the Guayasamin Foundation that organized the tribute to Fidel, praised the success of the event. He also mentioned the numerous messages received from friends who were unable to attend including Federico Mayor Zaragoza, president of the Culture of Peace Foundation; social promoter Danielle Mitterrand; and Nobel Laureates Rigoberta Menchu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

Also on the program was Ignacio Ramonet’s presentation of the third edition of the book 100 Hours with Fidel.

Editor Pedro Alvarez Tabio said the book is the best way to issue a denial to those announcing the annihilation of Fidel. “With this edition, and the hard work that he put into it, Fidel offers us concrete testimonies of his willpower, tenacity, sense of responsibility as well as his physical, intellectual and spiritual capacity to continue being useful to his people and humanity.”