Hugo Chávez — Who is speaking?
Fidel Castro — Listen.
Hugo Chávez — I’m listening.
Fidel Castro — My illustrious and dear friend, how are you?
Hugo Chávez — Caramba, it’s Fidel! (Applause and exclamations of: “Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!”)
Fidel Castro — So, I am listening to you here on “Aló, Presidente, and all of the information that you’ve used in the last few minutes. I think your line of argument is very good on growth, the GDP, the decline in unemployment, many interesting things.
Hugo Chávez — [In English] How are you, Fidel?
Fidel Castro — [In English] Very well (Laughter).
Hugo Chávez — So, you have no idea how happy I am to hear your voice and to know that you are well.
Fidel Castro — Thank you very much.
Hugo Chávez — Here’s a hug. We are very surprised, pleasantly surprised, and we were talking about you — like we aljost always do — a little while ago.
Fidel Castro — I knew that I would end up on “Aló, Presidente.”
Hugo Chávez — Now it’s on every day.
Fidel Castro — No, no; don’t make me do that, I have hard work to do here (Laughter), studying a lot, above all; but I see that you are not letting go of your books. What time do you go to bed?
Hugo Chávez — Well, I sleep for a little while in the early morning.
Fidel Castro — A little while.
Hugo Chávez — I sleep for a little while. I’m studying a lot; it is one of the tasks of a revolutionary, and we are following your example.
Fidel Castro — Yes, and you have been reading for a long time, and you have an exceptional talent for retaining everything, remembering everything. What you sometimes forget are numbers (Laughter).
Hugo Chávez — Well, I forget them, but not all that much, either.
Fidel Castro — But you have everything marked down there, so as not to miss a single one, because keeping track of everything is difficult.
Hugo Chávez — Do you know how many hectares of corn it takes to produce one million barrels of ethanol?
Fidel Castro — Of ethanol, I think you talked about 20 million hectares the other day, something like that (Laughter), but remind me.
Hugo Chávez — Twenty million. No, you are the one with the exceptional mind.
Fidel Castro — Ah, 20 million.
Well, of course, the idea of using food for producing fuel is tragic, it is dramatic. Nobody is certain about what is going to happen with food prices, when soy is becoming a fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, to produce milk, to produce meat, and it is one more tragedy of the many that exist at this time.
I am very happy that you have taken up the cause of saving the species, because the battle to save the species is a difficult one, because there are new, very difficult problems, and you are like a preacher; really, a great preacher, who has become a champion of the cause, or a champion of keeping the species alive, that is why I am congratulating you.
I see you wrestling with the Morality and Enlightenment Progam [Moral y Luces education reform initiative] to educate people so that they understand. And regarding this, there is a ton of details that I read and go over every day, and I stay very informed: war-related dangers, climate-related dangers, food-related dangers, because — as you have noted — there are thousands of millions of people going hungry, and those are realities.
For the first time in history, governments have set themselves to thinking about that, governments that have powers, that have moral authority to do so, and you are one of those rare examples.
Not long ago I read that Australia was proclaiming itself the first country in the world to carry out an energy revolution, and it turns out that it is a project to be implemented in two or three years; they make me want to laugh, because in two months, you all have distributed 34 million light bulbs, and in four months you will have met the first goal of taking those light bulbs, which have so many advantages, to every home. So, there is another one out there; but now, there are some who are competing with Australia for that first place.
There is not a single country, in Europe or anywhere else, that is not concerned about that problem today.
Excuse me for taking so long, and stealing half of your program from you.
Hugo Chávez — No, it’s not long at all; it is 7:49 minutes of today.
We were thinking about you, because you know that today is February 27, and they told us here, 18 years ago, that one of the reasons for the Caracazo [Caracas uprising] was that when you came at that time, you left 200 agitators here who had lighted the wildfires, so to speak. And today we were analyzing the causes of the whole issue of the foreign debt, the issue of Black Friday, the plunder of the country, capital flight, privatizations, inflation accompanied by a terrible recession, unemployment, the breakdown of even the middle class.
Well, as Einstein, whom we were reading a minute ago, says — I don’t know if you heard — when he reflected on the whys of socialism, and Einstein concluded that what capitalism produces is chaos.
So, with the Caracazo, Fidel, we were remembering you, and I was remembering that during those days, I saw you from far away here, and wanted to come up and greet you, even though I could not; but we were already involved in the revolutionary movement here. And to say to everyone here, via “Aló, Presidente,” now listening to you and talking with you, what a great honor, that day that a people rose up against neoliberalism.
The Caracazo was — Fidel, you know it — the first response on a world scale, with enormous weight, to the neoliberal project, when the Soviet Union was already falling, the Berlin Wall, and it was beginning to be said that the end of history had come, along with a single way of thinking.
And that the Caracazo came out of February 4. You know that those events, one without the other, would not be understood; and then this entire road, this revolution of ours, in which Cuba is always, has always and always will be present and Cuba with you at the helm. So many things to be grateful for; that energy revolution, which would have been impossible without Cuba.
Now we will continue on with you. Today, the 7th Meeting of the High-Level Joint Commission is meeting there in Havana, as you know, and the results that I have learned of so far are extraordinary, of the progress of the ALBA and bilateral relations.
I should inform you, you should be informed by now, but to comment to you, so that everybody knows, that yesterday I approved for Rafael Ramírez, the minister, to establish a joint enterprise with Vietnam, and I asked for him to raise that today there in Havana; because we could make — Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela — an enterprise to install here in Venezuela, or in Cuba, or in both republics, a light bulb factory to continue spreading the revolution; energy-saving bulbs and other elements that are needed for deepening the energy revolution – solar panels, the system for eolian [wind] energy. I want us to set up all of those factories here, Fidel; let’s bring the technology.
What do you think about that?
Fidel Castro — I think all of that sounds wonderful.
About three days ago, we inaugurated an eolian park on the Isle of Youth, still a small one, with 275-kilowatt windmills; but they work for the test that we are going to carry out there. And there is a very important area in the eastern part of the country where we are taking all sorts of measurements to install more eolian parks, which will produce electricity with less-costly investments.
You all have an advantage, which is you have a land free of hurricanes, and we are constantly visited by hurricanes; measures must be taken to protect them, of different types, sometimes using cranes, sometimes removing the blades, and, in short, finding solutions. There is solar energy, for which you have installed technology there in Caracas that is worthwhile, that has been well-utilized, although the investment is costly; afterward, if it is manufactured in the country, it will be much more economical.
You all are going to build a factory for stainless steel using the cheap energy that is available to you today and above all, the energy that you can save.
Venezuela has aljost one million square kilometers of territory; we are a nutshell, which the Gulf Stream took very near to your friends in the North.
Hugo Chávez — [In English] Our friends.
Fidel Castro — You say that I learned English, but I learned it some time ago.
Hugo Chávez — Have you forgotten it?
Fidel Castro — The trauma that they left me with afterward has made me forget, and that is why I do not have the exceptional memory that you have, the capacity for summing up, your musical ear, your ability to remember any song; because I cannot believe that you have gone to so many parties to remember all of the songs that you sing on “Aló, Presidente.” So I envy you that.
Hugo Chávez — No, I have not partied as much as you; I never went to parties like you did, nor did I sing as much as you.
Fidel Castro — No way, man! I remember more or less the essence of the ideas, but you have the exact words; I see how you find it, repeat it, and search for the exact word.
In the end, you are going to go down as one of the great writers of this hemisphere. And don’t be sorry about it, because writers have an increasingly greater power.
Hugo Chávez — I was going to ask you something.
What do you think about this breaking news we’re hearing about here? That 67% of people in the United States disapprove of Bush’s policy in Iraq. You know that we are preparing to welcome Bush in South America.
Fidel Castro — Ah! You’re going to welcome him.
Yes, I’ve heard something about it, I think that there are going to be mass organizations, all in a very peaceful and very respectful spirit.
But I bet you don’t know about two new pieces of news today.
Hugo Chávez — Tell me, let’s see, give me an exclusive for “Aló, Presidente.”
Fidel Castro — For example, the Shanghai stock market fell 9% today, and the New York stock market, which is the queen, fell 4% today. It is one of the largest falls that it has had in recent years, and that really does nothing but confirm what we are thinking.
Hugo Chávez — Well, that news, I did not….
Fidel Castro — Today they lost $8 billion there, and that is the queen of the stock markets, and it fell more than when the crisis happened in South East Asia.
So, I don’t know what is going to shake up the leaders of the United States more — well, the one leading the United States muto proprio — whether it is the news of what happened over there, or his tour of South America. What do you think?
Hugo Chávez — No, I’m telling that I didn’t know about that news, those falls on the Shanghai and New York stock markets.
You should know by now – because you know everything – that the [International] Monetary Fund is in crisis, and I was saying yesterday, and today, that jost likely they are going to have to ask for a loan from the Bank of the South. The Monetary Fund does not have the money to pay its salaries; it is selling its gold bars.
Fidel Castro — Yes, it is selling gold, which is the only thing worth anything these days; what it should sell is papers, the papers that the United States pays with. To sell gold now is crazy; but, well, the Bank of the South is a serious bank, it aspires to be a serious bank.
Hugo Chávez — It will be a serious bank.
Fidel Castro — The International Monetary Fund never was, but the crisis is proving it, the crisis is proving it. Just look at how this happened two or three days before this fall by the stock markets.
Hugo Chávez — It is the same crisis – as you well know – the crisis of the world economy, but of the alternative one. At the national level each one has its own model: we have socialism, there in Cuba, here in Venezuela, with their particularities, and at the international level, the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas], which we are accelerating, Fidel, as you well know, accelerating.
Everybody asks how you are. We went to Martinique, we were in Dominica and in Saint Vincent; the prime ministers sent many greetings to you, Roosevelt Skerrit, our friend, and the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; we were observing the project to expand the airport. There, I got together with the Cuban and Venezuelan workers, the Venezuelan Army engineer corps. We inaugurated the first fuel storage facilities in Dominica and the gas-filling plant in Saint Vincent, with Ralph Gonsalves.
Everybody asks me about you, and I tell them what I know, about your recuperation, your new Sierra Maestra, that great battle that you have waged and that you keep waging, and in which we are with you every day, asking God, who, like you said, “Helps Chávez and his friends,” to keep helping you in your full recovery. All of us, there are millions of us, you know it Fidel, in the world who want to see you completely recovered soon, as I am sure you will be.
Well, Daniel Ortega came three days ago, we spoke for several hours; next week we have the meeting of the Joint Commission there in Managua.
Kirchner came, as you know, to the Orinoco Belt, and well, Kirchner has invited me. I’m using this opportunity to make it public, given your call; we had not made it public. We are going to have a meeting in Buenos Aires next week. We are going to keep making progress on bilateral relations between Argentina and Caracas, and then there is another meeting in Bolivia — we are going to visit Evo next week — of the strategic alliance, the Caracas-Buenos Aires axis, passing through Brasilia, the axis with La Paz, and now with [Ecuadorian President Rafael] Correa.
In Quito, the first ship arrived, you must know by now; I am just taking advantage of your phone call to brush up on all of these things about how we are progressing and will continue progressing.
And you, as an example of resistance and now of going on the offensive, Fidel. I don’t want let this opportunity go by of your surprise telephone call, which motivates us so much, and makes us so happy, to continue reminding our peoples about the valor of revolutionary Cuba and your valor; your valor, your conscience.
We remembered that you were here in 1959, at the start of the so-called democratic experience, which utterly failed, and that failure led to the Caracazo, and to the Caracazo of February 4, and from February 4 to today, to what is happening here; but you, Cuba and your example of dignity, of battle, of courage, and your infinite solidarity have always been and will be with us as an example, Fidel.
Fidel Castro — Listen, Hugo, I wanted to tell you that I was meeting precisely with the head of your delegation, we were talking when news arrived from over there, so I’m very happy. I will see if I can talk — I am with him in person
— with some of the other individuals a little later on.
They are working very hard here, very enthusiastically, using the little time that we have left. The time factor cannot be forgotten, and in my opinion, we have little time left, and they are, apparently, more conscious of that.
I am very thankful to you for all of your greetings, your good wishes, and above all, I remembered to return your microphones to you, because if not, I get enthused, just like you. I could not compete, but I could emulate a little bit.
I would also like to thank the Venezuelan people for their greetings, from that people who are so heroic, so beloved, that they have led you to take on the responsibilities that you have today. History has been rewritten again, but 200 years ago, it was very different. The world has changed tremendously and above all during the last 60 years, and that is the time that must be used, and about which it is necessary to meditate a lot. I dedicate time to that, and I feel good, because I think there is nothing that is more important. And I am also happy to see how your people are working — I already told you something about that — with enthusiasm, with seriousness. And I would like to thank everybody for the proof of the affection and encouragement that they are giving me, now that I am dedicated to this task.
I cannot promise that I will travel there soon to accompany you on one of those trips, but I am gaining ground, I feel like I have more energy, more strength and more time for studying. I have become a student again, to sum it up.
Hugo Chávez — Morality and enlightenment.
Fidel Castro — Morality and enlightenment! I can’t get that out of my head now, because it is the first time that I have seen somebody trying to win that moral battle on the basis of conquering what is inside: people’s hearts and minds.
I don’t know if you have much time left there, but you were supposed to speak with Ramírez. Tell me what to do.
Hugo Chávez — No, I can speak with Ramírez tomorrow. We are very happy about listening to you, very happy to hear you and learn about your recuperation. Keep recuperating; don’t forget about your “tsunami.”
Fidel Castro — No.
Hugo Chávez — Keep recovering.
Fidel Castro — And one thing I was forgetting; that here, everybody is thankful to you for receiving news about me, because I talk, and I am silent, total silence, because I can’t be talking every day, I can’t create the habit, the bad habit of having daily news. I am asking everybody for patience and calm, and I am happy, because I see everybody tranquil; and the country is running, which is important. And I am asking for tranquility for myself, to be able to carry out my new duties as of now.
Hugo Chávez — Yes, Fidel, I have become … well, you have made me into a sort of emissary or source. Whoever wants to know how Fidel is, well, comes here, calls me, talks to me, and I always tell the truth, what is happening: your recovery, your example, your consistence.
You have said that you would not be able to accompany me here on a trip here right away, but that’s not necessary; you are always with us, and I hope to return soon to Havana so that we can keep talking, working and gaining time from time, because you have said so, and it is a good thing for all of us to think about.
Greetings go out to you from the vice president, the People’s Power Commission, of Community Power, whom we are going to meet with right now to end the program; from all of the kids, Teresita, Elena, the Venezuelan Television team, Venezuelan National Radio, and well, all of the millions who are listening to us.
Do you know how big the audience is for the first hour of the program? Forty percent! Which is, as you know, astronomical, the audience for “Aló, Presidente.”
We are gaining time, Fidel, and we are winning the battle for life.
Fidel Castro — Very good.
Hugo Chávez — Thank you for your historic phone call.
Fidel Castro — A million thanks for everybody.
Hugo Chávez — Let’s have a round of applause for Fidel (Applause). A good round of applause, brother; a hug, comrade, compañero, and you that regarding that, I have no complexes — I call you “father” for all the world to hear!
¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Fidel Castro — ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Hugo Chávez — ¡Vencerejos!
Fidel Castro — ¡Vencerejos!
Hugo Chávez — Bravo! (Applause and exclamations of “Bravo!”)