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Chavez Rushes To Ailing Castro’s Bedside

From those fans of totalitarian dictators at Reuters:

Castro receives Chavez at his bedside

Mon Aug 14, 2006 11:59 AM ET

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s ailing Fidel Castro received a bedside visit from his main ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said on Monday, as it published pictures of the two leftist leaders.

The daily said Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro on July 31 due to surgery for intestinal bleeding, spent more than three hours with Chavez on Sunday in what a headline called "An Unforgettable Afternoon Among Brothers."

Granma said the leaders, united in the "joy of a deep friendship," shared gifts, anecdotes, laughter and a frugal snack as they marked Castro’s 80th birthday.

Chavez, who has helped Cuba recover from the collapse of its former benefactor, the Soviet Union, by providing cheap oil and billions of dollars for Cuban doctors, was given a portrait of Castro done by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1959, the year he seized power.

"This is the best of all the visits I’ve ever made," Chavez was quoted as saying.

Chavez’s presents to Castro included a dagger with a marble handle and scabbard that belonged to South American independence hero and Venezuelan patriot Simon Bolivar.

Chavez, according to Granma, was impressed by Castro’s recovery. "What kind of human being is this? What’s he made of? Is he, as you say, a caguairan?" asked Chavez, referring to a hardwood tree from eastern Cuba known for its strength.

In one photo, Castro lay in bed in what looked like a hospital room. The two men, fierce critics of U.S. policies in Latin America, wore bright red shirts. The pictures were posted on Granma’s Web site (http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu).

Also present was Raul Castro, who made his first public appearance as acting president on Sunday when he greeted Chavez at Havana airport.

The photos of Castro with Chavez followed the publication on Sunday of a series of pictures of Castro on his own.

"First you have the cheesy Photoshop picture. At least the second one was a little better," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters on Monday.

There were no new details on Castro’s medical condition, which the veteran revolutionary has termed a state secret.

But in a birthday message to Cubans on Sunday, Castro said his recovery could take time. "I suggest you be optimistic and, at the same time, always prepared to receive bad news," he said.

"HE CAN’T LET GO"

News Castro had appeared in photos came as a relief to many Cubans worried his death could create upheaval in one of the world’s last communist outposts. But some thought his condition was worse than the nation was being told.

"I think he will recover, but he will not be able to go back to the same rhythm," said film student Jorge Diaz, looking at the Granma photos of Castro.

"Now he has to let others govern. He has done enough already, with all those hours of speeches," said Alexis Wilson, a driver sitting outside his overcrowded and dilapidated home in the Vedado district of Havana.

"But he can’t let go. He is the figurehead and will have to continue guiding others. It’s like the father of a big family. If he goes away, everything in the house disappears."

After 47 years in power, Castro is the last of the key Cold War-era figures and has survived 10 U.S. presidents, despite efforts to oust him.

In Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, anti-Castro Cuban exiles continued to hope the Cuban leader’s illness would bring change to the island.

"I wish it would be the other way around and he’s not in the picture anymore," said Paul Salgueiro, a doctor who left Cuba in 1961.

It’s a love story for the ages.

Note the (unintentionally Freudian) bobble-head dolls Chavez brought as gifts.

And isn't it cute how they are wearing matching pajamas?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 14th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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