Leaders from all over Latin America and the Caribbean converged on Havana this week for the CELAC summit. And some of them made time to pay a visit to an old friend who is no longer president himself, but still very much a leader:
I see at least three familiar faces in there: Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). And look who else stopped by:
For nearly an hour, Cuban leader Fidel Castro evoked for Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto his time in Mexico during the 1950s, when he was preparing there to make revolution in his land.
“It was a very cordial conversation, recalling fundamentally what for him was Mexico’s relationship to Cuba, his time in Mexico, and recalling various moments from his stay here,” said Peña of the meeting with Fidel.
At three o’clock on Thursday, upon returning from Cuba after attending the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Peña spoke of his impressions of the encounter, during which he met and conversed with the Cuban commander.
“I saw him at an already evidently very advanced age, but very well, very lucid. And yes, tired too, because I understand he had already met with other heads of state. For me, as I said, it was my first experience, the first time I was in Cuba, and had the opportunity to meet with a personage of Latin American history and the history of humanity in recent years,” Peña said.
He also denied the rumor that during the chat, Fidel Castro had made some kind of petition to him with reference to the return to power of the PRI in Mexico, or the deterioration of bilateral relations with PAN governments.
“There was absolutely nothing. Really, it was a very cordial chat, of remembrance, about what Mexico represents and has meant to him, his experiences and relations with Mexico, but referring more to several years ago,” insisted Peña.
He commented that for his part, he shared with Castro his impressions of CELAC and above all, emphasized to him the sense of his presence in Cuba to reaffirm the ties of fraternity and friendship which have historically united the two countries.
After the meeting, Peña Nieto paid an official visit to president Raúl Castro, who received him with honors in the Palace of the Revolution.
Regarding this final point of his agenda on the island, Peña said that the two governments have committed to exploring greater rapprochement and Mexican investments in Cuba, amid the process of economic and social reforms “which they are bringing about there”.
So, how about that? Even a right-wing Mexican head of state couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with the old barbudo. And why would he? Fidel’s relationship to Mexico goes back longer than Peña’s been alive. He did his planning and recruiting in Mexico City, and launched the Cuban revolution from there when he and 80 others cast off on the Granma. And he is legendary there.
As well he ought to be.