Beyond the Point Where the Road is Seen

At Borges’ question – “the Soviet Union collapsed and victory is claimed in Washington, and now what will become of Cuba?”- Fidel reacted as Bolivar did: “A new surge will rise in Latin America, a new surge will rise”. Only he could see where we were going to and where we are right now

By: Hugo Chávez

Email: digital@juventudrebelde.cu

2017-04-25 | 17:06:04 EST
Hugo ChávezHugo Chávez Photo: Juventud RebeldeZoom

I was next to him in the car to the Revolution Palace and there we sat to talk, one in front of the other. After the first minutes I was still impressed by the way in which Fidel examined me carefully. At that point, that scrutinizing gaze was joined by a burst of questions: he came up with one and then another, and another...He was interested in everything even in the smallest detail.

 

About that February 4 he asked how many men were there, where they went, what rifles they had and why they wore an armband on the right arm and another on the left, and questions after questions, and I said to myself: God, where is this man going?.”

 

It seemed like he had taken a machine gun and was ready to fire questions at me, until a moment in which I went on the offensive. I asked him how Che’s death happened, what he could tell me about it and I think I told him about that concern I had as a child. I was 14 years old when the news was passed on the radio saying that Che was surrounded in Bolivia. In Barinas, with absolute infantilism we said: “Well, Fidel will send some helicopters to rescue him.”

I remember that Fidel drew the Quebrada del Yuro for me and then, they brought a map. He had studied the situation very well and knew the place detail by detail, although he had never been there.

 

He indicated the exact point where Che was caught and where he could have escaped. He told me: “Che counsciously sought the enemy and went to confront the Bolivian army”. I was excited while listening to him. Wrapped up in history, we started to talk about Bolívar, the subject which had brought me to Cuba. I noticed that everytime I commented on something, he added other elements which proved he knew history inside out. “How is it possible that he has such a vast knowledge?”, and I started to gauge strength in the conversation.

 

“Ah, what a campaign that of Guyana and the republicans’ offensive overland and along the Orinoco river”, and he followed the thread: “if you are talking about San Félix battle won by General Manuel Pilar, whereby the Guayana territory is obtained and I don’t know what else... Then I said to myself: “he knows his way around, he knows his way around” And returned to the attack: “later the battle of Carabobo”... “Ah”, he replied, “yes, the battle of Carabobo, of course the battalion fell back, orderly, showing an example of discipline...”. And a voice inside me said: “this is impossible”. And I kept going: “I’m going to change the character; it’s not possible that he knows about so many Venezuelan personalities”, and I talked about Páez, about his campaign in the plains, that he had been a brave warrior but he betrayed Bolívar   

 

Also that he had learned how to write in an excellent manner... “Ah Páez, of course Páez” and he recalled a little book written by José Antonio Páez little known in Venezuela and practically unknown outside my country, but Fidel had read it completely! It was nothing less than Páez’s comments on Napoleon’s Maxims about the art of war.

 

He even remembered the main concepts: “of course -he said- he advocated the defense in three lines. First, the coastline; Second, the Great rivers –the Orinoco, of course-, and third, the mountain itself, in case the Spaniards or other Europeans invade Venezuela again.”

 

And it is true, Páez considered the strategic defense of the country along the Caribbean line, the line of the great Orinoco rivers, and by the Apure and jungle. And he added: “We studied that very well, because we would assume a similar defense in case of invasion...” However, I kept stubbornly trying to find a weak side in him. When I failed with Páez, I tried to surprise him with Zamora. “Ah! the Federal War and St. Agnes, the battle of retrograde defense. Here we studied it too.” I did not want to give up and I took out  a card hard to beat: I would tell him about my great-grandfather. And he started to retell his history to the letter. Then I said: “I surrender, I surrender!...I won’t try anything else. This man is unbeatable.” And I gave up. At some point, he kindly asked if we were tired. And I: “absolutely not don’t worry. We didn’t come to sleep”, and we kept talking until three or four in the morning. I lost track of time.

 

I was undoubtedly captivated discovering a man whose thoughts run through time and beyond. I also discovered an extraordinary politician of the revolutionary leftwing who was far from being a dogmatic Marxist. I was convinced that in the depths of that profound thinking were the fundamentals of the Venezuelan leftwingers’ criticism, inflexible, entrenched, without a solid political formation, which due to their stance had allied to the rightwing and were permanently attacking me there.

 

I probably told him an anecdote an activist friend from those groups had told me. When he was a student at the university, he took part in undercover actions and one day they seized a small town in Guaricó. He was accompanied by a guerrilla patrol, but they all, except my friend, were caught. My friend’s mission was to paint walls with spray. He was in charge of the “propaganda”, since he was a university student. The others, his superiors, could barely read and write. In the midst of the capture of the small town, the boy lost his horse and the contact with his comrades. He had to walk to the other point of meeting to meet with the commander of the patrol and for that reason he was late and told him:

“Well, I was carrying out my task, while the others were attacking the town...”. “And what were you painting there, and that’s the reason why you are late?”. “I was painting Long live Lenin!, Long live Lenin!”. And that chief continued to ask: “Long live who?” “Long live Lenin, Lenin”. The chief was surprised: “And who’s that Lenin?”

 

And before the boy replied, the second chief of the patrol said: “leave him alone, man, that Lenin is the chief of Caracas...”

It is just an anecdote but it illustrates that dogmatism, that lack of historical referent of some “friends”. Fidel was the opposite. In that visit I was impressed by the way in which his political projection adapted to the new circumstances of Latin America, without compromising on principles. That day he told me –and then he repeated in the Lecture Class – “Here the struggle for freedom, for equality and for justice is called socialism; if you call it bolivarianism, I agree”, and added if you called it Christianism I would also agree.”

In that first meeting at the Palace, Fidel had shown his capacity to see beyond the men of an era, beyond the road. I perceived it in jail while reading Un grano de maíz (a kernel of corn), and I confirmed it in Havana. Tomás Borges asked in Havana a question similar to that made by Joaquín Mosquera to Bolívar in 1824.

It is recorded that Mosquera, who would be president of the Great Colombia went to the Peruvian coast to visit the Liberator. There was Bolívar, in a hut by the sea, alone, he had no army, he was sick with tabardillo, pale, bony, sitting on a broken saddle. And Mosquera asked him: "Libertador, what are we going to do now? Bolivar rose to his feet as if struck by lightning. His eyes turned into two lightning bolts: "What do we do what we're going to do

now, Mosquera? succeed! we will triumph! "

   

   

At Borges’ question – “the Soviet Union collapsed and they claim victory in Washington, and now what will become of Cuba?”- Fidel reacted as Bolivar did: “A new surge will rise in Latin America, a new surge will rise”. Only he could see where we were going to and where we are right now. Don’t you see it?

(Passage of the book El Encuentro, by Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis
Báez. In it Chávez retold his first chat with Fidel on Tuesday December 13, 1994 in Havana)

 

Translated by ESTI

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