Evo Morales, President of Bolivia. Photo: Jose M. Correa

It was past five o’clock in the morning, and Fidel had been talking for hours. Evo Morales could only think of one thing: “When is he going to talk about Revolution?”

It was 2002 and the Bolivian leader occupied the position of deputy in the combative department of Cochabamba. He had seen Fidel almost a decade before, in one of those events that bring together social activists from around the world in Havana; but it was impossible to meet him personally at that time.

“The great desire of any youth of that time was to know Cuba, what the Revolution was like, and meet the Comandante,” he states in an interview with Granma from Santiago de Cuba, where he was once again with the Cuban people in the most difficult moments.

Once he had Fidel before him, after listening to him talk for several hours about health, education, and the responsibilities of the state, he asked him the question that had been a constant in his mind since his days as a union leader. He had thought that the guerrilla of the Sierra Maestra would talk about weapons, and how to organize the people for the struggle, but the answer was very different, “Evo, now you have to do as Chávez and achieve the Revolution with the people.”

Shortly afterwards, he would become the first indigenous president in the history of his country, and Bolivia would join force with the progressive movement that marked a change of era in Latin America, beginning with the Bolivarian victory in Venezuela of Comandante Hugo Chávez.

“When it was almost certain that our democratic revolution would triumph in Bolivia, I met with several authorities. I was worried, if we won the election, about how we could avoid an economic blockade like that imposed by the United States on Cuba. Everyone told me that I had to be very careful, that the United States was vengeful; that I should remain calm,” he recalls.

However, Fidel told him something else. “First, you are not alone; here is Cuba, Chávez in Venezuela, Lula in Brazil, Kirchner in Argentina. Second, you have many natural resources. Third, you are not an island, you have neighboring countries.”

From that conversation, Evo says, he was convinced of the need to nationalize the country's natural resources. Hydrocarbons have contributed billions of dollars to the development of the country during the last decade, while before his presidency, barely a few hundred million entered and the transnationals took the greater share of the profits.

“Fidel’s words have always been very guiding, firm, and consistent,” he notes. Some 700,000 Bolivians have received eye surgery free of charge, thanks to Mission Miracle, a joint idea of Fidel and Chávez that has benefited millions of people across the world. “I thought I had misheard the figure when they talked about providing surgery to 100,000 people,” he recalls.

Before more than a million people gathered in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, Evo confessed that he would personally miss Fidel. “Who will teach me? Who will think of me? Who will take care of me?” he asked.

Four days later he returned to our country and accompanied Raúl in Santiago de Cuba. When Comandante Chávez died, he also accompanied his relatives and Venezuelan leaders at all times. He later led the march that carried the remains of the Bolivarian leader to the Cuartel de la Montaña.

“The best tribute to our heroes such as Chávez, Kirchner and especially Fidel, is unity and more unity,” he stresses.

Paraphrasing Raúl’s words on December 3, he asserts that “Yes, there can be” a Latin America with sovereignty, equality and unity. “Faced with any class, political, military, or cultural conspiracy, the important thing is to always be with the people. That is my small experience as President.”

“We are never going to see Fidel in person or physically, but his ideas are forever,” he says. “The most important thing is that he died undefeated, despite so many attacks and so many accusations.”

The Bolivian President is convinced that future generations will continue to speak about the Cuban leader and will be inspired by his example. “Just as the image of Che continues to be present, there is now the image of Fidel. They will be like an ideological duo who are not physically present, but their struggles and their ideas will continue throughout the world. That means Fidel is here for eternity.”

“With what I have seen in Havana and in Santiago de Cuba, I am sure that Fidel’s death has been transformed into a strength, not a weakness. It is an opportunity to re-launch all revolutions.”