Hugo’s too sick to be sworn in,

Clearly for him not a good mornin’,

But Fidel’s faith won’t spoil,

Cuba needs Hugo’s oil,

Will he shoo the cancer away with a warning?

When Hugo Chavez described Fidel Castro as his mentor, he wasn’t kidding. Fifty-eight-year-old Hugo Chavez is the current President of the South American country of Venezuela, while the much older Fidel Castro was the President of the Caribbean nation of Cuba until 2008.

Their lives seem to have a number of similarities even if there were a number of decades between them. Both became heroes in their respective countries after leading revolutions against the unpopular ruling governments. Both are also known for their distaste of the type of “elite” democracy they claim is practised by America.Chavez has been in the news lately because his serious illness prevented him from attending his own swearing-in ceremony last month after winning a fourth term as Venezuela’s President. This gave rise to rumours that he was near death. Critics doubt whether Chavez is fit to lead, and blame the government for being so mysterious about his health.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez’s friend and inspiration Fidel Castro too made the most-talked-about list this week. How? By merely being seen! Fidel Castro’s public appearances have become increasingly rare, ever since he became too sick to perform his duties in 2006.

Eventually in 2008 he gave up presidency to his brother Raul. Between 2006 and 2008 Castro’s health situation was a subject of mystery, much like his friend Chavez today. And just like Venezuelan authorities are assuring the public that Chavez is rapidly getting better, the Cuban government too did the same back then.

During his rare and unexpected appearance this week Fidel Castro told curious reporters that his friend Hugo was recovering quickly and would soon be ready to lead Venezuala. He also stressed how important Chavez was to not only Venezuala, but also Castro’s own country Cuba.

Venezuela and Cuba work under similar ideals and share a stronger bond than most countries. Much of their relationship was based on the firm friendship of their respective presidents Chavez and Castro. Today, Cuba depends on Venezuela for large amounts of highly subsidized oil. In return, Cuba provides Venezuelans with social services, chiefly health care and education.

So if Chavez does not get better as expected, the future of two countries could be at stake.

nandita.j@thehindu.co.in