HAVANA – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro traveled this week to Cuba to pay homage to that country’s late former President, Fidel Castro, on what would have been his 91st birthday and to place flowers at his tomb, accompanied by Cuban President Raul Castro, the island’s main dailies reported Wednesday on their front pages.
The brief official announcement, published by the state-run Granma and Juventud Rebelde newspapers, was accompanied by two photographs in which Maduro and Raul Castro are seen before the former leader’s tomb in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25, 2016, in Havana and would have turned 91 on Aug. 13.
In the second photo, the two leaders are paying their respects at the mausoleum of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti, along with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores.
At both tombs, Maduro and Castro placed white roses, the symbol associated with Marti, whom Fidel Castro recognized as his ideological guide and beside whom he requested to be buried.
At the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, known as a “cemetery of the forefathers,” Raul Castro explained to Maduro the history of the Cuban heroes interred there, including Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, considered to be the “Father of the Homeland” on the island.
The article also mentioned the presence of Mariana Grajales and Maria Cabrales, the mother and widow of Antonio Maceo, another of the most venerated figures in Cuban history.
Both presidents also placed flowers on the tombs of the fighters of the July 26 Movement, the organization headed by Fidel Castro during the insurrection that brought him to power, and to which his brother Raul also belonged.
The 91st anniversary of Castro’s birth was celebrated on the communist island with activities that began weeks ago and culminated on Sunday with assorted tributes, including the one headed by Raul Castro, for which no images were released.
Venezuela is Cuba’s closest political and economic ally in Latin America, though statistics released Wednesday by the Cuban government show that China has superseded the Andean nation to become the island’s No. 1 trading partner overall.
The island nation receives Venezuelan petroleum at subsidized prices in exchange for sending professionals to Venezuela – mainly doctors and teachers – to augment that country’s health care and educational workers.