The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karat for Castro 80th birthday party
- CPM and CPI leaders on guest list with Marquez and Maradona

New Delhi, July 25: Fidel Castro will celebrate his birthday for the first time on August 13, when he turns 80. And Prakash Karat will be there.

So will be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the writer, Diego Maradona, the footballer, and Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela and heir to Castro’s political legacy.

Studded with Latin American icons, the list of invitees to the four-day party has another Indian name ' A.B. Bardhan, the CPI chief. He and Karat, the CPM general secretary, are leaving for Havana on August 11 to celebrate the birthday of the grand old man of Cuba and patriarch of the international communist movement who has cocked a snook at the US for decades.

“It is not Castro who has organised the birthday celebrations. It is Foundacion Guayasamin, an organisation of Latin Americans, which has planned the four-day-long celebrations,” said Pallab Sen Gupta, head of CPI’s international department.

The CPM and the CPI have a long association with Castro. The parties would regularly send food to Cuba, bled white by the economic sanctions and blockades imposed by the US.

“Dear Friends of the entire world, those interested in paying homage to Commander Fidel'” is how the invitation ' posted on the website of Foundacion Guayasamin ' began.

The celebrations start with a Cuban gala show at the Karl Marx theatre, followed by two colloquiums at the Palace of Convention, a concert at the Anti-Imperialist Tribune and an exhibition at the National Building of the Beautiful.

The guests share a common bond ' loyalty to Castro and hostility towards the US establishment. Maradona, who interviewed him for a chat show last October, has gone on record to say: “For me, he (Castro) is God.”

The Argentine became close to the communist leader in 2004, when he was admitted to a rehabilitation clinic in Cuba to get rid of his cocaine addiction.

He returned from the clinic an ardent admirer of Castro and a fierce critic of globalisation.

Maradona’s political credentials became public when he stood by the side of Chavez as the President delivered an anti-globalisation speech during the free trade summit in Argentina last year.

Chavez is in every sense Castro’s political heir, carrying the torch of his crusade in Venezuela through dogged defiance of the US. Perhaps nowhere was their camaraderie as evident as on a four-hour radio show six years ago, at the end of which they sang a duet of a popular ballad in Venezuela. Reports said the rendition of the song Venezuela was not in tune, but listeners were spellbound.

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