Dear Hugo, I heard you this afternoon when you were speaking in Guárico - a complete surprise, I thought you would do so in Barinas: a good move, the surprise factor disconcerts the (not to be underestimated) alliance of Americans and oligarchs in Venezuela.
I learned from this that in 10 days you'll be 58. I was in some doubt as to exactly what age you would reach on that date, I thought maybe it was 59; anyway, I won't be congratulating you that day on your 58th birthday, as I'm doing it right now, with the same sincere affection as always.
I think I was already old when I did certain things a lot of people attributed simply to my youth. It is certainly a pity that I lost so much time when I finished high school, which took an extra year making 12 in all; I was already 19 and lacked even the slightest notion of discipline or military service. You on the other hand had graduated as an officer from the military academy.
It's just as well that Venezuela's mediocre bourgeois politicians accepted that a citizen, despite his social position and ethnic origins, could be a guardian of the oligarchic order, confident that money, honours and personal interest would prevail in the military institution of a Latin American country.
During nearly 200 years they froze The Liberator's dreams, which this time were fully rehabilitated only after 210 years and at a time when the most powerful empire was already master of the world.
I was 26 at the time of Batista's pro-American coup; on the strength of ideas alone, I invested a year, four months and 16 days in organising, training and arming the young patriots who attacked the Santiago de Cuba and Bayamo barracks.
When you were that age you already had a good level of military and political knowledge, especially that inspired by the ideas of Miranda, of Bolívar, and a whole generation of patriots who wrote one of the most brilliant pages in the history of the planet in terms of freedom and justice for the oppressed peoples.
It amazes me how even today we're still learning from them, especially you who represent a Bolivarian people at this singular moment in its history. Fifty-eight is nothing Hugo: I, who am nearly 28 years older, have lived a good part of the last 100 years, can testify to what time means in this era.
Special credit is due to the Venezuelan people for their immense capacity for comprehending the challenge they and you are facing together. It doesn't matter that my letters pile up, some day they may have a certain value as testimony to the singular era that both peoples, I would dare to say our one people, that of Bolívar and Martí, is living through.
Ever on to victory!
18 July 2012