Sun | Sep 24, 2017

The night Fidel Castro raced Hugo Chavez

Published:Wednesday | September 9, 2015 | 9:00 AM
In this September 6, 2005 photograph, Cuban President Fidel Castro (right) makes a comment to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (left), much to the amusement of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The state heads, two now retired and one deceased, were enjoying a moment in between sessions while at the Second PetroCaribe Summit at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

It was September 2005.

Political demonstrations were planned in Montego Bay to dissuade the Jamaican Government from signing the PetroCaribe agreement with Venezuela, but that, according to former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, was like child's play.

"In addition to the serious security concerns which surround the gatherings whenever certain heads [of government] are in attendance, clear warning had been given of planned political protests locally. As it transpired, whatever took place amounted to no more than moments of slight inconvenience," Patterson said as he gave reflections on the signing of the PetroCaribe Agreement at a 10th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James last Saturday.

Having overcome the plan of the political protest, Patterson said Chavez and Castro teamed up and gave security officers a headache when they took two golf carts and went racing in the dead of night.

"We were about to retire in our separate villas at Half Moon within an area that was cordoned and under tight security when all hell broke loose. Fidel and Hugo commandeered two golf carts and they decided to race each other all around the Half Moon compound. One was like [Ayrton] Senna from Brazil and the other was like Lewis Hamilton [of the United Kingdom]," Patterson recalled.

"The poor security people didn't know what to do. They commandeered a few carts, scrambling them, but they could not catch up with Chavez and Castro as they went all around," he added.

Patterson said the two iconic leaders only stopped when a birthday cake, which was first ordered at 10 p.m., eventually arrived just before the midnight hour.

Chavez and Castro spearheaded the move to establish the PetroCaribe agreement, which allows participating countries to hold back a portion on money due for oil payment to Venezuela for developmental purposes.

Chavez died in 2013 after a long battle with illness, and an ailing Castro demitted office as president of Cuba in 2008.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com