Castro Embraces 'Brother Evo' Morales

Arriving on a personal jet lent to him by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Bolivia President-elect Evo Morales visited Cuba last week on his first foreign trip since his election.

On arrival Friday in Havana at the city’s Jose Marti International Airport, Morales was feted by a red-carpet welcome by Castro, who said Morales’s election “had shaken the world.”

Castro also said: "It appears the map is changing, and we need to be reflective, to observe well and to be informed."

A statement issued by the Castro government hailed Morales’s arrival in Cuba because it comes on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the Cuban revolution that Castro to power in 1959.

"The presence of comrade Morales in Cuba fills our people with satisfaction and is an important stimulus to strengthen friendship and cooperation between the Cuban government and the future Bolivian government," the statement said.

The statement also said the Morales visit was "in keeping with the historic and profound relations of brotherhood and solidarity between the Bolivian and Cuban people."

Castro praised Morales further, saying during the welcoming ceremony, "Our brother Evo possesses all the necessary qualities needed to lead his country."

Wire service reports said Castro and Morales signed a cooperation agreement during his Friday visit that would boost Cuba’s medical and educational assistance to Bolivia.

Morales returned to Bolivia on Saturday. Tomorrow he will begin touring a number of other countries including Brazil, China and South Africa before assuming the presidency next month. He has no plans to visit the United States.

Last week Morales told the Arabic television station al-Jazeera that President Bush is “practicing terrorism” in Iraq. He also accused the Bush White House of running a “dirty campaign” to prevent him from winning office.

Bush administration officials say they will judge Morales by his actions and not his words.

The United States officially congratulated Morales on his recent victory. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington would look to the behavior of the Bolivian government to determine the course of U.S.-Bolivian relations.

“The issue for us is will the new Bolivian government govern democratically? Are they open to co-operation that, in economic terms, will undoubtedly help the Bolivian people, because Bolivia cannot be isolated from the international economy?” Rice said in a recent CNN interview.

Morales won the presidency with nearly 54% of the vote. Many analysts say that is the biggest support for any presidential candidate since democracy was restored in Bolivia during the 1980s.