Little did President Marcelo know that his audience with Fidel Castro last month was one of the last the former Cuban dictator would be making.
Reacting to Castro’s death, announced on Friday night, Marcelo said there had been nothing to suggest the communist veteran was about to exit “the land of the living”.
“Very weak” yes, but intellectually extremely bright and up-to-date with world events is how the Portuguese head of state remembers the man who, for better or worse, became an undisputed legend in his own lifetime.
But as reactions to Castro’s passing at the age of 90 continue, one thing is certain: President Marcelo will not be attending the funeral, set for December 4 – and the government itself is still unsure as to how it will be marking the dictator’s final farewell.
In Galiza, where Castro’s cousin Manuela Argiz lives now in an old people’s home, aged 103, a “procession of cars” drove into the village of Láncara to break the news.
Láncara has “always been proud” of its connection to Castro via the departure of one of its own, Castro’s father Argel Castro Argiz, as an emigré to Cuba in 1875.
Manuela however never met her cousin, though she received the news of his passing “naturally”, say local reports, commenting that “it had to happen one day”.
In the US, outgoing president Barack Obama is said to be under a great deal of pressure not to attend the funeral, particularly after the president-elect Donald Trump marked Castro’s death saying the nonagenarian was “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades”.