Diego Maradona death: How a love for Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro defined his often controversial politics
Argentine football legend Diego Maradona passed away at the age of 60 after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to news reports. Maradona suffered a heart attack at his home just two weeks after leaving the hospital where he underwent brain surgery.
Maradona’s football career is an obvious part of his legacy. But his political views were as big a part of life as anything else. He was well-known for supporting leftist politicians in Latin America. Maradona was reportedly fascinated by Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution. He even reportedly visited the country several times, meeting Evo Morales (former cocalero activist who served as the 65th President of Bolivia from 2006 to 2019), and Lula da Silva (Brazilian politician and former union leader who served as the 35th President of Brazil from January 1, 2003, to December 31, 2010) there.
In 2007, Maradona said he hated the United States “with all my strength” during an appearance on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s weekly television show. “I believe in Chavez, I am Chavista... Everything Fidel does, everything Chavez does for me is the best (that can be done),” Maradona said, sitting with Chavez. “I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength,” he added.
Maradona, apart from being a supporter of Chavez, was also a supporter of Marxist–Leninist Cuban revolutionary and politician Fidel Castro, who served as Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and President from 1976 to 2008. For Maradona, Castro was “a second father.”
Talking about Castro’s death in 2016, Maradona said it hit him like a tennis ball to the chest. “I wept uncontrollably,” Maradona said. “After my father, it’s the deepest sorrow I know.” Maradona and Castro reportedly first met in 1987, a year after Maradona helped Argentina win the World Cup in Mexico. Their unlikely friendship took a more definitive shape when Maradona spent four years in Havana to shake an addiction to drugs. “He opened Cuba’s doors to me when clinics in Argentina were slamming them shut because they didn’t want the death of Maradona on their hands,” Maradona said.
Reportedly, Castro often called on Maradona early in the morning to talk about politics or sports and to encourage him to push forward toward a full recovery. “He said I could do it and I did it. And here I am, talking about him,” Maradona said of Castro. “That’s the best memory I have of him.”
In fact, in 2005, Maradona interviewed Castro on his Argentine TV show, asking how George W. Bush had been re-elected president of the United States, to which Castro responded: “Fraud. The terrorist mafia of Miami!”
Maradona, in fact, had a tattoo of not only Che Guevara on his right arm but also Fidel Castro on his left leg.
In 2017, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faced criticism from around Latin America, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona said he was willing to fight for the leftist regime. “We are Chavistas until death,” Maradona wrote on his official Facebook page. “When Maduro orders, I am dressed as a soldier for a free Venezuela, to fight against imperialism and those who want to take our flags, which is the most sacred thing we have. Long live the revolution!!!” he wrote.