Vietnam Time

9/20/2018 5:07:00 PM

Fidel Castro, a dedicated friend of Vietnam (part I)

On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Fidel’s historic visit to Vietnam, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Ambassador of Vietnam to Cuba, Nguyen Dinh Bin, a diplomat who had accompanied the great leader of Cuba in various trips to Vietnam, dedicated an article to pay tribute to the special friend of Vietnam.

Ông Nguyễn Đình Bin tại lễ viếng Lãnh tụ Fidel Castro ở Cuba.

Former Vice Minister Nguyen Dinh Bin pays tribute to Fidel in 2016. Source: Dan Tri

President Fidel Castro had become the first foreign leaders who had visited the liberated zone of South Vietnam in September 1973. In his first historic visit to Vietnam, Fidel had delivered five long speeches, frankly expressing his affection, affirming the vigorous supports for the righteous fight of the Vietnamese people to protect their country.

Standing amidst a team of Vietnamese soldiers on the 241 hill, Cam Lo district, Quang Tri province, Fidel waved the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, eloquently urging them to liberate the South, reunify the country. “Hey comrades, please bring this flag of victory to Saigon!”, he said.

Nearly 2 years later, the people of Vietnam had achieved the goal Fidel stated.

The symbol of friendship

During the historic visit to Vietnam in 1973, Fidel had presented to the country 5 big ‘gifts’ worth totally USD 80 million, which are: international-quality standard hotel Thang Loi (150 rooms, located nearby West Lake), modern Dong Hoi General Hospital with 500 beds in Quang Binh “to take care of Southern soldiers and civilians of the most war-torn region”, Moc Chau Dairy Farm in the northern mountainous province of Son La, a chicken farm in the northern mountainous province of Hoa Binh and the 50-km Son Tay-Xuan Mai road.

The road was not an ordinary road for daily transportation, but was built in a way that allow it to easily turn into a runway for fighter craft when needed.

Along with assistance in infrastructures building, the President of Cuba also presented to Vietnam a cash grant to invest in expanding the Ho Chi Minh trail for the Spring General Offensive 1975.

Ông Nguyễn Đình Bin (giữa) có nhiều năm được phiên dịch cho Lãnh tụ Fidel và được ông Fidel yêu quý như con. Ảnh FB ông Nguyễn Đình Bin

(From left to right) President Fidel Castro, Vice Minister Nguyen Dinh Bin and Prime Minister Pham Van Dong. Source: Nguyen Dinh Bin Facebook

20 years later, on December 10, 1995, Fidel came back to Vietnam. During the trip, he emotionally recalled the profound impression of his first historic visit to Vietnam in September 1973,  and talked about Ho Chi Minh’s dream which was reflected in one of his quote “Nothing is more precious than Independence and Freedom”.

Fide said, President Ho’s dream had come true. According to him, the Vietnamese people, after decades of struggling with war and its legacies, had to trade off their blood for peace, meanwhile some countries made profit/gain on the blood of Vietnam. But  nowadays, former enemies has acknowledged Vietnam’s position, expressing their admiration for Vietnam and established peaceful relations and cooperation with the country.

He hailed the speedy track of growth of Vietnam, highlighting it as the fastest rate in the region. Nowadays, the lofty and courageous blood of Vietnamese people in the past are bringing welfare, prosperity and happiness to the people. “With all my heart, I want to give embraces and kisses to all the heroes who are present today, and those whose name are mentioned here,” he said.

In his final visit to Vietnam in February 2003, after recalling the most outstanding memories of the two previous trips, Fidel stated: “It is admirable to look at what you comrades have accomplished after a relatively short time, with the starting point of a wartorn country. None of the obstacles can defeat the iron will, determination, perserverance, the incredible diligence of this amazing people. The history of Vietnam has proved clearly that when a nation dare to pay any price to protect its existence (sovereignty), its identity and future, none of any superior force can win. Vietnam has become a role model for other countries in the world."

Fidel and Ho Chi Minh

The love Fidel had for Vietnam not only conveyed in Fidel’s 100 speeches, but also through what he shared in meetings with leades and the people of Vietnam.

First and foremost, what we remember about Fidel is the special friendship with President Ho Chi Minh. Despite the two presidents didn’t have chance to meet in person, across the distance, they still shared common ideals, perception, determination, vision, wills, and virtues.

There were countless time when Fidel, in front of the public, enthusiastically expressed  his love, respect and admiration for President Ho. He onced sent to the Vietnamese leader special gifts from Cuba, such as the giant Cuban frog, modern ice-creammaker and ingredients.

I will never forget the sorrow on Fidel’s face when he came to the Vietnamese embassy to pay tribute to President Ho when his passing was announced in 1969. He spent a great deal of time on talking about President Ho, regretting that he’d never had the chance to meet President Ho and assigned two of his close comrades, among the five highest ranking leaders of Cuba, which are Commander Juan Almeida and Ramiro Valdes to fly to Hanoi to pay tribute to the admirable friend and counterpart.

"We regret that we could not come to Vietnam before September 3, 1969, we didn’t have the chance to meet President Ho, the one we truly admire, in person. Fortunately, we had the chance to know the Vietnamese people, seeing the reflection of President Ho’s career, teaching, education, contribution, the heroism, humble character", he said./.

  ( Translated by Phi Yen )
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