Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Remembering Fidel’s smile

PANO – No one could think that Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang’s meeting with former President Fidel Castro was the last visit paid by a foreign leader to the legendary leader of the Cuban revolution.
President Tran Dai Quang was moved to be welcomed by former CubanPresident Fidel Castro, despite the Cuban President’s old age and poor health condition, during his Cuban trip.
Recently, President Fidel has rarely received foreign guests, except for very special cases. The exception for the Vietnamese President showed that in the hero’s heart, there was a special place for Vietnam, the country that he had visited several times when alive.
President Tran Dai Quang (L) and Cuban President Fidel Castro. Photo: VNA
For Fidel, Vietnam is not only a country that “Cuba is willing to shed her blood” as he once stated, but also a comrade who had fought side by side with Cuba during difficult time of war, economic sanctions, renewal, and transforming economic development models.
Therefore, it was not a surprise when Fidel offered a special privilege to President Tran Dai Quang. Both leaders possibly did not know that the meeting was the last one between them.
Fidel welcomed President Tran Dai Quang in a cozy atmosphere as receiving his family member who he had not met for a long time. The meeting took place in front of the door of a room in Fidel’s house. The interpreter was a Cuban female with a Vietnamese name: Linh. HavanaCity was in late fall, a little bit chilly in the afternoon; therefore, PresidentFidel wore socks, a T-shirt covered by a thin jacket as his familiar sporty appearance. His legendary beard and hair turned grey; his glasses were a little lower, but his smile remained gentle and kind. At the age of 90, he still bore the look of good health, talent and smartness with burning desire in his heart.
During the meeting, Fidel was delighted with a constant smile. Occasionally, he adjusted his glasses to get a better view of the Vietnamese President. That was the meeting of friends. Despite difference in age, Fidel knew how to moderate to make the talks between him and President Tran Dai Quang friendly and open-hearted.
Fidel extended his compliments to General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, whom he met in April 2012 during the Vietnamese official’s Cuban visit. He also inquired after the Vietnamese Prime Minister and Chairwoman of the National Assembly.
Surprisingly, Fidel turned to ask about Vietnam’s socio-economic development. Fidel was especially interested in agriculture, the sector that the two countries have shared many cooperation projects. In Matanzas province, about 170 km away from Havana, a rice-growing project has been implemented with the assistance of Vietnamese experts and businesses. Such projects have helped Cuba reduce the country’s rice import quantity from 400,000-500,000 tons in the 2005-2011 period to 300,000 tons in the 2012 – 2015 period.
With the close manner of a leader, President Fidel asked in details about the characteristics of each agricultural crop in Vietnam and offshore fishing. He also wanted to know about the livelihood improvement of the Vietnamese people during its industrialization.
Moved by the kindness and frankness of the Cuban leader, President Tran Dai Quang extended the compliments of Vietnamese leaders to him. The Vietnamese President also informed Fidel that the living standards of Vietnamese people have been improved, much higher than when he visited Vietnam many years ago. He also added that despite achievements during the Doi Moi (renewal) period, Vietnam continues to learn from experiences and from economic development models worldwide.
In their cozy meeting, President Tran Dai Quang recalled Vietnamese people’s admiration for Fidel, the only foreign leader who visited the liberated Quang Tri when it was still covered in gun smoke, in September 1973. The image of Fidel standing on an enemy tank captured by the liberation army in Quang Tri battlefield shows an intimate feeling that Fidelreserved for the people and country of Vietnam.
One hour passed by and the talk between the two leaders became even closer. Worrying about Fidel’s health after the long talk, President Tran Dai Quang had to say goodbye though he did not want to. Perhaps, President Tran Dai Quang himself would never think that this was his last meeting with Fidel Castro.
In the late sunny afternoon, the Cuban leader bid farewell to the Vietnamese President with a smile on his lips. Now, that smile has gone to eternity, becoming immortal. Surely, President Tran Dai Quang will always remember that smile as an unforgettable memory of the meeting which has become a part of history.
Written by Yen Ba
Translated by Thu Phuong


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