Fidel Castro’s revolutionary work goes beyond the Caribbean island where he was born. The guerrilla of the Sierra Maestra and leader of the first socialist government in Latin America devoted countless hours to the analysis of and reflection on international conflicts, the just causes of the Third World and the challenges of humanity.
Vietnam and its anti-imperialist struggle occupy a special place within Fidel’s ideas. The Cuban leader declared himself a profound admirer of the fighting ability and independence of that people, capable of first expelling the French colonizers, and then the U.S. invaders.
“No liberation movement, none of the peoples who have fought for their independence, has had to wage a struggle as prolonged and as heroic as that of the people of Vietnam,” he stated September 12, 1973, during his first visit to the Asian country.
Fidel was the first international leader to cross the 17th parallel and visit the liberated territories of South Vietnam, which had already organized a legitimate government.
The trip was not without risks. “All the bridges along the road, without exception, visible from the air between Hanoi and the South, were destroyed; the villages razed, and every day the cluster bomb grenades dropped for that purpose, were blowing up in rice paddies where children, women, and even very old people were working to produce food,” he recalled in one of his February 2008 Reflections.
But the Comandante made it to Peak No. 241, recently liberated, and offered one of his best known speeches on Vietnam.
“You have given the imperialists an unforgettable lesson. They thought they were almighty, they thought themselves invincible, and yet you were able to defeat them. And the Yankee imperialists have a hard time understanding how a small nation and a people as poor as the people of Vietnam have been able to defeat them. And the reason is that a heroic people, a people that fights for their independence and freedom, a brave and dignified people, is invincible,” Fidel told the leaders and soldiers who gathered to listen to him.
During his last visit to the Southeast Asian nation, in 2003, the Comandante en Jefe noted the privilege of having observed the evolution of Vietnamese development.
“I can consider myself a witness to progress of Vietnam over these almost 30 years,” he said, noting that its people had many reasons to be proud of what they had achieved.
“I reiterate here today that for Vietnam, the Cuban people were truly ready to give their own blood, because we could appreciate what the immense courage and unsurpassable heroism of their struggle meant,” he noted.
Through Fidel and leaders like Ho Chi Minh, many more Cubans and Vietnamese have forged a friendship that stands any test of time.