Former Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Khoan shakes hands with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. — Photo courtesy of Vũ Khoan
HÀ NỘI — Former Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of the Party's Central Committee Vũ Khoan recounted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs his memories on the beginning of the Việt Nam-Cuba friendship, which has been marked by loyalty and affinity, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations (December 2, 1960 – December 2, 2020).
Below are Vũ Khoan’s full remarks.
"Our generation never forgets the feeling of utmost excitement when hearing about the triumph of the Cuban Revolution just as Việt Nam’s struggles against the American aggression to liberate the country entered a new chapter.
I have not been in charge specifically of Việt Nam-Cuba relations but I have had the good fortune to have been able to meet a number of high-level leaders of our comrade country.
In 1960, when I was working at the Vietnamese embassy in Moscow, Việt Nam’s Government asked the then-ambassador Nguyễn Văn Kỉnh to make contacts with Cuban ambassador in the Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation) to start talks on the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. I accompanied the ambassador Kỉnh to the Ukraine Hotel in Moscow to meet with the Cuban ambassador and presented the national credentials.
Kỉnh was greeted by a thin man with a scholarly look to him save for the beard and olive oil-coloured military-issue khaki clothes in the meeting room. That was Faure Chomón, a legendary Cuban commander and one of the founding members and leaders of Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil – DRE (Student Revolutionary Directorate) – one the of the three main movements in the Cuban Revolution.
Commander Chomón was very receptive to the proposal of setting up ties between Việt Nam and Cuba and promptly reported back to Cuba.
It was not long before Cuba agreed to the proposal and the two sides quickly negotiated on the content of this historic announcement, marking the start of the long and rich history of comradeship and friendly relations between the two peoples on the same side in the fight against imperialism and endeavours for national liberation and the aspiration for socialism.
[The Soviet-led] Sovét Ekonomícheskoy Vzaimopómoshchi – SEV (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) once held a special meeting on relations with Cuba, with the attending Cuban delegation headed by the famous Che Guevara himself, a bearded man in olive-green military uniform wearing a beret. Despite Việt Nam not being a member of SEV, the Vietnamese ambassador to the Soviet Union was invited to take part in the meeting.
The image of Che in this meeting has left a strong impression on me, when he took his seat, he removed the pistol from his belt and placed it on the table with a gesture that was both natural and coolly nonchalant.
Che gave a detailed account of the challenges Cuba faced after the victory of the revolution and requested assistance from the Soviet Union and other Socialist comrade countries, in exchange for steady sugar supplies.
The impression of Chomónand Che as “revolutionary knights” with a flair of romanticism always returned to me when I had the opportunity to meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro or other Cuban leaders during important meetings held in the Soviet Union or when Cuban leaders visited Việt Nam or when I had the chance to visit “the island of freedom” in the Western Hemisphere.
It seems to me that Cuban people are eternally optimistic, life-affirming, and passionately relentless in fighting for their noble beliefs and ideals, in a fashion I can only describe as very Cuban.
Despite the oppressive economic embargo by the US in the last six decades and difficulties and hardship, Cuba has made itself a paradise of quality education and healthcare.
The hearts of Cuban people are filled with a pure spirit of [socialist] internationalism and an ardent readiness to sacrifice for other oppressed peoples – not unlike the knights of old times. With regards to Việt Nam, our Cuban friends are never anything short of committed and dedicated, staying true to the famous saying of the late Fidel Castro: “For Việt Nam, Cuba is willing to shed its blood!”
This profound fidelity has created a solid foundation for the genuine brotherly ties between Việt Nam and Cuba to shine forever." — VNS