“Those who live on fish and rice, and wear silk, far away, in Asia, on the seashore, below China,” as Cuban National Hero José Martí described the Vietnamese in Un paseo por la tierra de los anamitas (A stroll through the land of the Annamites), have always been friends of Cuba.
The ties between the peoples of Cuba and Vietnam go far beyond the historic coincidence of the birth of Ho Chi Minh (May 19, 1890) and the death in combat of José Martí (May 19, 1895), as they were reinforced by the constant struggle of the Vietnamese leader and Fidel to build socialism.
Diplomatic relations between the Caribbean island and the Indochinese nation date back to 1960, when barely a year had passed since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
Since then, the bonds that unite the two nations have been unbreakable. Back in the 1960s, Cuba received thousands of Vietnamese youth who came to study Spanish and train in various specialties.
Cuban youth and technicians also traveled to the land of Ho Chi Minh: the first to learn the language, then to collaborate in the construction of hospitals, roads, and in the development of poultry farms.
Also during that period (1963), the Solidarity with South Vietnam Committee was founded on the island, an organization born with the mission of divulging the liberation struggle being waged by the people of that Asian country, whose first president was Melba Hernández.
Years later, the Cuba-Vietnam Friendship Association was constituted, which continues to function today, serving as a source of constant exchange with its counterpart organization in Vietnam.
WORTHY OF ADMIRATION
Martí’s high regard for this brotherly people was also shared by Fidel. “In war the Annamites have always won,” Martí wrote in La Edad de Oro. “For Vietnam, we are ready to give even our own blood,” the unforgettable Comandante en Jefe stated.
In September 1973 – when the war against U.S. forces that occupied the south of the country was still ongoing, which cost the lives of more than five million Vietnamese – the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution was the first head of state to visit the liberated area of Quang Tri.
Fidel crossed the 17th parallel (the provisional military demarcation line between North and South Vietnam), met with combatants who fought there and waved the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.
Many years later, on recalling that visit, Fidel wrote in one of his reflections: “I did not have the privilege of meeting Ho Chi Minh, the legendary creator of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the country of the Annamites, the people of whom our National Hero José Martí talked with such a praiseworthy fashion in 1889 in his Golden Age children’s magazine.”
Later, referring to the guerrillas he met in Quang Tri, he added: “We met with young Vietnamese soldiers who draped themselves in glory in the Battle of Quang Tri. Serene, resolute, weather-beaten by the sun and hardened by the war, a slight tic was reflected in the battalion captain’s eyelid. No one knows how they were able to resist so many bombs. They were worthy of admiration.”
Today, the sentiment for this people is the same, who, like Cuba, have a rich history of struggle against imperialist powers and refuse to let the banner of socialism fall.
AFTER THE WAR, THE ReNOVATION
In 1986, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam implemented the Doi Moi (Renovation) Policy of economic reforms, which led to the implementation of a socialist-orientated market economy. The 20-year war (1955-1975) that had ended with the reunification of the country in 1975 was left behind.
In the first decade of the 21st century, this sister nation focused its efforts on becoming a middle income country. Vietnam managed to lift some 25 million people from poverty in less than two decades.
Key figures on the Vietnamese economy at the end of 2017:
– Gross Domestic Product: grew by 6.81%
– GDP per capita: 2,385 USD
– Exports: above 213.770 billion USD
– Foreign visitors: 13 million
– Foreign direct investment: approximately 36 billion USD
– Poverty rate: reduced to 6.9%
(Sources: teleSur, Cubadebate)
Bilateral cooperation between Cuba and Vietnam:
– Public health
– Tourism industry
– Use of nuclear energy
– Information and communications technology
(Sources: Granma, Radio Rebelde)