Argentina: Fidel’s Last Trip Abroad
By Orestes Pérez Pérez
August 12, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
On four occasions, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz was in Argentina. His last trip abroad was precisely to that country, on the occasion of a Summit of Mercosur Presidents, held in the city of Córdoba, in July 2006.
Wearing his inseparable olive green uniform and almost without warning, Fidel arrived at the Ingeniero “Ambrosio Taravella” International Airport in Córdoba at around 8:30 pm on Thursday, July 20, 2006, where he was received by then President Néstor Kirchner.
Some witnesses tell of that historic visit, that until the last moment there was no news of the Cuban president’s arrival, which took place amidst the strictest security measures.
“This must be the only meeting in which I was not made a plan of attack. I had to disinform even my friends. I don’t think anyone knew if I was coming, not even me”, he commented in a speech delivered at the so-called “Summit of the Peoples”, on a cold night, typical of these southern winter months, at the University of Cordoba, the same one that was the scene of the remarkable University Reform of 1918, more than 100 years ago.
“You made a reform that made history, which was the most important, I am about to say the only one. But time has passed, and the world study system must be reformed,” said the Historical Leader of the Cuban Revolution, who was accompanied that night by Hugo Chávez and Hebe de Bonafini, head of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, the group that organized the event.
Thousands of people from Cordoba and other provinces of the country listened attentively to Fidel, who spoke with them for three hours about the most varied issues, including the urgent need for Latin American and Caribbean integration, social programs in Cuba, public education and the literacy campaign of the first years of the Revolution, among others.
Chavez, for his part, had promised to be brief. “I told Fidel, I’m just going to be his host,” he said to the crowd that applauded him and repeated his last name over and over again. Nevertheless, he reflected for several hours on the “Cordobazo”, the challenges of Mercosur and American imperialism. “Only the people make history,” he said that night in Cordoba.
The Commander-in-Chief had been in Argentina on three previous occasions: in 1959, invited by then-President Arturo Frondizi, at the Ibero-American Summit (1995) and in 2003, when he attended Kirchner’s inauguration, when he delivered his memorable speech on the steps of the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), before around 30 thousand people.
In this last trip Fidel visited -together with Chávez- the house where Che lived in Alta Gracia, where they shared anecdotes of the Heroic Guerrilla’s childhood and got to know closely the spaces he lived in during his childhood.
The peaceful mountain village, which enjoyed a sunny and somewhat hot day, unusual for the season, saw its usual mid-afternoon rest interrupted by the unexpected visit.
Since very early in the morning, that July 22nd, the people from Alta Gracia took over the streets of this mountain village, with 45 thousand inhabitants, 35 kilometers away from the capital of Córdoba, to take pictures, hug or -simply- shake hands with these two world leaders.
A sea of people, all surprised and incredulous, shouted and applauded the presence of Fidel and Chávez. For them, it was the most transcendental event in the history of that small town. For Fidel, perhaps without knowing it, his last trip abroad.