disadur dari milis PPI
Havana. May 21, 2010
With Fidel, you cannot lie
Manuel E. Yepe
FIFTY years ago, when I was chief of protocol for the Foreign Ministry, I witnessed an incident which, while not very important, did involve important people: Ahmed Sukarno, the former president of Indonesia; Ernest Hemingway, the great U.S. author; and the maximum leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.
On that Sunday in May 1960 the plan for the official visit of the Indonesian president, the first head of state to visit Cuba following the revolutionary victory was the following: lunch and a day at Jibacoa beach, which is around 40 km outside of Havana, as Fidel Castro’s guest.
A lack of organization due to leadership inexperience, which frequently caused problems, led us to change our rendezvous to Santa Cruz del Norte, a small fishing village a little closer to the capital, but also on the same coastal route.
There, right on the highway, we had to stop the convoy which was taking President Sukarno to Jibacoa, on the same road that we had just taken to bring in the musicians by bus.
From Santa Cruz del Norte we got word to Havana to let the Prime Minister Fidel Castro know that the meeting place had been changed.
Everything appeared to be happily resolved when drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served to the guests and the musicians began to play.
But, a half hour later, the prime minister had not arrived and we were worried that Sukarno would get impatient with the absence of his host.
Then we got a short wave radio message from the leader of the Cuban Revolution.
He was competing in the Marlin Fishing Tournament with Ernest Hemingway for whom this annual tournament is now named. He asked to be excused for being late. In a short while he hoped to join his guest, and he suggested that we not wait for him to have lunch.
I conveyed his apology to the president but lied about the reason, “..serious issues of government were preventing the prime minister from joining us at the appointed time, but he was already on his way.”
Another half hour passed. I received another message from the prime minister. He was winning, and so he could not leave the fishing tournament. Once again he asked to be excused and suggested that lunch be served without him.
“It seems that the prime minister has had to call a very urgent government meeting and he ask you to wait for him and that he will not be delayed for long,” was the false message that I gave to Sukarno.
After another 30 minutes had gone by, the distinguished foreign dignitary could no longer hide his displeasure.
“The thing is that there is a very tense situation with the United States and surely something extremely serious has arisen,” I tried to calm him.
The foreign leader went ahead and ate lunch without waiting for his host. He seemed to enjoy the food and the artists’ performance. But after the dessert he arose and asked to leave.
While Sukarno and his party got into their cars, I was convinced that I had just witnessed a serious incident in diplomatic relations between our two nations.
But 10 minutes later, when the convoy had taken the broad Via Blanca highway headed for the capital, it came to an abrupt halt.
The car carrying Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro in the opposite direction had intercepted it. Fidel got out and personally opened the left rear door of the car carrying President Sukarno. He entered and I gave him my seat next to the president.
“Did they tell you that I was competing against Ernest Hemingway in the fishing contest? I couldn’t leave because I was winning. I won the first prize without any doubt!” was the cheerful greeting from the leader of the Revolution.
“Yes, I knew that. I am very happy. Congratulations. I am very glad that you were able to come,” said Sukarno.
And they embraced smiling while I, acting as interpreter, was sweating profusely. And from that experience, I learned one lesson, with Fidel, you cannot lie.