Speaking in Spanish, he wanted to know what newspaper I represented and
whether everything was fine.
There was little time to bring up my
request, through his Foreign Ministry,
to secure an interview.
Although Castro is known to speak fluent
English, according to some books, he
made no attempt to use the language. His
Turning to NST editor-at-large Hardev
Kaur, who was standing nearby, he
planted a kiss on her cheeks.
“Please send my regards to your prime
minister, he's a good man,'' he said, as
a crowd gathered to watch.
There has been much political chemistry
since Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad made his first trip to the communist-ruled Caribbean
During the 1997 trip, Dr Mahathir was praised by Castro for bringing 16 years of strong economic growth
He hailed Dr Mahathir for his commitment
to bringing progress to the South.
At that time, East Asia had just being
hit by the currency speculators,
bringing disastrous consequences to national economies and wiping out decades of hard work by the people.
During discussions then, the two leaders
struck a chord as they exchanged views on globalisation and how developing nations had to deal with ever-increasing conditions imposed by those in power and influence in
the international arena.
Since the 1997 visit, there have been
follow-up visits by several Cabinet
ministers and businessman.
MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Ka Ting,
for example, was instrumental in bringing a women's volleyball team to Malaysia
following a visit.
The Cuban side also opened an embassy
prior to Dr Mahathir's visit. Last week,
Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar
announced that Malaysia would follow suit in Havana.
Cuban authorities certainly went out of
their way during this summit to accord preferential treatment to Malaysian
delegates and newsmen.
On arriving at the Jose Marti International Airport at midnight, we found several hundred tourists lining up at
the immigration counters. Instead of
opening a special counter for us, the Cuban officials insisted that we jump
queue which led to protests,
understandably, from the tourists.
Much to the embarrassment of the
Malaysians, the Cuban officials turned a
deaf ear to the complaints.
Malaysia certainly made its presence
felt. Dr Mahathir was given the honour
to table a motion to allow the G77
current chairman, Nigeria, to express
the grouping's aspirations to the G7
summit of developed nations.
Till recently, Cubans barely knew
Malaysia as a country on the other side
of the world.
The older generation still ask whether
Malaysia had tigers roaming in our jungles
images they picked up from
watching a 60s film Sandokan about a
swashbuckling son of a sultan in
Among the younger Cubans, however,
Malaysia is regarded as a tiger, roaring
for developing nations at international forums.