On his third visit to Argentina in 44 years, the Cuban leader drew everybody's attention to and was, at last, cheered by 40,000 people on his first-ever outdoor speech outside Cuba
Visibly moved, Fidel Castro on Monday closed his visit to Buenos Aires to attend Sunday's inauguration of new Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. At the gates of the majestic Greek-style Buenos Aires University, Castro spoke before an enthusiastic crowd of 40,000 crowd that stood out in the cold for three hours listening to him.
That was Castro's first-ever address in the open outside Cuba. The event, previously scheduled to be held indoors in the University's main hall, had to be moved due to the huge crowd that gathered at the gates of the building.
The revolutionary leader showed up at nine in the evening and spoke for almost three hours. Nobody moved all through Castro's speech .When the Cuban President announced that the meeting was being broadcast live on Cuban television, the crowd chorused "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba, el pueblo te saluda" (Cuba, Cuba, Cuba, the people salutes you).
Castro's statement covered many Cuban, Latin American and global issues. Amid crowd cheers, the leader of the Cuban Revolution explained chapter and verse about the status of the educational and health-care system of Cuba; told personal stories of the Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara; and expressed his views on current global events. Then, he criticized current US foreign policy and "neoliberal globalization".
First, Castro thanked those in attendance for being present despite the cold weather and also thanked local authorities for allowing him to make a speech. "Argentineans struck a blow against neoliberalism", he said, making clear his sympathy with the new President. In response to people's requests, Castro also highlighted Che Guevara's life, and described him as one of the best men in the Americas.
Then, Cuba's President defined himself as an optimistic man who believes in the salvation of the world and the preeminence of ideas over force. "I think, because I am optimistic, that this world can be saved despite the mistakes made, despite the huge and unilateral powers, because I believe in the preeminence of ideas over force," said the Cuban leader.
Encouraged by the people who were chanting "oleee, oleeee, Fidel, Fidel", the Cuban head of State criticized the US government's warmongering plans and Washington's stepped-up hostility against the island. "They dream about destroying not only the Revolution, but the people who were capable of resisting more than 40 years of blockade, aggression and threats", pointed out Fidel Castro.
He also made reference to what the Cuban Government calls the "nazi-fascist" foreign policy launched by the Bush-led US administration after the September 11 attacks. Castro added that it is not an exaggeration to talk about a US pretension of installing a new fascist dictatorship worldwide, when we heard one day, he said, that over 60 countries can be targets of preemptive and surprise attacks.
All through Sunday's ceremonies around Kirchner's inauguration, Castro was the center of the attention of the press and the public. Argentine lawmakers acclaimed him as much as they did the President Kirchner himself, and spontaneous crowds gathered on the streets just to see him passing by. In fact the Castromania surprised everybody, as Argentina's society is far away from being leftist.
Fidel Castro left the country Tuesday morning. He will probably never forget this unexpectedly warm reception by the Argentine people.