This article was translated by John R. Bopp
This time, we’re bringing you a curious story of “Basques in the World”, one almost as incredible as its two protagonists: a Francoist Basque and Fidel Castro.
Today, Venezuelan author and political analyst Fausto Maso has written an article for the Venezuelan daily El Nacional discussing an event that put Juan Pablo de Lojendio, the San Sebastian-born avid Francoist ambassador to Cuba, face-to-face with Fidel Castro.
It’s not hard to find Mr. Maso’s opinions regarding Castro and what he did: he didn’t like them. And this is very understandable, given our hindsight from 2016 that allows us to know (in an overly simplified fashion) that he was the head, and the soul, of an authoritarian regime that has governed this Caribbean island since bringing down the dictator Batista on January 1, 1959.
What’s puzzling to us is that he reinforces his criticism by using an event that occurred a year after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, when the Francoist ambassador stood up to the prime minister of that recently-constituted country.
What we don’t understand is why he finds something positive in the actions of a man, ambassador Lojendio, who was a recognized Francoist, a member of a fascist party during the Spanish Republic, and a defender of the military coup and illegal and dictatorial government that oppressed Spain for forty years.
Fidel criticized the government of the insurgent Franco on television, which enraged the ambassador. He was so angry that, with his deepest beliefs under attack, he addressed Cuban television to interrupt the retransmission and asked Castro for the right to respond to what he found offensive.
Castro was lucky, because if that offense had been committed by a Spaniard in territory controlled by the Francoist dictatorship, that person would have most certainly ended up in prison, or a common grave.
Lojendio was also lucky, because if he had interrupted Franco during one of his broadcasts instead of Castro, he would undoubtedly have ended up in prison or brought down by Franco’s security.
As is logical, this diplomat’s lack of diplomacy had consequences, which were also very diplomatic: he was expelled from Cuba. No one need worry about his career: he continued serving as a first-level ambassador until his death as the Francoist ambassador to the Holy See.
Mr. Lojendio’s political and professional life is eye-opening. He studied diplomacy, and worked during the Spanish Republic for the CEDA, a party with fascist tendencies. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the coup that brought down the Spanish Republic and the totalitarian government it brought about. He was also the co-author of a pamphlet titled “Speeches to the Basques in the Americas”, speeches given by Dr. Carlos Ibarguren, Juan Pablo de Lojendio, and Monsignor Gustavo Franceschi and Buenos Aires on July 17, 1937, celebrating the liberation of the Basque Country by Franco’s army.
And then, in January 1960, neither the 20 years Franco’s illegal dictatorship, nor the personal career path of its ambassador to Cuba seemed the best contrast to the actions of Fidel Castro, who just a year earlier, had partaken in bringing down a dictatorial regime.
Nor does the ambassador’s behavior seem a good contrast, as he seemed incapable of acting as a diplomat, at least one that would represent a legitimate, democratic government. It’s true that he represented a dictatorship that already had a civil war and twenty years of dictatorship on its collective conscience, so maybe his behavior was to the liking of the “diplomatic school” of that regime.
We have no doubt that the author could have found other events of behaviours that would have been valid to criticize the attitudes and decisions of Fidel Castro, because if the offense that Fidel’s words caused Mr. Lojendio had any value, that value would undoubtedly be positive for Mr. Castro.
It also seems that the “melee” didn’t go down as the article narrates. But it’s also true that in the images we can only make out the “rice with mango” (too often confused with “rice à la cubana) that was made that night on that TeleMundo set.
By the way, whoever would like to watch the video of the confrontation between Lojendio and Castro that was recorded by the cameras can find the link below. We recommend listening to the comments the Cuban prime minister says after the incident.
El Nacional – 3/12/2016 – Venezuela
El gran susto de Fidel Castro
Los guerreros no mueren en la cama, como cualquier hijo de vecino. Entregan la vida en el campo de batalla, después de lanzar una consigna patética. Al grito de patria o muerte muchos latinoamericanos cayeron en la guerrilla o asesinados en las ciudades. El inventor de la frase falleció anciano, achacoso, buscando excusas para su final, convertido, fatalmente en un abuelito bueno, olvidado por su verdadero enemigo, Estados Unidos, abriéndoles las puertas de la isla a los que podían sacar de abajo a su país, los turistas.
The Francoist ambassador to Cuba, Juan Pablo de Lojendio, interrupts a TV interview with Fidel Castro (starting at 26:55) (Castro’s reactions start at 28:55)