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Friday, October 14, 2005 (read 1958 times)
Where's Fidel?by Christophe
First off I would like to apologize for not writing in Spanish. I probably could by now but it just takes me longer and there is so much to do here!
Although a fascinating place, the eyes of the world are not usually focused on Salamanca. They are now, as our little student town is the venue for the 15th Iberoamerican Summit. Out of 22 heads of state of Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, 17 are attending the summit. Nearly 2000 journalists have descended on our otherwise so uneventful student city. Salamanca is absolutely brimming with excitement.
The first to arrive were policemen from all over Spain: antiterrorism units, bomb squads, snipers … With the bombings in Madrid still fresh in mind, nothing has been left to chance. Manholes were welded shut, hotels and apartments were inspected and police sentries were installed. Featuring names like Kofi Annan, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez on the guest list, police prepared for any eventuality. There are Spanish and NATO military aircrafts standing by near Salamanca, there is a battery of Hawk-type ground-to-air missiles and a police boat that barely fits in the shallow Tormes river. Police helicopters continually patrol the airspace, much to the annoyance of the "indigenous" student population. Short of a full-blown invasion, it looks like not much can go wrong.
Then came the journalists, killing time until the presidentes arrive by doing street interviews and looking for human interest. With these summits you never know if there will be any actual news to report on. As álvaro Uribe, the Columbian president asserted himself (http://www.spainherald.com/2005-10-13news.html), summits all too often do not surpass the level of presidential tourism. Great food and a nice chance for the big shots to chat with their peers but no solutions to the questions at hand.
It became clear today that Fidel Castro would be a no-show. The news was greeted with mixed reactions. Security officials probably didn't mind a whole lot. Neither did Zapatero, who was afraid that comrades Fidel and Hugo would steal his spotlight and deflect media attention from his attempt to forge a global Iberoamerican alliance. (http://www.elpais.es/articulo/elpporint/20051009elpepiint_5/Tes)
I was disappointed though - It's not every day you get the chance to see Castro, and I'm sure the Bask Solidarity Front with Cuba and Venezuela (sic) was, too (www.euskadicuba.org). Poor guys had rented buses and organized an entire field trip to protest and express their solidarity with Chavez and Castro. And now el Comandante won't even show.
On the other side of the political spectrum we have the anti-Castro movement that will equally lament Fidel's absence. Apparently the Cuban movement that attempted the Bay of Pigs coup (brigade 2506 www.brigada2506.com) still exists and yes, they are sending a delegation to Salamanca for the summit. Should be great fun. According to this website (www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=21147) they will be staying at Pension Las Vegas. Irony apparently is not very popular in the anti-Castro movement
Fidel or no Fidel, the show must go on. The organisation had arranged for another special guest and one to be reckoned with: secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan. Unfortunately, I didn't see him either on today's public appearance. Like any Salmantino or student, the world leaders had agreed to meet each other "debajo del reloj", under the clock. No Kofi Annan, but we did see the Spanish King and Queen and most of the heads of state, including some celebrities like Brazilian Lula and Fox of Mexico.
The Plaza Mayor sure was a great sight today: the King and the presidents waving to the commoners from the balcony, a lot of men in their thirties and forties dressed in bulgy leather jackets and doing their best not to look like policemen, older Spanish women poisonously commenting on how young all the First Ladies are, reporters (sometimes literally) bending over backwards to make their coverage stick out, … We live in an interesting place.