Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

Quang Tri Province, the land of sunshine and hot wind, is filled with constructions that remind us of the faithful, friendly relations between Vietnam and Cuba. These constructions resemble the love that Cuban experts and people have to assist the province in recovering from war impacts.

Share the wind, share the rain

Major General Hoang Anh Tuan, former Political Commissar of the 515th Sapper Regiment that built the Dong Truong Son road in the war, often visits the monument of the Vietnam-Cuba Friendship Route constructed in 2020 by the major general and the Truong Son – Ho Chi Minh Road Vietnam Organization.

To him, the monument will educate young generations about the existence of the route and the friendship between the two nations.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

According to the major general, the route resulted from the efforts of Vietnamese sappers and the support of Cuban military experts. Back in 1967, Cuban experts arrived in Truong Son Mountains in 1967 to study the development of a reinforcement route.

After the Paris Peace Accords was signed in late January 1973 to end the war and restore peace in Vietnam, the sappers were tasked with preparing for the total attack operation in the Spring of 1975 to restore national unification.

"The roads needed some upgrades. It remained a huge challenge for us due to the lack of equipment," Major General Tuan said.

After President Fidel Castro’s visit to Quang Tri, the Cuban Government delivered Truong Son sappers with machines and devices worth US$6 million and highly-skilled engineers and constructors to build the roads.

“Cuba purchased all machinery from Japan, which met the US standards at the time and were not available elsewhere in Vietnam until 1990,” Tuan recalled.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

On December 30, 1973, a delegation of 40 engineers, mechanics and officials departed from Hanoi to Cuba and partook in a six-month training course. The team was the core to facilitate the construction of new Truong Son roads. To keep the secret, the specialists were known as Ha Nam Ninh Province students.

Provided with modern machines and devices, with instructions from Cuban experts, the Vietnamese officials quickly got used to the machines and techniques.

After the war ended on April 30, 1975, Truong Son sappers began their new journey to restore and develop the Vietnamese society and economy. The 515th Regiment maintained Route 9 from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh and joined the project on building Route 14’s stretch from Dakrong to Bu Lach, a southwestern locality of Thua Thien Hue Province.

According to Colonel Do Van Thai, a former official of the Material Company, the Dakrong-Bu Lach project was one of their first achievements reached after the war with the passionate, pure assistance of Cuban specialists.

In the following three years, Cuban specialists continued their support for Truong Son sappers. They endured the hardships of the weather and post-war poverty to expand and upgrade the roads of fire to serve the national socio-economic growth.

The Cuba-imprinted bridge

The Dakrong Suspension Bridge is another sample of Vietnam-Cuba friendship in Quang Tri Province. The bridge had been built of iron and steel, crossing Dakrong River to connect Route 14 and Route 9 and linking Quang Tri with the provinces of Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Binh Phuoc.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

The route was an important blood vein that provided massive reinforcement and support for the southern battlefields. Given its importance, Cuba assisted Vietnam in building a suspension bridge with 100m length and 6m width to replace the steel bridge.

The suspension bridge was constructed by the 99th and 509th regiments. It collapsed in 1999 due to the time and floods. Assisted by Cuba, the new Dakrong suspension bridge was opened to traffic in 2000 as the first one designed and constructed by the Vietnamese.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

The suspension bridge crosses the Dakrong River, and it is an important connectivity to link routes 9 and 14A to Central Highlands and Southeastern provinces. The bridge also connects National Way 15D to the La Lay International Border Gate and reduces the distance for vehicles traveling from southern Laos to Vietnam’s central coastal provinces by 914km.

According to Tran Huu Hung, Director of the Quang Tri Provincial Transport Department, the Dakrong Suspension Bridge facilitates better trade between Vietnam and neighboring countries, accelerates the people of Pa Ko ethnic group in Dakrong District to improve their living conditions, and narrows the gap between poor villages and developed areas in Quang Tri Province.

The Dakrong suspension bridge highlights Quang Tri Province’s splendid landscapes as part of the Dakrong historic relic, a popular destination to visitors.

Travel on Con Co Island

In 2006, Cuban specialist on urban planning Abelaro Perez Ayllo came to Quang Tri to help the province develop Con Co Island into a tourism site. "This is my first time here in Vietnam and Quang Tri. The two names have been long familiar among all Cuban people," he told reporters in 2006.

Reminded of those days, former Secretary of Con Co District Party Committee Le Quang Lanh said the island sought Cuba’s help because it needed a sustainable, long-term tourism development plan to boost our socio-economic growth in 2004-2005.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

The provincial authorities worked with relevant ministries and the Vietnam-Cuba Inter-Government Committee to ask for support from the Cuban Government. The response was almost immediate.

"Abelaro had 32 years of experience in urban development and was a man of friendliness and quick adaptability. He asked for nothing in return and even rejected our payment worth VND10 million (US$410)," Lanh said.

Vietnam – Cuba Relations: Inheriting the past for future development - The constructions of friendship

"Eco-friendliness is the driving trend for global tourism and free of human impact. In my plan, we should spend 40ha of the island for tourism activities, and the infrastructure must fit the natural environment," the former secretary recalled Abelaro’s recommendations.

Until now, the Cuban expert’s ideas remain valuable for the island’s authorities to adopt and facilitate their socio-economic growth.

Under his plan, only electric vehicles are allowed on Con Co Island, no multi-story concretized buildings are built, the environment is kept clean and green, and the island district and people have planted more trees to recover the environment after it was destroyed by a storm in 2013.

Besides, the power grids run underground, seawater is filtered and turned into fresh water for local islanders, and people are forbidden from impacting nature.

Con Co Island is now one of the travel trademarks in Quang Tri Province, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

Lam Thanh - Phuong Minh - Hoai Huong - Tu Linh - Huy Anh

0:24:09:2023:17:31 GMT+7

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