On January 26, 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau embarked on his historic three-day visit to Havana, becoming the first leader of a NATO country to visit Cuba since the crippling 1960 American economic embargo. The trip was widely denounced, especially for its timing, as Castro had recently sent Cuban soldiers to fight a civil war in Angola. As the Americans watched warily, Trudeau, accompanied by his wife, Margaret, and baby Michel, was greeted in Havana by 250,000 cheering Cubans and a 30- foot poster of himself. “Long live Prime Minister Fidel Castro!” Trudeau would famously shout at the love-in. Margaret would declare Castro “the sexiest man alive.”
In this fascinating first-ever portrait of an unusual relationship between two enigmatic world leaders, author and historian Robert Wright brings to life three critical days when Canadian politics played on the international stage. Wright describes how, long before he was prime minister, Trudeau had attempted to canoe to Cuba, and how Castro visited Montreal as a young revolutionary, later welcoming FLQ terrorists to his tiny island. In a revealing look at their personalities and political ideologies, Wright shows how the two leaders, despite their official positions as allies of rival empires, had determinedly refused to exist merely as handmaidens to the United States. This fact, he asserts, is what brought them to power, and what drew them to each other.
Wright draws on extensive insight from political commentators and historians as many interviewees talk candidly for the first time. A book that will tap into our continuing fascination with Pierre Trudeau and our interest in the future political course of Cuba, Three Nights in Havana is an intimate and insightful portrait of two controversial and often misunderstood figures and their place in history.
Pierre Trudeau and Fidel Castro became friends despite their differences. They agreed to disagree; the same is true of Canada and Cuba. And it all began on a tiny coral key off Cuba’s southern shore in 1976, with the cheer heard round the world: “ Viva el primer ministro Fidel Castro!”—fromThree Nights in Havana