Former Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet on Thursday met with former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in Binh Duong Province, a neighbor of Ho Chi Minh City, and recalled memories of Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, the biological mother of the former Chilean leader and adoptive mother of the former head of the Vietnamese state.
Former Chilean President Bachelet is now in Vietnam for a visit on the occasion of the 52th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Chile is located over 17,000 kilometers from Vietnam.
|Former Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet talks with Michelle Bachelet. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
The two ex-leaders of the two countries gave each other a big hug before refreshing memories.
Their special friendship was formed in 2005 when former Chilean President Bachelet came to Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit week, an international event presided over by former Vietnamese State President Triet.
“I and leaders of Binh Duong Province are glad to welcome former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her delegation.
“Bachelet is a friend of the Vietnamese people. She has made important contributions to the partnership between the two countries,” the former Vietnamese leader said during a meeting with Bachelet at his house.
“I miss Ángela a lot. Ángela is the only mother of two countries’ leaders,” he added.
Listening to former Vietnamese State President Triet retelling stories about their late mother, Bachelet was touched and wiped her tears away.
|Bachelet is touched when listening to former Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet retelling stories about their late mother. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
She said “I am excited and happy to return to Vietnam”, affirming that whenever she comes to Vietnam, she is given a warm welcome, especially by her ‘older brother’ Nguyen Minh Triet.
She added that in the eyes of her generation, Vietnam is a great monument due to its fight against powerful empires to gain independence in the past.
Bachelet and other people in her generation used to demonstrate to oppose wars in Vietnam.
“From a war-ravaged country, Vietnam has overcome difficulties and developed,” Bachelet told Triet and congratulated Vietnam on its impressive development.
“When the Chilean ambassador [to Vietnam] invited me to visit Vietnam. Honestly, I hesitated for 1/1,000 seconds and noded in agreement,” Bachelet humorously retold the decision to return to Vietnam, a country that she loves a lot.
Former Vietnamese State President Triet said Chile also experienced many hardships in the past like Vietnam.
Bachelet used to be a victim of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the 29th President of Chile.
Bachelet’s family is rich in revolutionary traditions. Her father was a military commander who had struggled against the Pinochet dictatorship.
After her father and older brother passed away, Bachelet and her mother were protected by the German government.
“Despite having experienced a hard period, Bachelet has treated friends with all her heart. We admire her a lot.
“I also hope Bachelet to continue connecting the two countries,” Triet shared.
He humorously said that he now dares to call Bachelet younger sister. Earlier, they called each other State President and President despite the close relations.
|'I miss Ángela a lot. Ángela is the only mother of two countries’ leaders,' former Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet talks about Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, his adoptive mother and the natural mother of the former Chilean leader. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
The shared mother
When serving as the Chilean President, Bachelet often took her mother during visits to other countries, including a trip to Vietnam in 2006 on the occasion of the APEC summit.
At the time, knowing that Ángela lost her husband and son to the Pinochet dictatorship, former Vietnamese State President Triet told Ángela that “In Vietnam, women whose husbands or children died [for the country’s independence and freedom] are given the Heroic Vietnamese Mother title, so Ángela deserves to be a heroic mother.
“She was happy to be called mother and then she became my mom, not just a heroic mother.
“Since then, whenever I met her, I called her mom naturally thanks to the close and heartfelt relations,” former Vietnamese leader told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
During a visit to Chile in 2009, he reached the house of Bachelet and mom Ángela.
“I also gave her some bangles as gifts and she was moved. Some bangles were small and did not fit her twists, so I apologized and promised to send her another bangle set.”
On the occasion of the APEC summit in Singapore in 2010, former Vietnamese State President Triet met former Chilean President Bachelet and asked her to help him send a bangle set to Ángela.
“I told Bachelet that I sent the bangles to my mom.”
“Bachelet later asked me if I wanted to meet our mom that afternoon. I agreed but the then U.S. president Barack Obama later invited leaders of ASEAN countries to a party.
“At the time, Vietnam was the ASEAN chair, so I had to attend [the party],” Triet retold.
Understanding it, Bachelet said “No problem. Your mom will sympathize with you.”
|Former Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet introduces his garden in Binh Duong Province to Michelle Bachelet on March 30, 2023. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre|
Former State President Triet said thanks to the close relations between the two countries and between him and Bachelet, they easily reached a consensus on work.
At a meeting when the two remained in office, Triet suggested Bachelet recognize Vietnam’s market economy and got her agreement immediately.
Bachelet has visited Vietnam five times with the first time in 1977 when she was 26 years old and a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth which protested wars in Vietnam.
She later came to Vietnam as the Chilean president and a high-ranking official of the United Nations.
Bachelet is the first woman in Chile to win two presidential elections in 2006 and 2014.
She always pioneered in ensuring benefits of all residents, especially women, children, adolescents, and ethnic minority groups, who are the most vulnerable ones in the society.
In November 2017, when Vietnam hosted the APEC summit for the second time, former Chilean President Bachelet arrived in Vietnam without her mother.
Former Vietnamese State President later sent a letter to Ángela.
He wrote “We expect to welcome you on the APEC Vietnam occasion but you cannot come. We understand and love you more. We still remember the images and heartfelt sentiments of you and Michelle Bachelet. I wish you good health.”
The ex-leader of Vietnam also sent Ángela some home-made gifts, including bird’s nest, pomelos, and cashew nuts.
When Ángela passed away during the COVID-19 outbreak, he was sad as he could not travel to Chile.
He asked the Vietnamese Embassy in Chile to lay a wreath to pay tribute to Ángela.
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