Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped by Communist guerrillas in Havana, Cuba.
In a bizarre twist, Argentine racing champion Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped by Communist guerrillas in Havana, Cuba, one day before the second Havana Grand Prix. Members of the July 26 Movement (M-26-7) and followers of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, the kidnappers hoped to make a political statement by kidnapping the world-famous Fangio before he could defend his title at the Havana Grand Prix. "We wanted to show that Cuba was living in a situation of war against the Bautista tyranny," explained Arnol Rodriguez, a member of the kidnapping team.
In a moment fit for a Blake Edwards film, revolutionary Manuel Uziel, holding a revolver, approached Fangio in the lobby of his hotel and ordered the racecar driver to identify himself. Fangio reportedly thought it was a joke until Uziel was joined by a group of men carrying submachine guns. Fangio reacted calmly as the kidnappers explained to him their intention to keep him only until the race was over.
After his release to the Argentine Embassy, Fangio revealed a fondness for his kidnappers, refusing to help identify them and relaying their explanation that the kidnapping was a political statement. In the meantime, the Havana Grand Prix had been marred by a terrible accident, leading Fangio to believe that he had been spared for a reason.
Years later, Fangio would return to Havana on a work mission. He was received as a guest of the state, and he expressed his gratitude with quiet eloquence, "Two big dreams have come true for me: returning to Cuba and meeting Fidel Castro."
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