Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reclaiming Che Guevara: The Hero With All Rights Reserved



Courtesy of Friends for Cuba Society

We need to fight against the Profiteering of those who have claimed Che in the world markets. They sell our hero for millions whilst on the other side the US denounce him and the Cuban Five as terrorists. We want to reclaim this hero so that he is celebrated in the right manner. We should rememeber him and all that he stood for. Liberation of the poor. Fight against poverty. RECLAIM CHE! STOP THE CAPITALIST GAINS FROM CHE. We launch a campaign to remind us of who was Che. Read and let us know what you think. Your Spirit Lives On in Our Minds and we all want to be like you. We all would like to emulate Che Guevara.

Che Guevara

Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna (June 14, 1928 - October 9, 1967), commonly known as Che Guevara, was an Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary and Cuban guerrilla leader. “Che” is an Argentine expression for calling someone's attention, and in some other parts of Latin America, a slang for someone from Argentina.

Guevara was a member of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, which seized power in Cuba in 1959. After the revolution Guevara became second only to Fidel Castro in the new government of Cuba. After a brief stints as president of the National Bank and Minister of Industries, Guevara did not settle in as part of the new Cuban government, and tried without success to stage revolutions through guerilla warfare in various countries, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bolivia, where he was captured by a unit of the Bolivian Ranger Battalion advised by United States Green Berets on October 8, 1967, and executed the following day.


In 1951, Ernesto set off from his home town of Córdoba on a motorcycle tour of Central and South America. The poverty he observed during this trip led him to intensify his study of Marxist ideologies. Following his graduation from the University of Buenos Aires medical school in 1953, he travelled to Guatemala where a populist leader, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, had recently been elected president. Ernesto met several followers of Fidel Castro who were in exile there. When the CIA sponsored an overthrow of Arbenz's rule, Ernesto volunteered to fight. Arbenz told his supporters to leave the country, and Ernesto briefly took refuge in the Argentine consulate. After moving to Mexico City, he renewed his friendship with Castro's associates. Ernesto met Castro when the latter arrived in the Mexican capital after being amnestied from political prison in Cuba, and joined his 26th of July Movement dedicated to the overthrow of Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Castro, Che and 80 other insurgents departed Tuxpan, Mexico aboard the cabin cruiser "Granma" in November 1956 to invade Cuba and start the revolution. The boat had been owned by an American, so the name most likely meant Grandma, as a tribute to the previous owner's grandmother. Shortly after disembarking in a swampy area near Niquero in South-East Cuba, the expeditionaries were attacked by Batista's forces. Only 12 rebels survived. Che, the group's physician, laid down his knapsack containing medical supplies in order to pick up a box of ammunition dropped by a fleeing comrade, a moment which he later recalled as marking his transition from doctor to combatant.. Within months he rose to the highest rank, Comandante (Major), in the revolutionary army. His march on Santa Clara in late 1958, where his column derailed an armored train filled with Batista's troops and took over the city, was the final straw that forced Batista to flee the country.

His execution of deserters and spies in the revolutionary army, have led some to consider Guevara a ruthless leader. However those persons executed by Guevara or on his orders were condemned for the usual crimes punishable by death at times of war or in its aftermath: desertion, treason or crimes such as rape, torture or murder. For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed orders for imprisoned troops that had deserted to be executed. In 1959, Che Guevara was appointed commander of the La Cabana Fortress prison. During his term as commander of the fortress from 1959-1963, he oversaw the execution of what some estimate to be approximately 500 political prisoners and regime opponents. Many individuals imprisoned at La Cabana, such as poet and human rights activist Armando Valladares, allege that Guevara took particular and personal interest in the interrogation, torture, and execution of some prisoners. In fact, when Che's column had captured enemy soldiers who had not committed crimes against the public, such as rape and torture, he would simply take their ammo and release them.

Unlike other leaders, he gave up all the trappings of privilege and power in Cuba in order to return to the revolutionary battlefield and, ultimately, to die. He persuaded Castro to back him in the first, covert Cuban involvement in Africa. Guevara desired to first work with the Simba (aka "Lumumbaist") movement in the former Belgian Congo (later Zaire and currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo), with the goal of overthrowing the government and installing a Communist regime. He rapidly discovered that having worked for a successful revolutionary leader does not make one a successful revolutionary leader.

U.S. Army Special Forces advisors working with the Congolese army were able to monitor Che's communications, arrange to ambush the rebels and the Cubans whenever they attempted to attack, and interdict Guevara's supply lines. Guevara proved unable to supplant the native Simba leadership, and in fact was forced to place his troops under Simba command. Every military operation planned by him failed miserably. Late that same year, ill, humiliated and with only a few survivors of the force he had brought into the country, Guevara left the Congo.

Following a lengthy recuperation in Cuba, traveling on a false passport Guevara entered Bolivia in November of 1966, again with the idea of organizing a revolt and hoping to topple Bolivia's pro-U.S. military government and installing a Communist government there. A parcel of jungle land in Nancahazu was purchased by native Communists and turned over to him for use as a training area. The evidence suggests that this training was more hazardous than combat to Guevara and the Cubans accompanying him. Little was accomplished in the way of building a guerrilla army. On learning of his presence in Bolivia, President Rene Barrientos is alleged to have expressed the desire to see Che's head displayed on a pike in downtown La Paz. He ordered the Bolivian Army to hunt Guevara and his followers down.

Che Guevara traveled to Bolivia in an attempt to aid a popular uprising there, but there are many factors which he simply did not predict. First of all, there was an American presence in Bolivia; after the U.S. government learned of his location, CIA operatives were sent into Bolivia to aid the anti-insurrection effort, and the anti-insurrectionists were being armed and trained by American officials. There was also the lack of help which Che had expected when he undertook the journey. For example, Fidel had told him that the communist party in Bolivia would aid him in the insurrection but they did not.

Che and his insurrectionists found themselves cornered in Bolivia, the American aid to the Bolivian government on one end, and the lack of assistance from his allies. In addition to this, the CIA also helped anti-Castro Cuban exiles to set up interrogation houses for those Bolivians who were thought to be assisting Che Guevara and/or his guerillas, which were often used for torture of these individuals.

The anti-insurrectionists were notified of the location of Guevara's guerilla encampment by a deserter; and on October 8th, 1967 the encampment was encircled and Che was captured while leading a patrol in the vicinity of La Higuera, Bolivia. His surrender was offered after being wounded multiple times in the legs and having his rifle destroyed by a bullet. According to soldiers present at the capture, during the skirmish, as soldiers approached Guevara, he shouted, "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead." Barrientos ordered his execution immediately upon being informed of Guevara's capture. Guevara was summarily executed; he was taken to a rugged old schoolhouse and bound by his hands to a board. Supposedly, Ernesto Guevara did have some last words before his death; he allegedly said to his executioner,
“Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man,” after which he was shot in the heart.

A CIA agent and Veteran of the US invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, Felix Rodriguez, heard of Guevara's chapter and relayed the information to the CIA. He has said on multiple occasions that he was the one that shot Guevara. This is generally thought to be untrue. After the execution, Rodriguez took Che's Rolex watch, often proudly showing it to reporters during the ensuing years. Guevara died on October 9th. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the vicinity of the execution site after the CIA had removed his hands to send to different parts of the world to ensure his identity.

Also removed was Guevara's diary, which outlines the guerrilla war being fought in Bolivia. It tells of the group being forced to begin operations due to discovery by the Bolivian Army, the eventual and accidental split of the group, and the general failure of the guerrillas. It shows the split between Guevara and the Bolivian Communist Party that led the guerrillas to have significantly less soldiers than originally anticipated. It shows that Guevara had a great deal of difficulty recruiting the local populace due mainly to the fact that the guerrilla group had learned quechua and not the local language. As the campaign drew to an unexpected close, Guevara was becoming increasingly sick. He suffered from asthma, and most of the guerrilla's last offensives were carried out to obtain medicine for the sick leader.

The Bolivian Diary was quickly and crudely translated by Ramparts Magazine and circulated around the world. Fidel Castro has denied involvement with this circulation. This is a considered a strange accusation, for the diary does not idealize guerrilla warfare.

From the group of 27 guerrillas that set out on Febuary 1, 1967, only 3 survived after October 9, 1967. They crossed the Andes Mountains into Chile. There, they were met by Salvador Allende, who gave them asylum and helped them reach Cuba.

In 1999, the skeletal remains of Guevara's body were exhumed, positively identified by DNA matching and returned to Cuba, where he is revered as a heroic revolutionary leader.

Che's book, Guerrilla Warfare, was seen for a time as the definitive philosophy for fighting irregular wars. However, with his death in Bolivia his "Cuban Style" of revolution outlined in the book was thought by some to be ineffective. Guevara believed that a small group (foco) of guerrillas, by violently targeting the government, could actively foment revolutionary feelings among the general populace, so that it was not necessary to build broad organizations and advance the revolutionary struggle in measured steps before launching armed insurrection.

In the late 1960s, he became a popular icon for revolution and youthful political ideals in Western culture. A dramatic photograph of Che taken by photographer Alberto Korda in 1961 soon became one of the century's most recognizable images, and the portrait was simplified and reproduced on a vast array of merchandise, such as T-shirts, posters, and baseball caps.

Che's reputation even extended into theatre where he is depicted as the narrator in the musical Evita, who becomes disillusioned with the increasingly corrupt and tyrannical Eva Peron and her dictator husband. This is taking some creative license, as Guevara's only interaction with Eva Peron was to write her a facetious letter in his youth, asking her for a Jeep.

Guevara has been represented in the movies by Francisco Rabal (1968), Omar Sharif (1969), Alfredo Vasco (1999), and Gael García Bernal (2002) and (2003).


Donald Kagan wrote that Che "...appeared to have been a devoted Marxist...", John Gerassi was convinced that Che "was not a Communist in the most traditional sense of the word...". Fidel Castro suggest in an interview with Gianni Mina, that "Che Guevara's Communism was never more than formal, even at the end." and Richard Gott believes that "Guevara had never been a Communist."

His first wife Hilda Gadea wrote "because of his opinions Ernesto became known as a Communist."

An interesting insight into Guevara's thoughts on democracy can be seen during a press conference at the United Nations. When journalist Nat Hentoff asked Guevara" "Can you conceive of any time in the future when there will be free elections in Cuba?"

Not waiting for the translator, Guevara laughed heartily at Hentoff. "In Cuba?" He said, and moved on.


“We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it, to his home, to his centers of entertainment: a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be, make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to disappear.”
—Che Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental

“In a revolution, one triumphs or dies.”
—Che Guevara (farewell letter to Fidel Castro; dated April 1, 1965)

“Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.”
—Che Guevara (message to the Tricontinental; 1967)

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”
—Che Guevara

“Many will call me an adventurer - and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes.”
—Che Guevara


The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, Ocean Press, 175 pages, 2003

Further reading
Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson
The Che Guevara Reader
Guevara, Also Known as Che, Paco Ignacio Taibo
Guerrilla Warfare, Che Guevara, Brian Loveman, Thomas M., Jr. Davies



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