Algerian leader Ben Bella and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara during the early 1960s. Ben Bella recently died in Algeria at the age of 95., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
November 29, 2012
Che, first revolutionary president of the National Bank of Cuba
O. Fonticoba Gener
ERNESTO Guevara headed the National Bank of Cuba (BNC) for 456 days. This was possibly the shortest period of time that Che dedicated to a task of such significance and, according to many historians, it is the period least known about his life.
By November 26, 1959, the date on which he assumed the presidency of the BNC, the Cuban bank was in a critical situation. As yet not nationalized and with scant reserves, given that the majority of its assets had been stolen and taken to the United States, the inherited banking system lacked the conditions to promote the newly independent country’s economic and social development.
In this context, the revolutionary government' principal intention was to recover financial control of the banking system and place it in the hands of the state, including the functions of conserving and guarding the monetary funds owned by the National Bank. Naturally, all of this militated against U.S. plans to destabilize the national economy.
The Cuban government’s response to this U.S. proposition was swift. Under Che’s presidency, the flight of hard currency from the country was controlled, the BNC was nationalized, the Organic Bank Law was drafted and the return for counterrevolutionary purposes of capital taken out of the country was avoided.
In this context, the currency exchange operation of 1961 was of particular importance. This financial operation, which took place in just two days and was planned extremely carefully in advance by Che, involved exchanging banknotes in circulation so as to gain control of government cash and prevent monetary resources in the power of counterrevolutionaries who had left Cuba being utilized for conspiring against the country.
Fifty three years after the appointment of the first revolutionary president of the National Bank of Cuba, Che Guevara’s strength of spirit and vision must be acknowledged. As Fidel affirmed at the solemn ceremony mourning his death, "Che constituted the singular case of an extremely rare man, in that he was capable of combining in his personality not only the characteristics of a man of action, but also of a man of thought."