vineri, 15 octombrie 2010
The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified
by Peter Kornbluh
On October 9th, 1967, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was put to death by Bolivian soldiers, trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives. His execution remains a historic and controversial event; and thirty years later, the circumstances of his guerrilla foray into Bolivia, his capture, killing, and burial are still the subject of intense public interest and discussion around the world.
As part of the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, the National Security Archive's Cuba Documentation Project is posting a selection of key CIA, State Department, and Pentagon documentation relating to Guevara and his death. This electronic documents book is compiled from declassified records obtained by the National Security Archive, and by authors of two new books on Guevara: Jorge Castañeda's Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (Knopf), and Henry Butterfield Ryan's The Fall of Che Guevara (Oxford University Press). The selected documents, presented in order of the events they depict, provide only a partial picture of U.S. intelligence and military assessments, reports and extensive operations to track and "destroy" Che Guevara's guerrillas in Bolivia; thousands of CIA and military records on Guevara remain classified. But they do offer significant and valuable information on the high-level U.S. interest in tracking his revolutionary activities, and U.S. and Bolivian actions leading up to his death.
* Declassified Documents
* The Death of Che Guevara: A Chronology
* New Books on Che Guevara (further information)
Click on the document icon to view each document.
CIA, The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution, October 18, 1965: This intelligence memorandum, written by a young CIA analyst, Brian Latell, presents an assessment that Guevara's preeminence as a leader of the Cuban revolution has waned, and his internal and international policies have been abandoned. In domestic policy, his economic strategy of rapid industrialization has "brought the economy to its lowest point since Castro came to power," the paper argues. In foreign policy, he "never wavered from his firm revolutionary stand, even as other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the revolution." With Guevara no longer in Cuba, the CIA's assessment concludes, "there is no doubt that Castro's more cautious position on exporting revolution, as well as his different economic approach, led to Che's downfall."
U.S. Army, Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Activation, Organization and Training of the 2d Battalion - Bolivian Army, April 28, 1967: This memorandum of understanding, written by the head of the U.S. MILGP (Military Group) in Bolivia and signed by the commander of the Bolivian armed forces, created the Second Ranger Battalion to pursue Che Guevara's guerrilla band. The agreement specifies the mission of a sixteen-member Green Beret team of U.S. special forces, drawn from the 8th Special Forces division of the U.S. Army Forces at Southcom in Panama, to "produce a rapid reaction force capable of counterinsurgency operations and skilled to the degree that four months of intensive training can be absorbed by the personnel presented by the Bolivian Armed Forces." In October, the 2nd Battalion, aided by U.S. military and CIA personnel, did engage and capture Che Guevara's small band of rebels.
White House Memorandum, May 11, 1967: This short memo to President Lyndon Johnson records U.S. efforts to track Guevara's movements, and keep the President informed of his whereabouts. Written by presidential advisor, Walt Rostow, the memo reports that Guevara may be "operational" and not dead as the CIA apparently believed after his disappearance from Cuba.
CIA, Intelligence Information Cable, October 17, 1967: This CIA cable summarizes intelligence, gathered from September 1966 through June 1967, on the disagreement between the Soviet Union and Cuba over Che Guevara's mission to Bolivia. The cable provides specific information on Leonid Brezhnev's objections to "the dispatch of Ernesto Che Guevara to Bolivia" and Brezhnev's decision to send the Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin's visit to Cuba in June, 1967 to discuss the Kremlin's opposition with Castro. CIA sources reported that Kosygin accused Castro of "harming the communist cause through his sponsorship of guerrilla activity...and through providing support to various anti-government groups, which although they claimed to be 'socialist' or communist, were engaged in disputes with the 'legitimate' Latin American communist parties...favored by the USSR." In replying Castro stated that Cuba would support the "right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of his country." Castro also "accused the USSR of having turned its back upon its own revolutionary tradition and of having moved to a point where it would refuse to support any revolutionary movement unless the actions of the latter contributed to the achievement of Soviet objectives...."
White House Memorandum, October 9, 1967: Walt Rostow reports in this memorandum to President Johnson that unconfirmed information suggests that the Bolivian battalion--"the one we have been training"--"got Che Guevara."
White House Memorandum, October 10, 1967: In a short update to Walt Rostow, William Bowdler reports there is still uncertainty about whether Che Guevara was "among the casualties of the October 8 engagement."
White House Memorandum, October 11, 1967: In another daily update, Walt Rostow reports to President Johnson that "we are 99% sure that 'Che' Guevara is dead." Rostow believes the decision to execute Guevara "is stupid," but he also points out his death "shows the soundness of our 'preventive medicine' assistance to countries facing incipient insurgency--it was the Bolivian 2nd Ranger Battalion, trained by our Green Berets from June-September of this year, that cornered him and got him."
White House Memorandum, October 13, 1967: In a final update, Walt Rostow informs Lyndon Johnson that the White House has intelligence information--still censored--that "removes any doubt that 'Che' Guevara is dead."
CIA Debriefing of F�lix Rodr�guez, June 3, 1975 When Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, one CIA official was present--a Cuban-American operative named F�lix Rodr�guez. Rodr�guez, who used the codename "F�lix Ramos" in Bolivia and posed as a Bolivian military officer, was secretly debriefed on his role by the CIA's office of the Inspector General in June, 1975. (At the time the CIA was the focus of a major Congressional investigation into its assassination operations against foreign leaders.) In this debriefing--discovered in a declassified file marked 'F�lix Rodr�guez' by journalist David Corn--Rodr�guez recounts the details of his mission to Bolivia where the CIA sent him, and another Cuban-American agent, Gustavo Villoldo, to assist the capture of Guevara and destruction of his guerrilla band. Rodr�guez and Villoldo became part of a CIA task force in Bolivia that included the case officer for the operation, "Jim", another Cuban American, Mario Osiris Riveron, and two agents in charge of communications in Santa Clara. Rodr�guez emerged as the most important member of the group; after a lengthy interrogation of one captured guerrilla, he was instrumental in focusing the efforts to the 2nd Ranger Battalion focus on the Villagrande region where he believed Guevara's rebels were operating. Although he apparently was under CIA instructions to "do everything possible to keep him alive," Rodr�guez transmitted the order to execute Guevara from the Bolivian High Command to the soldiers at La Higueras--he also directed them not to shoot Guevara in the face so that his wounds would appear to be combat-related--and personally informed Che that he would be killed. After the execution, Rodr�guez took Che's Rolex watch, often proudly showing it to reporters during the ensuing years.
State Department Cable, Official Confirmation of Death of Che Guevara, October 18, 1967: Ten days after his capture, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, Douglas Henderson, transmitted confirmation of Guevara's death to Washington. The evidence included autopsy reports, and fingerprint analysis conducted by Argentine police officials on Che's amputated hands. (Che's hands were cut off to provide proof that he was actually dead; under the supervision of CIA agent Gustavo Villoldo, his body was then secretly buried by at a desolate airstrip at Villagrande where it was only discovered in June 1997.) The various death documents, notes Ambassador Henderson, leave "unsaid the time of death"--"an attempt to bridge the difference between a series of earlier divergent statements from Armed Forces sources, ranging from assertions that he died during or shortly after battle to those suggesting he survived at least twenty-four hours."
Southern Command, Activities of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and Death of Che Guevara: The U.S. Special Forces Group, which trained the Bolivan military units that captured Che Guevara, conducted an extensive debriefing of members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. This report, based on interviews by a member of the U.S. Mobile Training Team in Bolivia with key Bolivian commanders, documents the military movements, and engagement with Che Guevara's guerrilla band. The sources also provide key details and descriptions of his capture, interrogation and execution, although it makes no mention of the CIA official, F�lix Rodr�guez, who was present. Guevara's last words to the soldier who shot him are reported as: "Know this now, you are killing a man."
Department of State, Guevara's Death--The Meaning for Latin America, October 12, 1967: In this interpretive report for Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Thomas Hughes, the Latin America specialist at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, summarizes the importance of "the defeat of the foremost tactician of the Cuban revolutionary strategy." The analyst predicts that Guevara "will be eulogized as the model revolutionary who met a heroic death." The circumstances of his failure in Bolivia, however, will strengthen the position of "peaceful line" communist party groups in the Hemisphere. Castro, he argues, will be subject to "we told you so" criticism from older leftist parties, but his "spell on the more youthful elements in the hemisphere will not be broken." The analysis fails to incorporate evidence of the disagreement between Castro and Guevara on the prospects for revolution in Latin America, or the Soviet pressure on Cuba to reduce support for insurgent movements in the Hemisphere.
CIA, Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Fidel Castro Delivers Eulogy on Che Guevara, October 19, 1967: On October 18, 1967, the third day of national mourning, Fidel Castro delivered a eulogy to a crowd of almost one million at the Plaza de La Revolución in Havana. The next day, the speech is transcribed and distributed by FBIS, a CIA transcription agency that records, and translates news and television from around the world. Calling Guevara "an artist of revolutionary warfare," Castro warns that "they who sing victory" over his death--a reference to the U.S.--" are mistaken. They are mistaken who believe that his death is the defeat of his ideas, the defeat of his tactics, the defeat of his guerrilla concepts." This speech contributes immeasurably to the making of the revolutionary icon that Che Guevara became in the ensuing years. "If we want to know how we want our children to be," Castro concludes, "we should say, with all our revolutionary mind and heart: We want them to be like Che."
THE DEATH OF CHE GUEVARA:
Paola Evans, Kim Healey, Peter Kornbluh, Ramón Cruz and Hannah Elinson
OCTOBER 3, 1965: In a public speech, Fidel Castro reads a "Farewell" letter written by Che in April, in which Che resigns from all of his official positions within the Cuban government. The letter, which Che apparently never intended to be made public, states that "I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban revolution...and I say goodbye to you, to the comrades, to your people, who are now mine." (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "Castro and Communism: The Cuban Revolution in Perspective," 5/9/66)
OCTOBER 18, 1965: A CIA Intelligence Memorandum discusses what analysts perceive as Che Guevara�s fall from power within the Cuban government beginning in 1964. It states that at the end of 1963, Guevara�s plan of "rapid industrialization and centralization during the first years of the Revolution brought the economy to its lowest point since Castro came to power." "Guevara�s outlook, which approximated present -day Chinese--rather than Soviet--economic practice, was behind the controversy." In July 1964, "two important cabinet appointments signaled the power struggle over internal economic policy which culminated in Guevara�s elimination." Another conflict was that Guevara wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa, while "other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the Revolution." In December, 1964, Guevara departed on a three-month trip to the United States, Africa, and China. When he returned, according to the CIA report, his economic and foreign policies were in disfavor and he left to start revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world. (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution," 10/18/65)
FALL, 1966: Che Guevara arrives in Bolivia sometime between the second week of September and the first of November of 1966, according to different sources. He enters the country with forged Uruguayan passports to organize and lead a communist guerrilla movement. Che chooses Bolivia as the revolutionary base for various reasons. First, Bolivia is of lower priority than Caribbean Basin countries to US security interests and poses a less immediate threat, "... the Yanquis wouldn�t concern themselves... ." Second, Bolivia�s social conditions and poverty are such that Bolivia is considered susceptible to revolutionary ideology. Finally, Bolivia shares a border with five other countries, which would allow the revolution to spread easily if the guerrillas are successful. (Harris, 60, 73; Rojo 193-194; Rodríguez:1, 157;Rodríguez:1, 198)
SPRING, 1967: From March to August of 1967, Che Guevara and his guerrilla band strike "pretty much at will" against the Bolivian Armed Forces, which totals about twenty thousand men. The guerrillas lose only one man compared to 30 of the Bolivians during these six months. (James, 250, NYT 9/16/67)
APRIL 28, 1967: General Ovando, of the Bolivian Armed Forces, and the U.S. Army Section signed a Memorandum of Understanding with regard to the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Bolivian Army "which clearly defines the terms of U.S.-Bolivian Armed Forces cooperation in the activation, organization, and training of this unit."
MAY 11, 1967: Walt Rostow, presidential advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson, sends a message to the President saying that he received the first credible report that "Che" Guevara is alive and operating in South America, although more evidence is needed. (Rostow 05/11/67)
JUNE, 1967: Cuban-American CIA agent Félix Rodríguez receives a phone call from a CIA officer, Larry S., who proposes a special assignment for him in South America in which he will use his skills in unconventional warfare, counter-guerrilla operations and communications. The assignment is to assist the Bolivians in tracking down and capturing Che Guevara and his band. His partner will be "Eduardo González" and Rodríguez is to use the cover name "Félix Ramos Medina." (Rodr�guez:1, 148)
JUNE 26-30, 1967: Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin visits Cuba for discussions with Fidel Castro. According to a CIA intelligence cable, the primary purpose of his "trip to Havana June 26-30, 1967 was to inform Castro concerning the Middle East Crisis...A secondary but important reason for the trip was to discuss with Castro the subject of Cuban revolutionary activity in Latin America." The Soviet Premier criticizes the dispatch of Che Guevara to Bolivia and accuses Castro of "harming the communist cause through his sponsorship of guerrilla activity...and through providing support to various anti-government groups, which although they claimed to be "socialist" or communist, were engaged in disputes with the "legitimate" Latin American communist parties, those favored by the USSR." In reply Castro stated that Cuba will support the "right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of his country." (CIA Intelligence Information Cable, 10/17/67)
AUGUST 2, 1967: Rodríguez and González arrive in La Paz, Bolivia. They are met by their case officer, Jim, another CIA agent, and a Bolivian immigration officer. The CIA station in La Paz is run by John Tilton; eventually the CIA�s Guevara task force is joined by another anti-Castro Cuban-American agent, Gustavo Villoldo. (Rodríguez:1, 162)
AUGUST 31, 1967: The Bolivian army scores its first victory against the guerrillas, wiping out one-third of Che�s men. José Castillo Chávez, also known as Paco, is captured and the guerrillas are forced to retreat. Che�s health begins to deteriorate. (James, 250, 269)
SEPTEMBER 3, 1967: Félix Rodríguez flies with Major Arnaldo Saucedo from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande to interrogate Paco. (Rodr�guez: 1, 167)
SEPTEMBER 15, 1967: The Bolivian Government air-drops leaflets offering a $4,200 reward for the capture of Che Guevara. (NYT 9/16/67)
SEPTEMBER 18, 1967: Fifteen members of a Communist group, who were providing supplies to the guerrillas in the southeastern jungles of Bolivia, are arrested. (NYT 9/19/67)
SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Che�s guerrillas arrive at Alto Seco village in Bolivia. Inti Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla, gives the villagers a lecture on the objectives of the guerrilla movement. The group leaves later that night after purchasing a large amount of food. (Harris, 123)
According to Jon Lee Anderson�s account, Che takes the food from a grocery store without paying for it after discovering that the local authorities in Alto Seco have left to inform the army about the guerrilla�s position. (Anderson, 785)
SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Guevara Arze, the Bolivian Foreign Minister, provides evidence to the Organization of American States to prove that Che Guevara is indeed leading the guerrilla operations in Bolivia. Excerpts taken from captured documents, including comparisons of handwriting, fingerprints and photographs, suggests that the guerrillas are comprised of Cubans, Peruvians, Argentineans and Bolivians. The foreign minister�s presentation draws a loud applause from the Bolivian audience, and he gives his assurance that "we�re not going to let anybody steal our country away from us. Nobody, at any time." (NYT 9/23/67)
SEPTEMBER 24, 1967: Che and his men arrive, exhausted and sick, at Loma Larga, a ranch close to Alto Seco. All but one of the peasants flee upon their arrival. (Harris, 123)
SEPTEMBER 26, 1967: The guerrillas move to the village of La Higuera and immediately notice that all the men are gone. The villagers have previously been warned that the guerrillas are in the area and they should send any information on them to Vallegrande. The remaining villagers tell the guerrillas that most of the people are at a celebration in a neighboring town called Jahue. (Harris, 123)
1 p.m.: As they are about to depart for Jahue, the rebels hear shots coming from the road and are forced to stay in the village and defend themselves. Three guerrillas are killed in the gun battle: Roberto (Coco) Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla leader who was one of Che�s most important men; "Antonio," believed to be Cuban; and "Julio," likely a Bolivian. Che orders his men to evacuate the village along a road leading to Rio Grande. The army high command and the Barriento government consider this encounter a significant victory. Indeed, Che notes in his diary that La Higuera has caused great losses for him in respect to his rebel cell. (Harris 123,124; NYT 9/28/67))
CIA agent, Félix Rodríguez, under the alias, "Captain Ramos," urges Colonel Zenteno to move his Rangers battalion from La Esperanza headquarters to Vallegrande. The death of Antonio, the vanguard commander [also called Miguel by Rodríguez], prompts Rodríguez to conclude that Che must be close by. Colonel Zenteno argues that the battalion has not yet finished their training, but he will move them as soon as this training is complete. Convinced that he knows Che�s next move, Rodríguez continues pressuring Zenteno to order the 2nd Ranger battalion into combat. (Rodríguez:1, 184)
SEPTEMBER 26-27, 1967: After the battle of La Higueras, the Ranger Battalion sets up a screening force along the river San Antonio to prevent exfiltration of the guerrilla force. During the mission, the troops captures a guerrilla known as "Gamba." He appears to be in poor health and is poorly clothed. This produces an immediate morale effect on the troops because they notice that the guerrillas are not as strong as they thought. "Gamba" says that he had separated from the group and was traveling in hope of contacting "Ramón" (Guevara). (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67).
SEPTEMBER 29, 1967: Colonel Zenteno is finally persuaded by Rodríguez, and he moves the 2nd Ranger battalion to Vallegrande. Rodríguez joins these six hundred and fifty men who have been trained by U.S. Special Forces Major "Pappy" Shelton. (Rodríguez:1, 184)
SEPTEMBER 30, 1967: Che and his group are trapped by the army in a jungle canyon in Valle Serrano, south of the Grande River. (NYT 10/1/67)
OCTOBER 7, 1967: The last entry in Che�s diary is recorded exactly eleven months since the inauguration of the guerrilla movement. The guerrillas run into an old woman herding goats. They ask her if there are soldiers in the area but are unable to get any reliable information. Scared that she will report them, they pay her 50 pesos to keep quiet. In Che�s diary it is noted that he has "little hope" that she will do so. (Harris, 126; CIA Weekly Review, "The Che Guevara Diary," 12/15/67)
Evening: Che and his men stop to rest in a ravine in Quebrada del Yuro. (Harris, 126)
OCTOBER 8, 1967: The troops receive information that there is a band of 17 guerrillas in the Churro Ravine. They enter the area and encounters a group of 6 to 8 guerrillas, opens fire, and killed two Cubans, "Antonio" and "Orturo." "Ramon" (Guevara) and "Willy" try to break out in the direction of the mortar section, where Guevara is wounded in the lower calf. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67)
OCTOBER 8, 1967: A peasant women alerts the army that she heard voices along the banks of the Yuro close to the spot where it runs along the San Antonio river. It is unknown whether it is the same peasant woman that the guerrillas ran into previously. (Rojo 218)
By morning, several companies of Bolivian Rangers are deployed through the area that Guevara�s Guerrillas are in. They take up positions in the same ravine as the guerrillas in Quebrada del Yuro. (Harris,126)
About 12 p.m.: A unit from General Prado�s company, all recent graduates of the U.S. Army Special Forces training camp, confronts the guerrillas, killing two soldiers and wounding many others. (Harris, 127)
1:30 p.m.: Che�s final battle commences in Quebrada del Yuro. Simon Cuba (Willy) Sarabia, a Bolivian miner, leads the rebel group. Che is behind him and is shot in the leg several times. Sarabia picks up Che and tries to carry him away from the line of fire. The firing starts again and Che�s beret is knocked off. Sarabia sits Che on the ground so he can return the fire. Encircled at less than ten yards distance, the Rangers concentrate their fire on him, riddling him with bullets. Che attempts to keep firing, but cannot keep his gun up with only one arm. He is hit again on his right leg, his gun is knocked out of his hand and his right forearm is pierced. As soldiers approach Che he shouts, "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead." The battle ends at approximately 3:30 p.m. Che is taken prisoner. (Rojo, 219; James, 14)
Other sources claim that Sarabia is captured alive and at about 4 p.m. he and Che are brought before Captain Prado. Captain Prado orders his radio operator to signal the divisional headquarters in Vallegrande informing them that Che is captured. The coded message sent is "Hello Saturno, we have Papá !" Saturno is the code for Colonel Joaquin Zenteno, commandant of the Eighth Bolivian Army Division, and Papá is code for Che. In disbelief, Colonel Zenteno asks Capt. Prado to confirm the message. With confirmation, "general euphoria" erupts among the divisional headquarters staff. Colonel Zenteno radios Capt. Prado and tells him to immediately transfer Che and any other prisoners to La Higuera. (Harris, 127)
In Vallegrande, Félix Rodríguez receives the message over the radio: "Papá cansado," which means "Dad is tired." Papá is the code for foreigner, implying Che. Tired signifies captured or wounded. (Rodr�guez:1, 185)
Stretched out on a blanket, Che is carried by four soldiers to La Higuera, seven kilometers away. Sarabia is forced to walk behind with his hands tied against his back. Just after dark the group arrives in La Higuera and both Che and Sarabia are put into the one-room schoolhouse. Later that night, five more guerrillas are brought in. (Harris, 127)
Official army dispatches falsely report that Che is killed in the clash in southeastern Bolivia, and other official reports confirm the killing of Che and state that the Bolivian army has his body. However, the army high command does not confirm this report. (NYT 10/10/67)
OCTOBER 9, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a memorandum to the President with tentative information that the Bolivians have captured Che Guevara. The Bolivian unit engaged in the operation was the one that had been trained by the U.S. (Rostow 10/9/67)
OCTOBER 9, 1967: 6:15 a.m.: Félix Rodríguez arrives by helicopter in La Higuera, along with Colonel Joaquín Zenteno Anaya. Rodríguez brings a powerful portable field radio and a camera with a special four-footed stand used to photograph documents. He quietly observes the scene in the schoolhouse, and records what he sees, finding the situation "gruesome" with Che lying in dirt, his arms tied behind his back and his feet bound together, next to the bodies of his friends. He looks "like a piece of trash" with matted hair, torn clothes, and wearing only pieces of leather on his feet for shoes. In one interview, Rodríguez states that, " I had mixed emotions when I first arrived there. Here was the man who had assassinated many of my countrymen. And nevertheless, when I saw him, the way he looked....I felt really sorry for him." (Rodríguez:2)
Rodríguez sets up his radio and transmits a coded message to the CIA station in either Peru or Brazil to be retransmitted to Langley headquarters. Rodríguez also starts to photograph Che�s diary and other captured documents. Later, Rodríguez spends time talking with Che and takes a picture with him. The photos that Rodríguez takes are preserved by the CIA. (Anderson, 793; Rodríguez:1, 193)
10 am: The Bolivian officers are faced with the question of what to do with Che. The possibility of prosecuting him is ruled out because a trial would focus world attention on him and could generate sympathetic propaganda for Che and for Cuba. It is concluded that Che must be executed immediately, but it is agreed upon that the official story will be that he died from wounds received in battle. Félix Rodríguez receives a call from Vallegrande and is ordered by the Superior Command to conduct Operation Five Hundred and Six Hundred. Five hundred is the Bolivian code for Che and six hundred is the order to kill him. Rodríguez informs Colonel Zenteno of the order, but also tells him that the U.S. government has instructed him to keep Che alive at all costs. The CIA and the U.S. government have arranged helicopters and airplanes to take Che to Panama for interrogation. However, Colonel Zenteno says he must obey his own orders and Rodríguez decides, "to let history take its course," and to leave the matter in the hands of the Bolivians. (Anderson, 795; Harris 128, 129; Rodríguez:1, 193; Rodríguez:2)
Rodríguez realizes that he cannot stall any longer when a school teacher informs him that she has heard a news report on Che�s death on her radio. Rodríguez enters the schoolhouse to tell Che of the orders from the Bolivian high command. Che understands and says, "It is better like this ... I never should have been captured alive." Che gives Rodríguez a message for his wife and for Fidel, they embrace and Rodríguez leaves the room. (Rodríguez:2; Anderson, 796)
According to one source, the top ranking officers in La Higuera instruct the noncommissioned officers to carry out the order and straws are drawn to determine who will execute Che. Just before noon, having drawn the shortest straw, Sergeant Jaime Terán goes to the schoolhouse to execute Che. Terán finds Che propped up against the wall and Che asks him to wait a moment until he stands up. Terán is frightened, runs away and is ordered back by Colonel Selich and Colonel Zenteno. "Still trembling" he returns to the schoolhouse and without looking at Che�s face he fires into his chest and side. Several soldiers, also wanting to shoot Che, enter the room and shoot him. (Harris, 129)
Félix Rodríguez has stated that, "I told the Sargento to shoot....and I understand that he borrowed an M-2 carbine from a Lt. Pérez who was in the area." Rodríguez places the time of the shooting at 1:10 p.m. Bolivian time. (Rodríguez:2)
In Jon Lee Anderson�s account, Sergeant Terán volunteers to shoot Che. Che's last words, which are addressed to Terán, are "I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man." Terán shoots Che in the arms and legs and then in Che's thorax, filling his lungs with blood. (Anderson, 796)
OCTOBER 9, 1967: Early in the morning, the unit receives the order to execute Guevara and the other prisoners. Lt. Pérez asks Guevara if he wishes anything before his execution. Guevara replies that he only wishes to "die with a full stomach." Pérez asks him if he is a "materialist" and Guevara answers only "perhaps." When Sgt. Terán (the executioner) enters the room, Guevara stands up with his hands tied and states, "I know what you have come for I am ready." Terán tells him to be seated and leaves the room for a few moments. While Terán was outside, Sgt. Huacka enters another small house, where "Willy" was being held, and shoots him. When Terán comes back, Guevara stands up and refuses to be seated saying: "I will remain standing for this." Terán gets angry and tells Guevara to be seated again. Finally, Guevara tells him: "Know this now, you are killing a man." Terán fires his M2 Carbine and kills him. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67).
Later that afternoon: Senior army officers and CIA Agent, Félix Rodríguez, leave La Higuera by helicopter for army headquarters in Vallegrande. Upon landing, Rodríguez quickly leaves the helicopter knowing that Castro�s people will be there looking for CIA agents. Pulling a Bolivian army cap over his face, he is not noticed by anyone. (Rodríguez:1, 12; Harris, 130)
Che�s body is flown to Vallegrande by helicopter and later fingerprinted and embalmed. (NYT 10/11/67)
General Ovando, Chief of Bolivian Armed Forces, states that just before he died, Che said, "I am Che Guevara and I have failed." (James, 8)
OCTOBER 10, 1967: W.G. Bowdler sends a note to Walt Rostow saying that they do not know if Che Guevara was "among the casualties of the October 8 engagement." They think that there are no guerrilla survivors. By October 9, they thought two guerrilla were wounded and possibly one of them is Che. (Bowdler, The White House 10/10/67)
OCTOBER 10, 1967: Two doctors,. Moisés Abraham Baptista and José Martínez Cazo, at the Hospital Knights of Malta, Vallegrande, Bolivia, sign a death certificate for Che Guevara. The document states that "on October 9 at 5:30 p.m., there arrived...Ernesto Guevara Lynch, approximately 40 years of age, the cause of death being multiple bullet wounds in the thorax and extremities. Preservative was applied to the body." On the same day, and autopsy report records the multiple bullets wounds found in Guevara�s body. "The cause of death," states the autopsy report, "was the thorax wounds and consequent hemorrhaging." (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)
OCTOBER 10, 1967: General Ovando announces that Che died the day before at 1:30 p.m. This means that Che lived for twenty-two hours after the battle in Quebrada del Yuro, which contradicts Colonel Zenteno�s story. Colonel Zenteno changes his story to support General Ovando�s. (James, 15)
The New York Times reports that the Bolivian Army High Command dispatches officially confirm that Che was killed in the battle on Sunday October 8th. General Ovando states that Che admitted his identity and the failure of his guerrilla campaign before dying of his wounds. (NYT 10/10/67)
Ernesto Guevara, the father of Che, denies the death of his son, stating that there is no evidence to prove the killing. (NYT 10/11/67)
OCTOBER 11, 1967: General Ovando claims that on this day Che�s body is buried in the Vallegrande area. (James, 19)
OCTOBER 11, 1967: President Lyndon Johnson receives a memorandum from Walt W. Rostow: "This morning we are about 99% sure that "Che" Guevara is dead." The memo informs the President that according to the CIA, Che was taken alive and after a short interrogation General Ovando ordered his execution. (Rostow, "Death of Che Guevara," 10/11/67)
OCTOBER 11, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a memorandum to the President stating that they "are 99% sure that �Che� Guevara is dead." He explains that Guevara�s death carries significant implications: "It marks the passing of another of the aggressive, romantic revolutionaries...In the Latin American context, it will have a strong impact in discouraging would -be guerrillas. It shows the soundness of our �preventive medicine� assistance to countries facing incipient insurgency--it was the Bolivian 2nd Ranger Battalion, trained by our Green Berets from June-September of this year, that cornered him and got him." (Rostow 10/11/67)
OCTOBER 12, 1967: Che�s brother, Roberto, arrives in Bolivia to take the body back to Argentina. However, General Ovando tells him that the body has been cremated. (Anderson, 799)
OCTOBER 13, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a note to the President with intelligence information that "removes any doubt that �Che" Guevara is dead." (Rostow 10/13/67)
OCTOBER 14, 1967: Annex No.3 - three officials of the Argentine Federal police, at the request of the Bolivian Government, visited Bolivian military headquarters in La Paz to help identify the handwriting and fingerprints of Che Guevara. "They were shown a metal container in which were two amputated hands in a liquid solution, apparently formaldehyde." The experts compared the fingerprints with the ones in Guevara�s Argentine identity record, No. 3.524.272, and they were the same. (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)
OCTOBER 14, 1967: Students at Central University of Venezuela protest the U.S. involvement in Che�s death. Demonstrations are organized against a U.S. business, the home of a U.S. citizen, the U.S. Embassy and other similar targets.
OCTOBER 15, 1967: Bolivian President Barrientos claims that Che�s ashes are buried in a hidden place somewhere in the Vallegrande region. (Harris, 130)
OCTOBER 16, 1967: . The Bolivian Armed Forces released a communiqué together with three annexes on the death of Che Guevara. The communiqué is "based on documents released by the Military High Command on October9...concerning the combat that took place at La Higuera between units of the Armed Forces and the red group commanded by Ernesto �Che� Guevara, as a result of which he, among others, lost his life..." The report states that Guevara died "more or less at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 8...as a result of his wounds." Also, in order to identify his body it requested the cooperation of Argentine technical organizations to identify the remains to certify that the handwriting of the campaign diary coincides with Guevara�s. Henderson, the U.S. Embassy agent in La Paz, comments that "it will be widely noted that neither the death certificate nor the autopsy report state a time of death." This "would appear to be an attempt to bridge the difference between a series of earlier divergent statements from Armed Forces sources, ranging from assertions that he died during or shortly after battle to those suggesting he survived at least twenty-four hours." He also notes that some early reports indicate that Guevara was captured with minor injuries, while later statements , including the autopsy report, affirm that he suffered multiple wounds. He agrees with a comment by Preséncia, that these statements are "going to be the new focus of polemics in the coming days." (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)
OCTOBER 18, 1967: The U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia sends an airgram to the Department of State with the Official Confirmation of Death of Che Guevara. (U.S. Embassy, La Paz, Bolivia, 10/18/97)
OCTOBER 18, 1967: A CIA cable highlights the errors leading to Guevara�s defeat. "There were negative factors and tremendous errors involved in the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara Serna and the defeat of the guerrillas in Bolivia... ." Che�s presence at the guerrilla front in Bolivia, " ... precluded all hope of saving him and the other leaders in the event of an ambush and virtually condemned them to die or exist uselessly as fugitives." The fact that the guerrillas were so dependent on the local peasant population also proved to be a mistake according to the CIA. Another error described in this cable is Che�s over-confidence in the Bolivian Communist Party, which was relatively new, inexperienced, lacking strong leadership and was internally divided into Trotskyite and Pro-Chinese factions. Finally, the cable states that the victory of the Bolivian army should not be credited to their actions, but to the errors of Castroism. " The guerrilla failure in Bolivia is definitely a leadership failure..."("Comments on the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara Serna," 10/18/67)
OCTOBER 18, 1967: Fidel Castro delivers a eulogy for Che Guevara to nearly a million people --one of his largest audiences ever--in Havana�s Plaza de la Revolución. Castro proclaims that Che�s life-long struggle against imperialism and his ideals will be the inspiration for future generations of revolutionaries. His life was a "glorious page of history" because of his extraordinary military accomplishments, and his unequaled combination of virtues which made him an "artist in guerrilla warfare." Castro professes that Che�s murderers� will be disappointed when they realize that "the art to which he dedicated his life and intelligence cannot die." (Anderson, 798; Castro�s Eulogy, 10/18/67)
OCTOBER 19, 1967: Intelligence and Research�s Cuba specialist, Thomas L. Hughes, writes a memorandum to Secretary of State, Dean Rusk. Hughes outlines two significant outcomes of Che Guevara�s death that will affect Fidel Castro�s future political strategies. One is that "Guevara will be eulogized as the model revolutionary who met a heroic death," particularly among future generations of Latin American youth. Castro can utilize this to continue justifying his defiance of the usual suspects--"US imperialism, the Green Berets, the CIA." Another outcome is that Castro will reassess his expectations of exporting revolutions to other Latin American countries. Some Latin American leftists "will be able to argue that any insurgency must be indigenous and that only local parties know when local conditions are right for revolution." (Intelligence and Research Memorandum, "Guevara�s Death--The Meaning for Latin America", 10/19/97)
NOVEMBER 8, 1967: The CIA reports that Cuba is threatening assassin a prominent Bolivian figure, such as President Barrientos or General Ovando, in revenge of Che Guevara�s death. ( CIA cable, 11/8/67)
JULY 1, 1995: In an interview with biographer Jon Lee Anderson, Bolivian General Mario Vargas Salinas reveals that "he had been a part of a nocturnal burial detail, that Che�s body and those of several of his comrades were buried in a mass grave near the dirt airstrip outside the little mountain town of Vallegrande in Central Bolivia." A subsequent Anderson article in the New York Times sets off a two-year search to find and identify Guevara�s remains. (Anderson,1)
JULY 5, 1997: Che Guevara biographer, Jon Lee Anderson, reports for the New York Times that although the remains have not been exhumed and definitely identified, two experts are "100 percent sure" that they have discovered Che�s remains in Vallegrande. The fact that one of the skeletons is missing both of its hands is cited as the most compelling evidence. (NYT 7/5/97)
JULY 13, 1997: A ceremony in Havana, attended by Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials, marks the return of Che�s remains to Cuba. (NYT 7/14/97)
OCTOBER 17, 1997: In a ceremony attended by Castro and thousands of Cubans, Che Guevara is reburied in Santa Clara, Cuba. (NYT, 10/18/97)
LIST OF SOURCES
Anderson=Anderson, Jon Lee, Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life, Grove Press, 1997.
Harris= Harris, Richard, Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission, W.W. Norton and Company Inc.,1970.
James= James, Daniel, Che Guevara: A Biography, Stein and Day, 1970
National Security Files, "Bolivia, Vol. 4" Box 8.
NYT=New York Times
Rodr�guez:1=Rodr�guez, F�lix I.,Shadow Warrior, Simon and Schuster Inc., 1989
Rodr�guez:2=Rodr�guez, F�lix . BBC documentary, "Executive Action," 1992.
Rojo= Rojo, Ricardo, My Friend Che, The Dial Press, Inc., 1968
WT= Washington Times
Publicat de CELEBRULUL NECUNOSCUT la 01:51
luni, 2 august 2010
LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT CHE GUEVARA
|Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtʃe geˈβaɾa]; June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as El Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat, military theorist, and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture. |
As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed. His experiences and observations during these trips led him to conclude that the region's ingrained economic inequalities were an intrinsic result of monopoly capitalism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, with the only remedy being world revolution. This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemala's social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow solidified Guevara's radical ideology. Later, while living in Mexico City, he met Raúl and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and travelled to Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the successful two year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.
Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, instituting agrarian reform as minister of industries, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba’s armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. Such positions allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful motorcycle journey across South America. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to incite revolutions, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.
Guevara remains both a revered and reviled historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was declared "the most famous photograph in the world."
Early lifeLynch on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a white Argentine family of Spanish, Basque and Irish descent. In lieu of his parents' surnames, his legal name (Ernesto Guevara) will sometimes appear with de la Serna, or Lynch accompanying it. In reference to Che's "restless" nature, his father declared "the first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels." Very early on in life Ernestito (as he was then called) developed an "affinity for the poor." Growing up in a family with leftist leanings, Guevara was introduced to a wide spectrum of political perspectives even as a boy. His father, a staunch supporter of Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.
Though suffering crippling bouts of acute asthma that were to afflict him throughout his life, he excelled as an athlete, enjoying swimming, soccer, golf, and shooting; while also becoming an "untiring" cyclist. He was an avid rugby union player, and played at fly-half for the University of Buenos Aires First XV. His rugby playing earned him the nickname "Fuser"—a contraction of El Furibundo (raging) and his mother's surname, de la Serna—for his aggressive style of play. His schoolmates also nicknamed him "Chancho" ("pig"), because he rarely bathed, and proudly wore a "weekly shirt."
Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by age 12. During adolescence and throughout his life he was passionate about poetry, especially that of Pablo Neruda, John Keats, Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Gabriela Mistral, César Vallejo, and Walt Whitman. He could also recite Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and José Hernández's "Martín Fierro" from memory. The Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed Guevara to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Karl Marx, William Faulkner, André Gide, Emilio Salgari and Jules Verne. Additionally, he enjoyed the works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Vladimir Lenin, and Jean-Paul Sartre; as well as Anatole France, Friedrich Engels, H.G. Wells, and Robert Frost.
Horacio Quiroga, Ciro Alegría, Jorge Icaza, Rubén Darío, and Miguel Asturias. Many of these authors' ideas he cataloged in his own handwritten notebooks of concepts, definitions, and philosophies of influential intellectuals. These included composing analytical sketches of Buddha and Aristotle, along with examining Bertrand Russell on love and patriotism, Jack London on society, and Nietzsche on the idea of death. Sigmund Freud's ideas fascinated him as he quoted him on a variety of topics from dreams and libido to narcissism and the oedipus complex. His favorite subjects in school included philosophy, mathematics, engineering, political science, sociology, history and archaeology.
Years later, a February 13, 1958, declassified CIA 'biographical and personality report' would make note of Guevara’s wide range of academic interests and intellect, describing him as "quite well read" while adding that "Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino."
Motorcycle journeyIn 1948, Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. However, his "hunger to explore the world" led him to intersperse his collegiate pursuits with two long introspective journeys that would fundamentally change the way he viewed himself and the present economic conditions in Latin America. The first expedition in 1950 was a 4,500 kilometer (2,800 mi) solo trip through the rural provinces of northern Argentina on a bicycle on which he installed a small motor. This was followed in 1951 by a nine month 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mi) continental motorcycle trek through most of South America. For the latter, he took a year off from studies to embark with his friend Alberto Granado, with the final goal of spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru, on the banks of the Amazon River.
Chile, Guevara found himself enraged by the working conditions of the miners in Anaconda's Chuquicamata copper mine; and moved by his overnight encounter in the Atacama Desert with a persecuted Communist couple who didn't even own a blanket, describing them as "the shivering flesh-and-blood victims of capitalist exploitation." Additionally, on the way to Machu Picchu high in the Andes, he was struck by the crushing poverty of the remote rural areas, where peasant farmers worked small plots of land owned by wealthy landlords. Later on his journey, Guevara was especially impressed by the camaraderie among those living in a Leper Colony, stating "The highest forms of human solidarity and loyalty arise among such lonely and desperate people." Guevara used notes taken during this trip to write an account entitled The Motorcycle Diaries, which later became a New York Times best-seller, and was adapted into a 2004 award-winning film of the same name.
In total, the journey took Guevara through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and to Miami, before returning home to Buenos Aires. By trip's end, he came to view Latin America not as collection of separate nations, but as a single entity requiring a continent-wide liberation strategy. His conception of a borderless, united Hispanic America sharing a common 'Latino' heritage was a theme that prominently recurred during his later revolutionary activities. Upon returning to Argentina, he completed his studies and received his medical degree in June 1953, making him officially "Dr. Ernesto Guevara." Guevara later remarked that through his travels of Latin America, he came in "close contact with poverty, hunger and disease" along with the "inability to treat a child because of lack of money" and "stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment" that leads a father to "accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident." It was these experiences which Guevara cites as convincing him that in order to "help these people", he needed to leave the realm of medicine, and consider the political arena of armed struggle.
Guatemala, Arbenz and United FruitBolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. On December 10, 1953, before leaving for Guatemala, Guevara sent an update to his Aunt Beatriz from San José, Costa Rica. In the letter Guevara speaks of traversing through the "dominions" of the United Fruit Company, which convinced him "how terrible" the "Capitalist octopuses" were. This affirmed indignation carried the "head hunting tone" that he adopted in order to frighten his more Conservative relatives, and ends with Guevara swearing on an image of the then recently deceased Joseph Stalin, not to rest until these "octopuses have been vanquished." Later that month, Guevara arrived in Guatemala where President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán headed a democratically elected government that, through land reform and other initiatives, was attempting to end the latifundia system. To accomplish this, President Arbenz had enacted a major land reform program, where all uncultivated portions of large land holdings were to be expropriated and redistributed to landless peasants. The biggest land owner, and one most affected by the reforms, was the United Fruit Company, from which the Arbenz government had already taken more than 225,000 uncultivated acres. Pleased with the road the nation was heading down, Guevara decided to settle down in Guatemala so as to "perfect himself and accomplish whatever may be necessary in order to become a true revolutionary."
In Guatemala City, Guevara sought out Hilda Gadea Acosta, a Peruvian economist who was well-connected politically as a member of the left-leaning Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA, American Popular Revolutionary Alliance). She introduced Guevara to a number of high-level officials in the Arbenz government. Guevara then established contact with a group of Cuban exiles linked to Fidel Castro through the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. During this period he acquired his famous nickname, due to his frequent use of the Argentine vocative interjection che, a slang casual speech filler used similarly to "hey" (as in "hey, could you hand me a towel" and not as a form of salute.)
Guevara's attempts to obtain a medical internship were unsuccessful and his economic situation was often precarious. On May 15, 1954, a shipment of Škoda infantry and light artillery weapons was sent from Communist Czechoslovakia for the Arbenz Government and arrived in Puerto Barrios. As a result, the U.S. CIA sponsored an army which invaded the country and installed the right-wing dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas. Guevara was eager to fight on behalf of Arbenz and joined an armed militia organized by the Communist Youth for that purpose, but frustrated with the group's inaction, he soon returned to medical duties. Following the coup, he again volunteered to fight, but soon after, Arbenz took refuge in the Mexican Embassy and told his foreign supporters to leave the country. Guevara’s repeated calls to resist were noted by supporters of the coup, and he was marked for murder. After Hilda Gadea was arrested, Guevara sought protection inside the Argentine consulate, where he remained until he received a safe-conduct pass some weeks later and made his way to Mexico. He married Gadea in Mexico in September 1955.
The overthrow of the Arbenz regime cemented Guevara's view of the United States as an imperialist power that would oppose and attempt to destroy any government that sought to redress the socioeconomic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries. In speaking about the coup Guevara stated:
Guevara's conviction that Marxism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify such conditions was thus strengthened. Gadea wrote later, "It was Guatemala which finally convinced him of the necessity for armed struggle and for taking the initiative against imperialism. By the time he left, he was sure of this."
Mexico City and preparationMexico City in early September 1954, and worked in the allergy section of the General Hospital. In addition he gave lectures on medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and worked as a news photographer for Latina News Agency. His first wife Hilda notes in her memoir My Life with Che, that for a while, Guevara considered going to work as a doctor in Africa and that he continued to be deeply troubled by the poverty around him. In one instance, Hilda describes Guevara's obsession with an elderly washerwoman whom he was treating, remarking that he saw her as "representative of the most forgotten and exploited class." Hilda later found a poem that Che had dedicated to the old woman, containing "a promise to fight for a better world, for a better life for all the poor and exploited."
During this time he renewed his friendship with Ñico López and the other Cuban exiles whom he had met in Guatemala. In June 1955, López introduced him to Raúl Castro who subsequently introduced him to his older brother, Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who had formed the 26th of July Movement and was now plotting to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. During a long conversation with Fidel on the night of their first meeting, Guevara concluded that the Cuban's cause was the one for which he had been searching and before daybreak he had signed up as a member of the July 26 Movement. Despite their "contrasting personalities", from this point on Che and Fidel began to foster what dual biographer Simon Reid-Henry deems a "revolutionary friendship that would change the world", as a result of their coinciding commitment to anti-imperialism.
By this point in Guevara’s life, he deemed that U.S.-controlled conglomerates installed and supported repressive regimes around the world. In this vein, he considered Batista a "U.S. puppet whose strings needed cutting." Although he planned to be the group's combat medic, Guevara participated in the military training with the members of the Movement. The key portion of training involved learning hit and run tactics of guerrilla warfare. Guevara and the others underwent arduous 15-hour marches over mountains, across rivers, and through the dense undergrowth, learning and perfecting the procedures of ambush and quick retreat. From the start Guevara was Alberto Bayo's "prize student" among those in training, scoring the highest on all of the tests given. At the end of the course, he was called "the best guerrilla of them all" by their instructor, Colonel Bayo.
Invasion, warfare and Santa ClaraCuba from Mexico via the Granma, an old, leaky cabin cruiser. They set out for Cuba on November 25, 1956. Attacked by Batista's military soon after landing, many of the 82 men were either killed in the attack or executed upon capture; only 22 found each other afterwards. Guevara wrote that it was during this bloody confrontation that he laid down his medical supplies and picked up a box of ammunition dropped by a fleeing comrade, finalizing his symbolic transition from physician to combatant.
Only a small band of revolutionaries survived to re-group as a bedraggled fighting force deep in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where they received support from the urban guerrilla network of Frank País, the 26th of July Movement, and local campesinos. With the group withdrawn to the Sierra, the world wondered whether Castro was alive or dead until early 1957 when the interview by Herbert Matthews appeared in The New York Times. The article presented a lasting, almost mythical image for Castro and the guerrillas. Guevara was not present for the interview, but in the coming months he began to realize the importance of the media in their struggle. Meanwhile, as supplies and morale diminished, and with an allergy to mosquito bites which resulted in agonizing walnut-sized cysts on his body, Guevara considered these "the most painful days of the war."
As the war continued, Guevara became an integral part of the rebel army and "convinced Castro with competence, diplomacy and patience." Guevara set up factories to make grenades, built ovens to bake bread, taught new recruits about tactics, and organized schools to teach illiterate campesinos to read and write. Moreover, Guevara established health clinics, workshops to teach military tactics, and a newspaper to disseminate information. The man who three years later would be dubbed by Time Magazine: "Castro's brain", at this point was promoted by Fidel Castro to Comandante (commander) of a second army column.
As the only other ranked Comandante besides Fidel Castro, Guevara was an extremely harsh disciplinarian who unhesitatingly shot defectors. Deserters were punished as traitors, and Guevara was known to send execution squads to hunt down those seeking to go AWOL. As a result, Guevara became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness. During the guerrilla campaign, Guevara was also responsible for the often summary execution of a number of men accused of being informers, deserters or spies.
In his diaries, Guevara described the first such execution of Eutimio Guerra, a peasant army guide who admitted treason when it was discovered he accepted the promise of ten thousand pesos for repeatedly giving away the rebel's position for attack by the Cuban air force. Such information also allowed Batista's army to burn the homes of rebel-friendly peasants. Upon Guerra's request that they "end his life quickly", Che stepped forward and shot him in the head, writing "The situation was uncomfortable for the people and for Eutimio so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe]." His scientific notations and matter-of-fact description, suggested to one biographer a "remarkable detachment to violence" by that point in the war. Later, Guevara published a literary account of the incident entitled "Death of a Traitor", where he transfigured Eutimio's betrayal and pre-execution request that the revolution "take care of his children", into a "revolutionary parable about redemption through sacrifice."
Robert Louis Stevenson, Cervantes, and Spanish lyric poets. His commanding officer Fidel Castro has described Guevara as intelligent, daring, and an exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops." Castro has further remarked that Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness." Guevara's teenage lieutenant, Joel Iglesias, recounts such actions in his diary, noting that Guevara's behavior in combat even brought admiration from the enemy. On one occasion Iglesias recounts the time he had been wounded in battle, stating "Che ran out to me, defying the bullets, threw me over his shoulder, and got me out of there. The guards didn't dare fire at him ... later they told me he made a great impression on them when they saw him run out with his pistol stuck in his belt, ignoring the danger, they didn't dare shoot."
Guevara was instrumental in creating the clandestine radio station Radio Rebelde in February 1958, which broadcast news to the Cuban people with statements by the 26th of July movement, and provided radiotelephone communication between the growing number of rebel columns across the island. Guevara had apparently been inspired to create the station by observing the effectiveness of CIA supplied radio in Guatemala in ousting the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.
In late July 1958, Guevara played a critical role in the Battle of Las Mercedes by using his column to halt a force of 1,500 men called up by Batista's General Cantillo in a plan to encircle and destroy Castro's forces. Years later, Major Larry Bockman of the United States Marine Corps would analyze and describe Che's tactical appreciation of this battle as "brilliant." During this time Guevara also became an "expert" at leading hit and run tactics against Batista’s army, and then fading back into the countryside before the army could counterattack.
As the war extended, Guevara led a new column of fighters dispatched westward for the final push towards Havana. Travelling by foot, Guevara embarked on a difficult 7 week march only travelling at night to avoid ambush, and often not eating for several days. In the closing days of December 1958, Guevara’s task was to cut the island in half by taking Las Villas province. In a matter of days he executed a series of "brilliant tactical victories" that gave him control of all but the province’s capital city of Santa Clara. Guevara then directed his "suicide squad" in the attack on Santa Clara, that became the final decisive military victory of the revolution. In the six weeks leading up to the Battle of Santa Clara there were times when his men were completely surrounded, outgunned, and overrun. Che's eventual victory despite being outnumbered 10:1, remains in the view of some observers a "remarkable tour de force in modern warfare."
taken Santa Clara on New Year's Eve 1958. This contradicted reports by the heavily controlled national news media, which had at one stage reported Guevara's death during the fighting. At 3 am on January 1, 1959, upon learning that his generals were negotiating a separate peace with Guevara, Fulgencio Batista boarded a plane in Havana and fled for the Dominican Republic, along with an amassed "fortune of more than $ 300,000,000 through graft and payoffs." The following day on January 2, Guevara entered Havana to take final control of the capitol. Fidel Castro however took 6 more days to arrive, as he stopped to rally support in several large cities on his way to rolling victoriously into Havana on January 8, 1959. In mid-January 1959, Guevara went to live at a summer villa in Tarara to recover from a violent asthma attack. While there he started the Tarara Group, a group that debated and formed the new plans for Cuba's social, political, and economic development. In addition, Che began to write his book Guerrilla Warfare while resting at Tarara.
In February, the revolutionary government proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph. When Hilda Gadea arrived in Cuba in late January, Guevara told her that he was involved with another woman, and the two agreed on a divorce, which was finalized on May 22. On June 2, 1959, he married Aleida March, a Cuban-born member of the 26th of July movement with whom he had been living since late 1958. Guevara returned to the seaside village of Tarara in June for his honeymoon with Aleida. Guevara had children from both his marriages, and one illegitimate child, as follows: With Hilda Gadea (married August 18, 1955; divorced May 22, 1959), Hilda Beatriz Guevara Gadea, born February 15, 1956 in Mexico City; died August 21, 1995 in Havana, Cuba; with Aleida March (married June 2, 1959), Aleida Guevara March, born November 24, 1960 in Havana, Cuba, Camilo Guevara March, born May 20, 1962 in Havana, Cuba, Celia Guevara March, born June 14, 1963 in Havana, Cuba, and Ernesto Guevara March, born February 24, 1965 in Havana, Cuba; and with Lilia Rosa López (extramarital), Omar Pérez, born March 19, 1964 in Havana, Cuba.
La Cabaña, land reform, and literacyDuring the rebellion against Batista's dictatorship, the general command of the rebel army, led by Fidel Castro, introduced into the liberated territories the 19th century penal law commonly known as the Ley de la Sierra. This law included the death penalty for extremely serious crimes, whether perpetrated by the dictatorship or by supporters of the revolution. In 1959, the revolutionary government extended its application to the whole of the republic and to those it considered war criminals, captured and tried after the revolution. According to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, this latter extension was supported by the majority of the population, and followed the same procedure as those in the Nuremberg Trials held by the Allies after World War II.
To implement a portion of this plan, Castro named Guevara commander of the La Cabaña Fortress prison, for a five-month tenure (January 2 through June 12, 1959). Guevara was charged with purging the Batista army and consolidating victory by exacting "revolutionary justice" against those considered to be traitors, chivatos (informants) or war criminals. Serving in the post as commander of La Cabaña, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted during the revolutionary tribunal process. On some occasions the penalty delivered by the tribunal was death by firing squad. Raúl Gómez Treto, senior legal advisor to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, has argued that the death penalty was justified in order to prevent citizens themselves from taking justice into their own hands, as happened twenty years earlier in the anti-Machado rebellion. Biographers note that in January 1959, the Cuban public was in a "lynching mood", and point to a survey at the time showing 93% public approval for the tribunal process. Moreover, a January 22, 1959, Universal Newsreel broadcast in the U.S. and narrated by Ed Herlihy, featured Fidel Castro asking an estimated one million Cubans whether they approved of the executions, and was met with a roaring "¡Si!" (yes). With 20,000 Cubans estimated to have been killed at the hands of Batista's collaborators, and many of the war criminals sentenced to death accused of torture and physical atrocities, the newly empowered government carried out executions which biographer Jorge Castañeda describes as "without respect for due process." Although the exact numbers differ, it is estimated that several hundred people were executed nationwide during this time, with Guevara's jurisdictional death total at La Cabaña ranging from 55 to 164.
Conflicting views exist of Guevara's delight towards the executions at La Cabaña. Some exiled opposition biographers report that he relished the rituals of the firing squad, and organized them with gusto, while others relate that Guevara pardoned as many prisoners as he could. What is acknowledged by all sides is that Guevara had become a "hardened" man, who had no qualms about the death penalty or summary and collective trials. If the only way to "defend the revolution was to execute its enemies, he would not be swayed by humanitarian or political arguments." This is further confirmed by a February 5, 1959, letter to Luis Paredes López in Buenos Aires where Guevara states unequivocally "The executions by firing squads are not only a necessity for the people of Cuba, but also an imposition of the people."
land reform. Almost immediately after the success of the revolution on January 27, 1959, Che Guevara made one of his most significant speeches where he talked about "the social ideas of the rebel army." During this speech, he declared that the main concern of the new Cuban government was "the social justice that land redistribution brings about." A few months later on May 17, 1959, the Agrarian Reform Law called on and crafted by Che Guevara went into effect, limiting the size of all farms to 1,000 acres. Any holdings over these limits were expropriated by the government and either redistributed to peasants in 67 acre parcels or held as state run communes. The law also stipulated that sugar plantations could not be owned by foreigners.
On June 12, 1959, Castro sent Guevara out on a three-month tour of 14 mostly Bandung Pact countries (Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Yugoslavia, Greece) and the cities of Singapore and Hong Kong. Sending Guevara from Havana allowed Castro to appear to be distancing himself from Che and his Marxist sympathies, that troubled both the United States and some of Castro's 26 July Movement members. He spent 12 days in Japan (July 15–27), participating in negotiations aimed at expanding Cuba's trade relations with that nation. During the visit, Guevara refused to stop and lay a wreath at Japan's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorating soldiers lost during World War II, remarking that the Japanese "imperialists" had "killed millions of Asians." In its place, Guevara stated that he would instead visit Hiroshima, where the American military had detonated an atom-bomb 14 years earlier. Despite his denunciation of Imperial Japan, Guevara also considered President Truman a "macabre clown" for the bombings, and after visiting Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Museum, Che sent back a postcard to Cuba stating "In order to fight better for peace, one must look at Hiroshima."
Upon returning to Cuba in September 1959, it was evident that Castro now had more political power. The government had begun land seizures included in the agrarian reform law, but was hedging on compensation offers to landowners, instead offering low interest "bonds", which put the U.S. on alert. At this point the affected wealthy cattlemen of Camagüey mounted a campaign against the land redistributions, and enlisted the newly disaffected rebel leader Huber Matos, who along with the anti-Communist wing of the 26th of July Movement, joined them in denouncing the "Communist encroachment." During this time Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was offering assistance to the "Anti-Communist Legion of the Caribbean" who was training in the Dominican Republic. This multi-national force composed mostly of Spaniards and Cubans, but also of Croatians, Germans, Greeks, and right-wing mercenaries, were plotting to topple Castro's new regime.
Such threats were heightened when on March 4, 1960, two massive explosions ripped through the French freighter La Coubre, which was carrying Belgian munitions from the port of Antwerp, and docked in Havana Harbor. The blasts killed at least 76 people and injured several hundred, with Guevara personally providing first aid to some of the victims. Cuban leader Fidel Castro immediately accused the CIA of "an act of terrorism" and held a state funeral the following day for the victims of the blast. It was at the memorial service that Alberto Korda took the famous photograph of Guevara, now known as Guerrillero Heroico.
counter-revolutionaries", and utilize Guevara to now drastically increase the speed of land reform. To implement this plan, a new government agency the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) was established to administer the new Agrarian Reform law, and quickly became the most important governing body in the nation with Guevara serving as its head as minister of industries. Under Guevara's command, INRA established its own 100,000 person militia, used first to help the government seize control of the expropriated land and supervise its distribution, and later to set up cooperative farms. The land confiscated included 480,000 acres owned by U.S. corporations. Months later, as retaliation, U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower sharply reduced the import of Cuban sugar (Cuba’s main cash crop), thus leading Guevara on July 10, 1960, to address over 100,000 workers in front of the Presidential Palace at a rally called to denounce U.S. "economic aggression."
Along with land reform, one of the primary areas that Guevara stressed needed national improvement was in the area of literacy. Before 1959 the official literacy rate for Cuba was between 60-76 %, with educational access in rural areas and a lack of instructors the main determining factor. As a result, the Cuban government at Guevara's behest dubbed 1961 the "year of education", and sent "literacy brigades" out into the countryside to construct schools, train new educators, and teach the predominately illiterate Guajiros (peasants) to read and write. Unlike many of Guevara's later economic initiatives, this campaign was "a remarkable success." By the completion of the campaign, 707,212 adults were taught to read and write, raising the national literacy rate to 96 %.
Accompanying literacy, Guevara was also concerned with establishing universal access to higher education. To accomplish this, the new regime introduced affirmative action to the universities. While announcing this new commitment, Guevara told the gathered faculty and students at the University of Las Villas that the days when education was "a privilege of the white middle class" had ended. "The University" he said, "must paint itself black, mulatto, worker, and peasant." If it didn’t, he warned, the people would break down its doors "and paint the University the colors they like."
The "New Man", Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis
Guevara acquired the additional position of Finance Minister as President of the National Bank, which along with Minister of Industries, placed Che at the zenith of his power, as the "virtual czar" of the Cuban economy.
As a consequence of his new position, it was now Guevara's duty to sign the Cuban currency, which per custom would bear his signature. However, instead of using his more dignified full name, he dismissively signed the bills solely "Che." It was through this symbolic act, which horrified many in the Cuban financial sector, that Guevara signaled his distaste for money and the class distinctions it brought about. Guevara's long time friend Ricardo Rojo later remarked that "the day he signed Che on the bills, (he) literally knocked the props from under the widespread belief that money was sacred."
capitalism as a "contest among wolves" where "one can only win at the cost of others," and thus desired to see the creation of a "new man and woman." Guevara continually stressed that a socialist economy in itself is not "worth the effort, sacrifice, and risks of war and destruction" if it ends up encouraging "greed and individual ambition at the expense of collective spirit." A primary goal of Guevara's thus became to reform "individual consciousness" and values to produce better workers and citizens. In his view, Cuba's "new man" would be able to overcome the "egotism" and "selfishness" that he loathed and discerned was uniquely characteristic of individuals in capitalist societies. In describing this new method of "development", Guevara stated:
A further integral part of fostering a sense of "unity between the individual and the mass", Guevara believed, was volunteer work and will. To display this, Guevara "led by example", working "endlessly at his ministry job, in construction, and even cutting sugar cane" on his day off. He was known for working 36 hours at a stretch, calling meetings after midnight, and eating on the run. Such behavior was befitting of Guevara's new program of moral incentives, where each worker was now required to meet a quota and produce a certain number of goods. However, as a replacement for the pay increases abolished by Guevara, workers who now exceeded their quota only received a certificate of commendation, while workers who failed to meet their quotas were given a pay cut. Guevara unapologetically defended his personal philosophy towards motivation and work, stating:
Eastern Bloc states, visiting a number of communist states and signing trade agreements with them. At the end of 1960 he visited Czechoslovakia, the U.S.S.R., North Korea, Hungary and East Germany and signed, for instance, a trade agreement in East Berlin on 17 December 1960. Such agreements helped Cuba's economy to a certain degree but had also the disadvantage of a growing economic dependency on the Eastern Bloc.
Whatever the merits or demerits of Guevara’s economic principles, his programs were unsuccessful. Guevara's program of "moral incentives" for workers caused a rapid drop in productivity and a rapid rise in absenteeism. In reference to the collective failings of Guevara's vision, reporter I.F. Stone who interviewed Che twice during this time, remarked that he was "Galahad not Robespierre", while opining that "in a sense he was, like some early saint, taking refuge in the desert. Only there could the purity of the faith be safeguarded from the unregenerate revisionism of human nature."
On April 17, 1961, 1,400 U.S. trained Cuban exiles invaded the island during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Guevara himself did not play a key role in the fighting, as one day before the invasion a warship carrying Marines faked an invasion off the West Coast of Pinar Del Rio and drew forces commanded by Guevara to that region. However, historians give Guevara, who was director of instruction for Cuba’s armed forces at the time, a share of credit for the victory. Author Tad Szulc in his explanation of the Cuban victory, assigns Guevara partial credit, stating: "The revolutionaries won because Che Guevara, as the head of the Instruction Department of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in charge of the militia training program, had done so well in preparing 200,000 men and women for war." It was also during this deployment where he suffered a bullet grazing to the cheek when his pistol fell out of its holster and accidentally discharged.
Organization of American States in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara sent a note of "gratitude" to U.S. President John F. Kennedy through Richard N. Goodwin, a young secretary of the White House. It read "Thanks for Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs). Before the invasion, the revolution was shaky. Now it's stronger than ever." In response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon presenting the Alliance for Progress for ratification by the meeting, Guevara antagonistically attacked the United States claim of being a "democracy", stating that such a system was not compatible with "financial oligarchy, discrimination against blacks, and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan." Guevara continued, speaking out against the "persecution" that in his view "drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, and sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world." Guevara ended his remarks by insinuating that the United States was not interested in real reforms, sardonically quipping that "U.S. experts never talk about agrarian reform; they prefer a safe subject, like a better water supply. In short they seem to prepare the revolution of the toilets."
Guevara, who was practically the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship, then played a key role in bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. During an interview with the British Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a few weeks after the crisis, Guevara still fuming over the perceived Soviet betrayal, stated that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them off. Sam Russell, the British correspondent who spoke to Guevara at the time came away with "mixed feelings", calling him "a warm character" and "clearly a man of great intelligence", but "crackers from the way he went on about the missiles." The missile crisis further convinced Guevara that the two World's superpowers (U.S. & U.S.S.R.) used Cuba as a pawn in their own global strategies. Afterward he denounced the Soviets almost as frequently as he denounced the Americans.
International diplomacyNew York City as head of the Cuban delegation to speak at the United Nations. During his impassioned address, he criticized the United Nations inability to confront the "brutal policy of apartheid" in South Africa, proclaiming "can the United Nations do nothing to stop this?" Guevara then denounced the United States policy towards their black population, stating:
An indignant Guevara ended his speech by reciting the Second Declaration of Havana, decreeing Latin America a "family of 200 million brothers who suffer the same miseries." This "epic", Guevara declared, would be written by the "hungry Indian masses, peasants without land, exploited workers, and progressive masses." To Guevara the conflict was a struggle of mass and ideas, which would be carried forth by those "mistreated and scorned by imperialism" who were previously considered "a weak and submissive flock." With this "flock", Guevara now asserted, "Yankee monopoly capitalism" now terrifyingly saw their "gravediggers." It would be during this "hour of vindication" Guevara pronounced, that the "anonymous mass" would begin to write its own history "with its own blood", and reclaim those "rights that were laughed at by one and all for 500 years." Guevara ended his remarks to the United Nations general assembly by hypothesizing that this "wave of anger” would "sweep the lands of Latin America", and that the labor masses who "turn the wheel of history", for the first time were "awakening from the long, brutalizing sleep to which they had been subjected.
Guevara later learned that there were two failed attempts on his life by Cuban exiles during his stop at the U.N. complex. The first from Molly Gonzales who tried to break through barricades upon his arrival with a seven-inch hunting knife, and later during his address by Guillermo Novo with a timer-initiated bazooka that was fired off target from a boat in the East River at the United Nations Headquarters. Afterwards, Guevara commented on both incidents stating that "it is better to be killed by a woman with a knife than by a man with a gun", while adding with a languid wave of his cigar that the explosion had "given the whole thing more flavor."
CBS Sunday news program Face the Nation and met with a range of people, from U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy to associates of Malcolm X. Malcolm X expressed his admiration, declaring Guevara "one of the most revolutionary men in this country right now" while reading a statement from him to a crowd at the Audubon Ballroom.
On December 17, Guevara left for Paris and embarked on a three-month tour that included the People's Republic of China, the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Algeria, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Dahomey, Congo-Brazzaville and Tanzania, with stops in Ireland and Prague. While in Ireland, Guevara embraced his own Irish heritage, celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Limerick City. He wrote to his father on this visit, humorously stating "I am in this green Ireland of your ancestors. When they found out, the television [station] came to ask me about the Lynch genealogy, but in case they were horse thieves or something like that, I didn't say much."
During this voyage, he wrote a letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of a Uruguayan weekly, which was later re-titled Socialism and Man in Cuba. Outlined in the treatise was Guevara's summons for the creation of a new consciousness, status of work, and role of the individual. He also laid out the reasoning behind his anti-capitalist sentiments, stating:
Guevara ended the essay by declaring that "the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love" and beckoning on all revolutionaries to "strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into acts that serve as examples", thus becoming "a moving force." The genesis for Guevara's assertions relied on the fact that he believed the example of the Cuban Revolution was "something spiritual that would transcend all borders."
In Algiers on February 24, 1965, he made what turned out to be his last public appearance on the international stage when he delivered a speech at an economic seminar on Afro-Asian solidarity. He specified the moral duty of the socialist countries, accusing them of tacit complicity with the exploiting Western countries. He proceeded to outline a number of measures which he said the communist-bloc countries must implement in order to accomplish the defeat of imperialism. Having criticized the Soviet Union (the primary financial backer of Cuba) in such a public manner, he returned to Cuba on March 14 to a solemn reception by Fidel and Raúl Castro, Osvaldo Dorticós and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez at the Havana airport.
industrialization scheme he had advocated while minister of industry, to pressure exerted on Castro by Soviet officials disapproving of Guevara's pro-Chinese Communist stance on the Sino-Soviet split, and to serious differences between Guevara and the pragmatic Castro regarding Cuba's economic development and ideological line.
The coincidence of Guevara's views with those expounded by the Chinese Communist leadership was increasingly problematic for Cuba as the nation's economy became more and more dependent on the Soviet Union. Since the early days of the Cuban revolution, Guevara had been considered by many an advocate of Maoist strategy in Latin America and the originator of a plan for the rapid industrialization of Cuba which was frequently compared to China's "Great Leap Forward." Castro became weary of Guevara's opposition to Soviet conditions and recommendations; measures that Castro saw as necessary, but which Guevara described as corrupt and "pre-monopolist." However, both Guevara and Castro were supportive publicly on the idea of a united front.
Following the Cuban Missile Crisis and what Guevara perceived as a Soviet betrayal when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew the missiles from Cuban territory, Guevara had grown more skeptical of the Soviet Union. As revealed in his last speech in Algiers, he had come to view the Northern Hemisphere, led by the U.S. in the West and the Soviet Union in the East, as the exploiter of the Southern Hemisphere. He strongly supported Communist North Vietnam in the Vietnam War, and urged the peoples of other developing countries to take up arms and create "many Vietnams."
Pressed by international speculation regarding Guevara's fate, Castro stated on June 16, 1965 that the people would be informed when Guevara himself wished to let them know. Still, rumors spread both inside and outside Cuba. On October 3, Castro revealed an undated letter purportedly written to him by Guevara some months earlier: in it, Guevara reaffirmed his enduring solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, but declared his intention to leave Cuba to fight for the revolutionary cause abroad. Additionally, he resigned from all his positions in the government and party, and renounced his honorary Cuban citizenship. Guevara's movements continued to be a closely guarded secret for the next two years.
CongoAfrica and offer his knowledge and experience as a guerrilla to the ongoing conflict in the Congo. According to Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Guevara thought that Africa was imperialism's weak link and therefore had enormous revolutionary potential. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had fraternal relations with Che dating back to his 1959 visit, saw Guevara's plans to fight in the Congo as "unwise" and warned that he would become a "Tarzan" figure, doomed to failure. Despite the warning, Guevara traveled to the Congo while using the alias Ramón Benítez. Guevara led the Cuban operation in support of the Marxist Simba movement, which had emerged from the ongoing Congo Crisis. Guevara, his second-in-command Victor Dreke, and 12 other Cuban expeditionaries arrived in the Congo on April 24, 1965 and a contingent of approximately 100 Afro-Cubans joined them soon afterward. They collaborated for a time with guerrilla leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had previously helped supporters of the overthrown Patrice Lumumba lead an unsuccessful revolt months earlier. As an admirer of the late Lumumba, Guevara declared that his "murder should be a lesson for all of us." Guevara, with limited knowledge of Swahili and the local languages was assigned a teenage interpreter Freddy Ilanga. Over the course of seven months Ilanga grew to "admire the hard-working Guevara", who according to Mr. Ilanga, "showed the same respect to black people as he did to whites." However Guevara soon became disillusioned with the discipline of Kabila's troops and later dismissed him, stating "nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour."
As an additional obstacle, white South African mercenaries, led by Mike Hoare in concert with Cuban exiles and the CIA, worked with the Congo National Army to thwart Guevara in the mountains near the village of Fizi on Lake Tanganyika. They were able to monitor his communications, and so pre-empted his attacks and interdicted his supply lines. Despite the fact that Guevara sought to conceal his presence in the Congo, the U.S. government was aware of his location and activities: The National Security Agency was intercepting all of his incoming and outgoing transmissions via equipment aboard the USNS Private Jose F. Valdez (T-AG-169), a floating listening post that continuously cruised the Indian Ocean off Dar es Salaam for that purpose.
export the revolution by instructing local anti-Mobutu Simba fighters in Marxist ideology and foco theory strategies of guerrilla warfare. In his Congo Diary, he cites the incompetence, intransigence and infighting of the local Congolese forces as key reasons for the revolt's failure. Later that year, ill with dysentery, suffering from acute asthma, and disheartened after seven months of frustrations, Guevara left the Congo with the Cuban survivors (Six members of his column had died). At one point Guevara considered sending the wounded back to Cuba, and fighting in Congo alone until his death, as a revolutionary example; however, after being urged by his comrades and pressed by two emissaries sent by Castro, at the last moment he reluctantly agreed to retreat. In speaking about the Congo, Guevara concluded that "The human element failed. There is no will to fight, the leaders are corrupt; in a word, there was nothing to do." A few weeks later, when writing the preface to the diary he kept during the Congo venture, he began: "This is the history of a failure."
Guevara was reluctant to return to Cuba, because Castro had made public Guevara's "farewell letter" — a letter intended to only be revealed in the case of his death — wherein he severed all ties in order to devote himself to revolution throughout the world. As a result, Guevara spent the next six months living clandestinely in Dar es Salaam and Prague. During this time he compiled his memoirs of the Congo experience, and wrote drafts of two more books, one on philosophy and the other on economics. He then visited several Western European countries to test his new false identity papers, created by Cuban Intelligence for his later travels to South America. As Guevara prepared for Bolivia, he wrote a last letter to his five children to be read upon his death, which ended with him instructing them:
BoliviaMozambique's independence movement, the FRELIMO, reported that they met with Guevara in late 1966 or early 1967 in Dar es Salaam regarding his offer to aid in their revolutionary project, which they ultimately rejected. In a speech at the 1967 International Workers' Day rally in Havana, the Acting Minister of the armed forces, Major Juan Almeida, announced that Guevara was "serving the revolution somewhere in Latin America".
Before he departed for Bolivia, Guevara altered his appearance so he would be unrecognizable as Che Guevara. In November, 1966, Guevara secretly arrived in La Paz, Bolivia on a flight from Montevideo, Uruguay under the false name Adolfo Mena González, and posed as a Uruguayan businessman working for the Organization of American States.
montane dry forest in the remote Ñancahuazú region. Training at the camp in the Ñancahuazú valley however proved to be hazardous and little was accomplished in the way of building a guerrilla army. Former Stasi operative Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, better known by her nom de guerre "Tania", who had been installed as his primary agent in La Paz, was reportedly also working for the KGB and in several Western sources she is inferred to have unwittingly served Soviet interests by leading Bolivian authorities to Guevara's trail.
Guevara's guerrilla force, numbering about 50 and operating as the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia; "National Liberation Army of Bolivia"), was well equipped and scored a number of early successes against Bolivian army regulars in the difficult terrain of the mountainous Camiri region. As a result of Guevara’s units winning several skirmishes against Bolivian troops in the spring and summer of 1967, the Bolivian government began to overestimate the true size of the guerrilla force. But in September, the Army managed to eliminate two guerrilla groups in a violent battle, reportedly killing one of the leaders.
The end result was that Guevara was unable to attract inhabitants of the local area to join his militia during the 11 months he attempted recruitment. Near the end of the venture Guevara wrote in his diary that "the peasants do not give us any help, and are turning into informers."
Capture and executionFélix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian troops during the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia. In addition, the 2007 documentary My Enemy's Enemy, directed by Kevin Macdonald, alleges that Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie aka "The Butcher of Lyon", advised and possibly helped the CIA orchestrate Guevara's eventual capture.
On October 7, an informant apprised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara's guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine. They encircled the area with 1,800 soldiers, and Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a detachment with Simeón Cuba Sarabia. Che biographer Jon Lee Anderson reports Bolivian Sergeant Bernardino Huanca's account: that a twice wounded Guevara, his gun rendered useless, shouted "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead."
Guevara was tied up and taken to a dilapidated mud schoolhouse in the nearby village of La Higuera on the night of October 7. For the next day-and-a-half, Guevara refused to be interrogated by Bolivian officers and would only speak quietly to Bolivian soldiers. One of those Bolivian soldiers, helicopter pilot Jaime Nino de Guzman, describes Che as looking "dreadful". According to Guzman, Guevara was shot through the right calf, his hair was matted with dirt, his clothes were shredded, and his feet were covered in rough leather sheaths. Despite his haggard appearance, he recounts that "Che held his head high, looked everyone straight in the eyes and asked only for something to smoke." De Guzman states that he "took pity" and gave him a small bag of tobacco for his pipe, with Guevara then smiling and thanking him. Later on the night of October 8, Guevara, despite having his hands tied, kicked Bolivian Officer Espinosa into the wall, after the officer entered the schoolhouse in order to snatch Guevara's pipe from his mouth as a souvenir. In another instance of defiance, Guevara spat in the face of Bolivian Rear Admiral Ugarteche shortly before his execution.
The following morning on October 9, Guevara asked to see the "maestra" (school teacher) of the village, 22-year-old Julia Cortez. Cortez would later state that she found Guevara to be an "agreeable looking man with a soft and ironic glance" and that during their conversation she found herself "unable to look him in the eye", because his "gaze was unbearable, piercing, and so tranquil." During their short conversation, Guevara pointed out to Cortez the poor condition of the schoolhouse, stating that it was "anti-pedagogical" to expect campesino students to be educated there, while "government officials drive Mercedes cars" ... declaring "that's what we are fighting against."
Later that morning on October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. The order was relayed by Félix Rodríguez despite the US government’s desire that Guevara be taken to Panama. The executioner was Mario Terán, a half-drunken sergeant in the Bolivian army who had requested to shoot Che on the basis of the fact that three of his friends from B Company, all named "Mario", had been killed in an earlier firefight with Guevara's band of guerrillas. To make the bullet wounds appear consistent with the story the government planned to release to the public, Félix Rodríguez ordered Terán to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army. Gary Prado, a Bolivian soldier who was with the group that captured Guevara, said that the reasons Barrientos ordered the immediate execution of Guevara is so there would be no possibility that Guevara would escape from prison, and also so there would be no drama in regard to a trial.
Moments before Guevara was executed he was asked if he was thinking about his own immortality. "No", he replied, "I'm thinking about the immortality of the revolution." When Sergeant Terán entered the hut, Che Guevara then told his executioner, "I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!" Terán hesitated, then opened fire with his semiautomatic rifle, hitting Guevara in the arms and legs. Guevara writhed on the ground, apparently biting one of his wrists to avoid crying out. Terán then fired several times again, wounding him fatally in the chest at 1:10 pm, according to Rodríguez. In all, Guevara was shot nine times. This included five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and finally in the throat.
Months earlier, during his last public declaration to the Tricontinental Conference, Guevara wrote his own epitaph, stating "Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this our battle cry may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons."
Post-execution, remains and memorialVallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta. As hundreds of local residents filed past the body, many of them considered Guevara's corpse to represent a "Christ-like" visage, with some of them even surreptitiously clipping locks of his hair as divine relics. Such comparisons were further extended when two weeks later upon seeing the post-mortem photographs, English art critic John Berger observed that they resembled two famous paintings: Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Andrea Mantegna's Lamentation over the Dead Christ. There were also four correspondents present when Guevara's body arrived in Vallegrande, including Bjorn Kumm of the Swedish Aftonbladet, who described the scene in an November 11, 1967, exclusive for The New Republic.
A declassified memorandum dated October 11, 1967 to United States President Lyndon B. Johnson from his National Security Advisor, Walt Whitman Rostow, called the decision to kill Guevara "stupid" but "understandable from a Bolivian standpoint." After the execution, Rodríguez took several of Guevara's personal items, including a Rolex GMT Master wristwatch which he continued to wear many years later, often showing them to reporters during the ensuing years. Today, some of these belongings, including his flashlight, are on display at the CIA. After a military doctor amputated his hands, Bolivian army officers transferred Guevara's body to an undisclosed location and refused to reveal whether his remains had been buried or cremated. The hands were preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. (His fingerprints were on file with the Argentine police.) They were later sent to Cuba.
Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout the island. On October 18, Castro addressed a crowd of one million mourners in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución and spoke about Guevara's character as a revolutionary. Fidel Castro closed his impassioned eulogy thusly:
French intellectual Régis Debray, who was captured in April 1967 while with Guevara in Bolivia, gave an interview from prison, in August 1968, where he enlarged on the circumstances of Guevara's capture. Debray, who had lived with Guevara's band of guerrillas for a short time, said that in his view they were "victims of the forest" and thus "eaten by the jungle." Debray described a destitute situation where Guevara's men suffered malnutrition, lack of water, absence of shoes, and only possessed six blankets for 22 men. Debray recounts that Guevara and the others had been suffering an "illness" which caused their hands and feet to swell into "mounds of flesh" to the point where you could not discern the fingers on their hands. Despite the futile situation, Debray described Guevara as "optimistic about the future of Latin America" and remarked that Guevara was "resigned to die in the knowledge that his death would be a sort of renaissance", noting that Guevara perceived death "as a promise of rebirth" and "ritual of renewal."
In late 1995, retired Bolivian General Mario Vargas revealed to Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, that Guevara's body was located near a Vallegrande airstrip. The result was a multi-national search for the remains, which would last more than a year. In July 1997, a team of Cuban geologists and Argentine forensic anthropologists discovered the remnants of seven bodies in two mass graves, including one man with amputated hands (like Guevara). Bolivian government officials with the Ministry of Interior later identified the body as Guevara when the excavated teeth "perfectly matched" a plaster mold of Che's teeth, made in Cuba prior to his Congolese expedition. The "clincher" then arrived when Argentine forensic anthropologist Alejandro Inchaurregui inspected the inside hidden pocket of a blue jacket dug up next to the handless cadaver and found a small bag of pipe tobacco. Nino de Guzman, the Bolivian helicopter pilot who had given Che a small bag of tobacco, later remarked that he "had serious doubts" at first and "thought the Cubans would just find any old bones and call it Che"; however he stated "after hearing about the tobacco pouch, I have no doubts." On October 17, 1997, Guevara's remains, with those of six of his fellow combatants, were laid to rest with military honors in a specially built mausoleum in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, where he had commanded over the decisive military victory of the Cuban Revolution.
 His diary documented events of the guerrilla campaign in Bolivia with the first entry on November 7, 1966 shortly after his arrival at the farm in Ñancahuazú, and the last dated October 7, 1967, the day before his capture. The diary tells how the guerrillas were forced to begin operations prematurely because of discovery by the Bolivian Army, explains Guevara's decision to divide the column into two units that were subsequently unable to re-establish contact, and describes their overall unsuccessful venture. It also records the rift between Guevara and the Communist Party of Bolivia that resulted in Guevara having significantly fewer soldiers than originally expected and shows that Guevara had a great deal of difficulty recruiting from the local populace, partly because of the fact that the guerrilla group had learned Quechua, unaware that the local language was actually Tupí-Guaraní. As the campaign drew to an unexpected close, Guevara became increasingly ill. He suffered from ever-worsening bouts of asthma, and most of his last offensives were carried out in an attempt to obtain medicine.
The Bolivian Diary was quickly and crudely translated by Ramparts magazine and circulated around the world. There are at least four additional diaries in existence—those of Israel Reyes Zayas (Alias "Braulio"), Harry Villegas Tamayo ("Pombo"), Eliseo Reyes Rodriguez ("Rolando") and Dariel Alarcón Ramírez ("Benigno")—each of which reveals additional aspects of the events. In July 2008, the Bolivian government of Evo Morales unveiled Guevara's formerly sealed diaries composed in two frayed notebooks, along with a logbook and several black-and-white photographs. At this event, Bolivia's vice minister of culture, Pablo Groux, expressed that there were plans to publish photographs of every handwritten page later in the year. Meanwhile, in August 2009, anthropologists working for Bolivia's Justice Ministry discovered and unearthed five of Guevara's fellow guerrillas near the Bolivian town of Teoponte.
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