“Del Toro was fascinated with Che Guevara from the first time he heard his name mentioned in the Rolling Stones song Indian Girl,” reads the introduction to an interview with Benicio del Toro last month in Britain's The Guardian. “Of course he found himself fascinated by Ernesto Che Guevara - he loved the Stones, and Emotional Rescue was the first album he'd bought. "I hear of this guy and he's got a cool name. Che Guevara!" Del Toro as good as swoons when he says it. “Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics!”
"So I went to a library and I was looking at books, and I came across a picture by René Burri of Che, smiling, in fatigues, I thought, 'Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!' "
Well, there you have it. What's next? Probably a Youtube featuring a weeping, wailing Benicio del Toro titled : “Leave Che Alone!”
Last week, The Washington Times deviated somewhat from the script The Guardian (along with most media) use when "interviewing" del Toro on the role that won him the Cannes Film Festival 'Best Actor" award.
"I'm getting uncomfortable," snorted del Toro when asked a genuine question rather than lobbed a compliment disguised as one. "I'm done. I'm done, I hope you write whatever you want. I don't give a damn."
"With that, the Oscar-winning actor walked away," writes the Washington Times movie critic, Sammy Bunch.
Benicio del Toro might have tried rebutting with facts, with the documented historical record, as in the case of this fellow when confronted with a hostile interviewer. Alas, del Toro's version of the historical record issued from the propaganda ministry of a Stalinist regime.
Much easier was del Toro's recent "interview" with The Huffington Post: “All those millions of young people wearing Che tee-shirts. What do you want them to know about Che Guevara from this film?”, asks the Huffington Post's Torquemada.
“When I wear a tee-shirt it means something. It's like a removable tattoo. When you see someone wearing a Che tee-shirt, they are saying something that captures in some way the essence of Che--whether it's the underdog, the guy who didn't sell out, the guy who did the sacrifice, the guy who fought against injustice...that is my experience with the people who wear those tee-shirts of Che."
Was Che Guevara "the underdog" at the Bay of Pigs when 40,000 of his Soviet-lavished and commanded militia squared off against 1400 betrayed freedom-fighters—and almost lost?
Was Che Guevara "the underdog" when, alongside Soviet commanders, he directed the slaughter of Cuba's desperate anti-Communist guerrillas in Cuba's countryside from 1960-1966? Did your history prof tell you that one of the bloodiest and longest guerrilla wars on this continent was fought – not by – but against Fidel and Che, and by landless peasants? Did The History Channel? Did del Toro and Soderbergh's movie?
Didn't think so.
Farm collectivization was no more voluntary in Cuba than in the Ukraine. And Cuba's Kulaks had guns, a few at first anyway.Che had a very bloody (and typically cowardly) hand in one of the major anti-insurgency wars on this continent. most of these of these anti-communist guerrillas were executed on the spot upon capture, a Che specialty. For my book I interviewed several of the lucky former rebels who managed to escape the slaughter. "We fought with the fury of cornered beasts," is how they described their desperate and lonely freedom-fight against the Soviet occupation of Cuba through their proxies Fidel and Che.
In 1956 when Che linked up with Fidel, Raul, and their Cuban chums in Mexico city, one of them (now in exile) recalls Che railing against the Hungarian freedom-fighters as "Fascists!" and cheering their extermination by Soviet tanks.
In 1962 Che got a chance to do more than cheer from the sidelines. He had a hand in the following: "Cuban militia units commanded by Russian officers employed flame-throwers to burn the palm-thatched cottages in the Escambray countryside. The peasant occupants were accused of feeding the counterrevolutionaries and bandits." At one point in 1962, one of every 19 Cubans was a political prisoner. Fidel himself admits that at the time his Communist regime was up against 179 bands of "counter-revolutionaries" and "bandits."
Mass murder was the order in Cuba's countryside. It was the only way to decimate so many rebels. These country folk went after the Reds with a ferocity that saw Fidel and Che running to their Soviet sugar daddies and tugging their pants in panic. That commie bit about how "a guerrilla swims in the sea which is the people, etc." precisely described Cuba's anti-Fidel and Che rebellion.
Did Che Guevara "refuse to sell out" when he ordered his guerrilla charges "to fight to the last bullet!" then snuck away from the firefight until he found a pair of Bolivian soldiers whereupon he dropped his fully loaded weapons and whimpered: “Don't Shoot! I'm Che! I'm worth to you more alive than dead.”?
In effect, del Toro speaks for millions of Che groupies. "Che Guevara has given rise to a cult of almost religious hero worship among radical intellectuals and students across much of the Western world," proclaimed Time magazine in May 1968. With his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, Che is the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious '60s."
"1968 actually began in 1967 with the murder of Che," recounts Christopher Hitchens. "His death meant a lot to me, and countless like me, at the time. He was a role model."
It's interesting that del Toro got hooked on Che from a Rolling Stones song. The Stones, after all, in their classic Sympathy for the Devil, cast Lucifer as directing Che's mentors, models and early suitors – the Bolsheviks: "Stood around St Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change...killed the Czar and his ministers....Anastasia screamed in vain."
Had Benicio del Toro born two decades earlier and in Cuba and attempted the lifestyle of a U.S. teenager or campus rebel, his "digging" of Castroite Cuba would have been of a more literal nature. Benicio would have found himself digging ditches and mass-graves in a prison camp system inspired by the man he glorified in a current movie, compared (favorably) to Jesus Christ, and to whom he dedicated his Cannes Film Festival “Best Actor” award. Had del Toro's digging in a Cuban forced-labor camp lagged, a "groovy" Czech machine-gun butt might have shattered his teeth or perhaps some "groovy" Soviet bayonets slashed his buttocks.
In a famous speech in 1961 Che Guevara denounced the very "spirit of rebellion" as "reprehensible." "Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates" commanded Guevara. "Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service."
And woe to those youths "who stayed up late at might and thus reported to work (government forced-labor) tardily." Youth, wrote Guevara, " should learn to think and act as a mass." "Those who chose their own path" (as in growing long hair and listening to Yankee-Imperialist Rock & Roll) were denounced as worthless "lumpen" and "delinquents." In his famous speech Che Guevara even vowed, "to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!"
Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara's admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Che Guevara the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI "consultants" who flooded Cuba in the early 60's, found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid 60's the crime of a "rocker" lifestyle or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba's streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with "Work Will Make Men Out of You" in bold letters above the gate and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.
Today the world’s largest image of the man Benicio del Toro honors on screen and in multiple interviews, adorns Cuba’s headquarters for it's KGB-trained secret police, a gang of Communist sadists who jailed and tortured at a rate higher than Stalin's own KGB and GRU.