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Fidel's Executioner, Con't By: Humberto Fontova
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 14, 2005


After a hard day at the office, Che repaired to his new domicile in Tarara, 15 miles outside Havana on the pristine beachfront (today reserved exclusively for tourists and Communist party members, by the way). The "austere idealist," Che, hadn't done too badly for himself in this real estate transaction, known in non-revolutionary societies as theft.

"The house was among the most luxurious in Cuba," writes Cuban journalist Antonio Llano Montes. ''Until a few weeks prior, it had belonged to Cuba's most successful building contractor. The mansion had a boat dock, a huge swimming pool, seven bathrooms, a sauna, a massage salon and several television sets. One TV had been specially designed in the U.S. and had a screen ten feet wide and was operated by remote control (remember, this was 1959.) This was thought to be the only TV of its kind in Latin America. The mansion's garden had a veritable jungle of imported plants, a pool with waterfall, ponds filled with exotic tropical fish and several bird houses filled with parrots and other exotic birds. The habitation was something out of A Thousand and One Nights.

 

Llano Montes wrote the above in exile. In January 1959 he didn't go quite into such detail in his article which appeared in the Cuban magazine Carteles. He simply wrote that, "Comandante Che Guevara has fixed his residence in one of the most luxurious houses on Tarara beach."

 

Two days after his article ran, while lunching at Havana's El Carmelo restaurant, Llano Montes looked up from his plate to see three heavily armed Rebel army soldiers instructing him to accompany them. Shortly the journalist found himself in Che Guevara's La Cabana office, seated a few feet in front of the Comandante's desk which was piled with papers.

 

It took half an hour but Che finally made his grand entrance, "reeking horribly, as was his custom" recalls Llano Montes. "Without looking at me. He started grabbing papers on his desk and brusquely signing them with 'Che.’ His assistant came in and Che spoke to him over his shoulder. "I'm signing these 26 executions so we can take care of this tonight.'

 

"Then he got up and walked out. Half an hour later he walks back in and starts signing more papers. Finished signing, he picks up a book and starts reading -- never once looking at me. Another half hour goes by and he finally puts the book down. 'So you're Llano Montes,' he finally sneers, 'who says I appropriated a luxurious house.'

 

"I simply wrote that you had moved into a luxurious house, which is the truth," replied Llano Montes.

 

"I know your tactics!" Che shot back. "You press people are injecting venom into your articles to damage the revolution. You're either with us or against us. We're not going to allow all the press foolishness that Batista allowed. I can have you executed this very night. How about that!"

 

"You'll need proof that I've broken some law" responded Montes.

 

"'We don't need proof. We manufacture the proof,' Che said while stroking his shoulder length hair, a habit of his. One of his prosecutors, a man nicknamed 'Puddle-of-blood' then walked in and started talking. 'Don't let the stupid jabbering of those defense lawyers delay the executions!' Che yelled at him. 'Threaten them with execution. Accuse them of being accomplices of the Batistianos.' Then Che jerked the handful of papers from Mr. Puddle and started signing them.

 

"This type of thing went on from noon until 6:30 PM when Che finally turned to his aides and said. 'Get this man out of here. I don't want him in my presence.'" [24]

 

This was Che's manner of dealing with defenseless men. He acted this way when he held the hammer. Against armed men on an equal footing his behavior was markedly different. Two years earlier in the Sierra, Castro had ordered Che to take command over a guerrilla faction led by a fellow 26th of July Movement rebel named Jorge Sotus, who had been operating in an area north of the area where Fidel and Che were and had actually been confronting and fighting Batista's army. Che and a few of his men hiked over to Sotus command station and informed him that Che was now in command.

 

"Like hell," responded Sotus.

 

"It's Fidel's order," responded Guevara. "We have more military experience than you and your group."

 

"More experience in running and hiding from Batista's army perhaps," Sotus shot back. Che dithered and Sotus added. "Besides my men and I aren't about to take orders from a foreigner." [25]

 

Che backed off, hiked back and informed Fidel who didn't press the issue. But a few weeks after Batista's flight and Castro's triumph, Sotus was arrested without warning and shoved in the Isle of Pines prison. The intrepid Sotus managed to escape, made his way to the U.S. and joined an exile paramilitary group, taking part in many armed raids against Cuba from south Florida until the Kennedy-Khrushchev deal ended them.

 

Guevara also had a run in with a rebel group named the Second Front of the Escambray. These operated against Batista in the Escambray mountains of Las Villas province. When Che's column entered the area in late 1958, Che sought to bring these guerrillas under his command and met much resistance, especially from a comandante named Jesus Carreras who knew of Che's Communist pedigree. Again Guevara didn't press the issue.

 

A few weeks into the January 1959 triumph Carreras and a group of these Escambray commanders visited Che in La Cabana to address the issue of how they'd been frozen out of any leadership roles in the new regime. On the way in, Carreras ran into a rebel he'd known in the anti-Batista fight and stopped to chat while the rest of the group entered Che's office. Once the group was inside, Che began to rip into Carreras (who was still not present) as a drunkard, a womanizer, a bandit and a person he'd never appoint to any important position.

 

Midway into Che's tirade, Carreras entered the office, having overheard much while outside. "Che went white," recall those present. An enraged Carreras jumped right in his face and Che backed off. Finally Carreras challenged Che to a duel, "right outside in the courtyard," he pointed.

 

"How is it possible," Che quickly smiled, "that two revolutionary companeros get to such a point simply because of a misunderstanding?"

 

The subject was dropped and they turned to other issues, but a year later Jesus Carreras found himself a prisoner in a La Cabana dungeon. A few months later he was defiantly facing a firing squad. Fuego! The volley shattered his body. And yes, Che was watching from his window. [26]

 

                                   ********

 

Even the New York Times admits that the first two months of the Cuban Revolution saw 568 firing squad executions. A study by Cuban-American Scholar Armando Lago doubles that figure. One by Dr. Claudio Beneda triples it. The preceding "trials" shocked and nauseated all who witnessed them. They were shameless farces, sickening charades. Guevara clarified the matter. "Evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail," he explained. "We execute from revolutionary conviction." [27]

 

Not that the slaughter ended after the first few months, as most "scholars" imply. In December 1964 Che addressed the U.N. General Assembly. "Yes, we execute, " he declared to the claps and cheers of that august body. "And we will keep executing as long as it is necessary. This is a war to the death against the Revolution's enemies."

 

According to the Black Book of Communism those executions had reached 14,000 by the end of the decade. (Cuba is a small country. In American terms, this would amount to more than three million executions.)

 

On the eve of his trip to New York, Che gave a speech in Santiago Cuba where he declared: "We must learn the lesson of absolute abhorrence of imperialism. Against that class of hyena there is no other medium than extermination!" [28]

 

Two years earlier, Guevara had gotten tantalizingly close to that medium. "If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of the United States, including New York," he told the London Daily Worker in November of 1962. "We must never establish peaceful co-existence. We must walk the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims." [29]

 

"Extermination," Che stressed. "Millions of atomic victims," he said for the record. "Pure hate, as the motivating force," he repeatedly declared.   

 

                                **************

 

Time also erred regarding Che's sense of humor, which was on par with Nurse Ratched's. As most Latin Americans of a certain age know, Che was a ringer for a Mexican Movie star of the fifties named Cantinflas. Shortly after Che entered Havana, one of Cuba's traditionally sassy newspapermen made sport of this resemblance.

 

He did it exactly once. Those firing squads were working triple-shifts at the time. The reporter heeded Che's warning not to do it again.

 

Che's first decree when his guerrillas captured the town of Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba during the last days of the skirmishing against Batista's army, outlawed alcohol, gambling and regulated relations between the sexes. Popular outcry and Fidel's good sense made him rescind the order.

 

"I have no home, no woman no parents, no brothers and no friends," wrote Guevara. "My friends are friends only so long as they think as I do politically." [30]

 

In 1960 at a town named Guanahacabibes in extreme Western Cuba, Che initiated Cuba's concentration camp system. "We send to Guanahacabibes people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals. . it is hard labor...the working conditions are harsh..." [31]

 

Among the many categories of criminals against revolutionary morals were "delinquents." Please take note Che T-shirt wearers: this "delinquency" involved drinking, vagrancy, disrespect for authorities, laziness and playing loud music. Among the more hilarious manifestations of Che idolatry was the rock musician Carlos Santana's grand entrance to the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony where he stopped, swung open his jacket, and proudly displayed his Che T-shirt as the cameras clicked.

 

By the late 60's among the tens of thousands of inmates at Guanahacabibes and the rest of the UMAP concentration camp system in Cuba were "roqueros," hapless Cuban youths who tried to listen to Yankee-Imperialist rock music. Carlos Santana, was grinning widely -- and oh so hiply -- while proudly sporting the symbol of a regime that made it a criminal offense to listen to Carlos Santana.

                           

                                  *********

 

 

By late 1964 Minister of Industries' Che had so badly crippled Cuba's economy and infrastructure and so horribly impoverished and traumatized it's work force that the Russians themselves were at wits end. They were subsidizing the mess, and it was getting expensive -- much too expensive for the paltry geopolitical return. "This is an underdeveloped country?!" Anastas Mikoyan had laughed while looking around on his first visit to Cuba in 1960. The Soviets were frankly tickled to have a developed and civilized country to loot again, the countries of Eastern Europe after WWII.

 

Alas, the looting, at first, went in the opposite direction. Castro was no chump like Ulbricht or Gomulka. A French Socialist economist, Rene Dumont, tried advising Castro as the wreckage of Cuba's economy spiraled out of control. "The Cuban Revolution has gone farther in its first three years than the Chinese in its first ten," he observed. [32] Hence the mess.

 

As Cuba's Minister of Industries, Che wanted to refashion human nature. With hapless Cubans as his guinea pigs, he was intent on creating a "new socialist man," diligent, hard-working, obedient, free from all material incentives and always ready to go with the program-- in brief, lobotomized shirkers or smartalecks who offered lip would find themselves behind the barbed wire, watchtowers and guard dogs of Guanahacabibes in short order.

 

Interestingly, Jack Nicholson whose film character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest continually ran afoul of Nurse Ratched is among Communist Cuba's most frequent visitors and Castro's most fervent fans. "Fidel Castro is a genius!" gushed Nicholson after a visit in 1998. "We spoke about everything," the actor rhapsodized. "Castro is a humanist like President Clinton. Cuba is simply a paradise!" This may have more to it than the usual Hollywood vacuity upstairs. "My job was to bug Jack Nicholson's room at the hotel Melia Cohiba when he visited Cuba," says high-ranking Cuban intelligence defector Delfin Fernandez, from Madrid today, "with both cameras and listening devices. Most people have no idea they are being watched while they are in Cuba. But their personal activities are filmed under orders from Castro himself. Famous Americans are the priority objectives of Castro's intelligence." [33]

 

One day Che decided that Cubans should learn to play and like soccer (futbal) like the citizens of his native Argentina. A Sugar plantation named Central Macareno near Cienfuegos had been recently stolen from its American owners (not that most Sugar plantations in Cuba were American-owned as leftist mythology holds. Barely one-third were.) The plantation also included a huge orchard of Mango, Avocado and Mamey trees that were just starting to give fruit. Che ordered them all cut down and the ground razed in order to construct a soccer field.

 

A year later the field was weed grown, pot-holed and unusable. The decaying trunks of the formerly fruit-yielding trees were still piled up around the edges of the field even as most Cubans scrambled for fresh fruit on the new black market (under that arch-villain of leftist lore, Batista, Cubans had no need for a black market.) At any rate, it seemed that--the threat of Guanahacabibes or not-- Che's Cuban subjects simply didn't take to Che's futbal. [34]

 

Che's fetish to "industrialize" Cuba immediately and by decree, as he thought his role model Stalin had "industrialized" the Soviet Union, ended Cuba's status as a relatively developed and civilized country. In one of his spasms of decrees, Che ordered a refrigerator factory built in Cienfuegos, a pick and shovel factory built in Santa Clara, a pencil factory built in Havana. Supply? Demand? Costs? Such bourgeois details didn't interest Che. None of the factories ended up producing a single product.

 

Che railed against the chemists in the newly socialized Coca-Cola plant because the Coke they were producing tasted awful. Some of the flustered chemists responded that it was Che who had nationalized the plant and booted out the former owners and managers, who took the secret Coca-Cola formula with them to the United States. This impertinence was answered with the threat of Guanahacabibes.

 

During this time Che's ministry also bought a fleet of snow plows from Czechoslovakia. Che had personally inspected them and was convinced they could easily be converted into sugar cane harvesting machines, thus mechanizing the harvest and increasing Cuba's sugar production. The snowplows in fact squashed the sugar cane plants, cut them off at the wrong length and killed them. Four years into the revolution Cuba's 1963 sugar production was less than half of its pre-Revolutionary volume.

 

The Soviets themselves finally put their foot down. Their Cuban lark was getting expensive. In 1964 they told Castro that Che had to go. Castro knew who buttered his bread and had never much liked Che anyway. Besides, the Revolution was well entrenched by then, and in any case there were many willing executioners now, so Che might have outlived his usefulness.

 

Here we come to another hoary myth spun by Che's hagiographers: his "ideological" falling out with the Soviets. Che's pureness of revolutionary heart, we're told, led him to clash with the corrupt Soviet nomenklatura.

 

In fact it was a purely practical conflict. The Russians were fed up and simply refused to bankroll Che's harebrained economic fantasies any longer. Che saw the writing on the wall. In December 1964, right after his visit to the U.N., he visited his friend Ben Bela in Algeria and delivered his famous anti-Soviet speech, branding them, "accomplices of imperialist exploitation." [35]

            

To many it looked like Che was setting the stage for a role as the Trotsky of his generation. Che probably saw it as a more seemly role than that of a hopeless economic bumbler.

 

When he touched down in Havana after the speech, the regime's press was absolutely mute regarding both his speech and his recent return. Soon he was invited to visit the Maximum Leader and Raul. In fact, Maximum Brother Raul had just returned from Mother Russia itself, where Che's Algeria speech had caused quite a stir. As soon as he got within earshot, both Castros ripped into Guevara as undisciplined, ungrateful and plain stupid.

 

"Fidel!" Che shot back. "Dammit, show me some respect! I'm not Camilo!" Che's wife, Aleida (he'd ditched Hilda by then) was forced to jump in between the men, exclaiming, "I can't believe such a thing is happening between longtime companeros." [36]

 

Che finally went home were he found his telephone lines cut. Much evidence points to Che being held in house arrest at this point. [37] And it was under that house arrest that a seriously chastened--and apparently frightened, after all, who better knew the consequences of upsetting the Maximum Leader? -- Che composed his famous "Farewell Letter to Fidel," in which his groveling and fawning was utterly shameless.

 

"I deeply appreciate your lessons and your example … my only fault was not to have had more faith in you since the first moments in the Sierra, not having recognized more quickly your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary. I will take to my new fields of battle the faith that you have inculcated." and on and on in relentless toadying. [38]

 

Che's few public appearances between his return from Algeria and his departure for the Congo always found him in the company of state security personnel. His Cuban welcome had worn out. By April 1965 he was in Tanzania with a few dozen black Cuban military men. Code named "Tatu," Che and his force entered the eastern Congo, which was convulsed at the time (like now) by an incomprehensible series of civil (actually, mostly tribal) wars.

 

Tatu's mission was to help the alternately Soviet and Chinese backed "Simbas" of the Congolese red leader, Laurent Kabila. These were fighting the forces of the western-backed Moise Tshombe. Tshombe's forces consisted of Belgian foreign legionnaires, mercenaries under the famous "Mad" Mike Hoare, Congolese who opposed Kabila, and a handful of Cuban Bay of Pigs veterans sent by the CIA. The Cubans were mostly pilots who provided close-in air support for "Mad" Mike.

 

Here's Mike Hoare's opinion, after watching them in battle, of his CIA allies: "These Cuban CIA men were as tough, dedicated and impetuous a group of soldiers as I've ever had the honor of commanding. Their leader [Rip Robertson] was the most extraordinary and dedicated soldier I've ever met." [39]

 

Together Mad Mike, Rip and the Cubans made short work of Kabila's "Simbas," who were murdering, raping and munching (many were cannibals) their way through many of the defenseless Europeans still left in the recently abandoned Belgian colony.

 

"Tatu's" first military mission was plotting an attack on a garrison guarding a hydroelectric plant in a place called Front Bendela on the Kimbi River in Eastern Congo. Che's masterstroke was to be an elaborate ambush of the garrison. Tatu himself was stealthily leading his force into position when ambushers became the ambushed. Che lost half his men and barely escaped with his life. [40]

 

His African allies started frowning a little more closely at Tatu's c.v. and asking a few questions (but in Swahili, which he didn't understand.) Tatu's next clash with the mad dogs of imperialism was at a mountaintop town called Fizi Baraka. And another hideous rout ensued. Che admits as much in his Congo Diaries, but he blames it all on Congolese who were terrible soldiers. Yet, for some reason, the Congolese on Hoare's side seemed to fight rather well.

 

One thing that did impress the Simbas about Tatu, was that, "he never went down to the river to wash." [41]

 

                             *****************

 

Tatu's Congo mission was soon abandoned as hopeless and in a humiliating retreat across Lake Tanganyika Che and the Castro Cubans barely escaped Africa with their lives. Che now set his sights on Bolivia for the next guerrilla adventure, for living his dream of turning the Andes "into the Sierra Maestra of the Continent," for creating "two, three many Vietnams."

 

 

It would be difficult to imagine a more cockamamie plan for Bolivia than Che's. Under President Paz Estenssoro in 1952-53 Bolivia had undergone a revolution of sorts, with an extensive land reform that -- unlike Che’s and Fidel's -- actually gave ownership of the land to the peasants, the tillers of the soil themselves, much like Douglas McArthur's land reform in post-war Japan. Even crazier, Che himself, during his famous motorcycle jaunt had visited Bolivia and witnessed the positive results of the reform. Still, his amazing powers of self-deception prevailed.

 

Che convinced himself that in a section of Bolivia where the population consisted -- not of landless peasants -- but of actual homesteaders, he'd have the locals crowding into his recruitment tent to sign up with a bunch of foreign communists to overthrow the government that had given them their land, a series of rural schools and left them completely unmolested to pursue their lives. These were Indians highly suspicious of foreigners and especially of white foreigners, to boot. Che was undaunted by any of these facts. Hasta la victoria siempre! as he liked to say. At this stage in his life Che was probably more deluded than Hitler in his Bunker.

 

There is no evidence that Castro took the Bolivian mission seriously. His Soviet patrons were certainly not behind it. They knew better. They'd seen every guerrilla movement in Latin America wiped out. The only thing these half-baked adventures accomplished was to upset the Americans, with whom they'd cut a splendid little deal during the Missile Crisis to safeguard Castro. Why blow this arrangement with another of Che's harebrained adventures? Much better to work within the system in Latin America, reasoned the Soviets at this time, subtly subverting the governments by using legitimate Communist parties. A few years later Allende's electoral victory in Chile seemed to bear the Soviets out.

 

In fact, the East German female guerrilla, Tamara Bunke or "Tania" who linked up with Che in Bolivia (they'd met as early as 1961 and were reputedly lovers) was actually a KGB-STASI agent sent to keep an eye on Che. [42] Alas, poor "Tania" ( remember Patty Hearst's Symbianese Liberation Army moniker?) was mowed down by machine gun fire along with her entire "rearguard" group after a Bolivian peasant relayed their position to the army and helped plan an ambush.

 

The Bolivian Communist party itself stood aloof from Che's final mission. It's head, Mario Monje, was a faithful follower of the Soviet party-line. The only Bolivians Che managed to recruit were renegade Communists and Maoists. Che's guerrilla force averaged 40-45 members and was pompously named the "National Liberation Army." Yet at no point during its 11 month venture did Bolivians make up more than half of its members. And most of these came from the cities and areas far distant from the guerrilla base. The rural population shunned their "National Liberation Army" like a plague.

 

"We cannot develop any peasant support," Che admits in his diaries. "But it looks like by employing planned terror (emphasis mine) we may at least neutralize most of them. Their support will come later."

 

It never did. It was the campesinos themselves who kept reporting the guerrilla's whereabouts to the army, with whom they were generally on excellent terms. And for an excellent reason: it was composed mainly of Bolivian campesinos, not bearded foreigners who stole their livestock.

 

Among the unreported idiocies regarding Che's Bolivian debacle, was how he split his forces into a vanguard and a rearguard in April of 1967, whereupon they got hopelessly lost and bumbled around , half-starved, half-clothed and half-shod, without any contact for 6 months -- though they were usually within a mile of each other. [43] They didn't even have WWII vintage walkie-talkies to communicate. Che's masterful Guerrilla War, gives no explanation for such a tactic.

 

Dariel Alarcon, a Cuban who was one of the three guerrillas who managed to survive and escape Bolivia, reports in his book, Benigno; Memorias de un Soldado Cubano how in the very midst of this blundering around, Che was obsessed with posing for photos. One was Che atop a (presumably stolen) horse on a ridgeline where he was strategically silhouetted against the bare sky. Che handed Alarcon his Pentax and had him back off just the right distance to capture the entire scene. Che nodded then plucked out a machete and waved it high over his head, even adding a sound score to the scene, shouting: "I am the new Bolivar!" as Alarcon dutifully clicked away.

 

While Che was posing for pictures neither he nor anyone in his group had any way to communicate with Cuba. Castro had sent an agent named Renan Montero to La Paz to keep in touch with Che, but Montero abruptly left Bolivia in July of 1967 and returned to Cuba. Significantly, just a week earlier, Alexie Kosygin had visited Cuba and met with Castro, where he laid it on the line.

 

Kosygin had just come from a meeting with Lyndon Johnson where the U.S. President had laid it on the line, complaining about Castroite subversion in Latin America, and how this was a clear breach of the deal the U.S. and Soviets had cut back in October 1962 that had kept Castro unmolested. Now this mischief in Bolivia might force the U.S. into an agonizing reappraisal of that deal. [44]

 

Well, Castro didn't have his heart in the Bolivian adventure anyway. And now he could finally rid himself of the Argentine popinjay. Montero came home and Che was cast completely adrift.

 

Barely two months later the "National Liberation Army" was wiped out. Che's capture merits some clarification. His hagiographers have romanticized his last day alive. Che was defiant, they claim. Che was surprised, caught off guard and was unable to properly defend himself or to shoot himself with his last bullet as was his plan.

 

Nothing in the actual record supports this fantasy. In fact everything points to Che surrendering quite enthusiastically, right after he ordered his men to fight to the last man and the last bullet.

 

Most did, but Che was captured with a full clip in his pistol. Even more suspiciously, though he was in the bottom of a ravine during the final firefight and could have escaped in the opposite direction like a few of his men, Che actually moved upwards and towards the Bolivian soldiers who had been firing. Yet he was doing no firing of his own in the process. Then as soon as he saw some soldiers he yelled, "Don't shoot! I'm Che!" [45]

 

Immediately after his capture his demeanor was even more interesting "What's your name, young man?" Che asked a soldier. “Why what a great name for a Bolivian soldier!" he blurted after hearing it.

 

The firefight was still raging after Che's surrender. His men, unlike their comandante, were indeed fighting to the last bullet. Soon a wounded Bolivian soldier was carried by.

 

"Shall I attend him?!" Che asked his captors.

 

"Why? Are you a doctor?" asked Bolivian army captain Gary Prado.

 

 "No, (the truth at last!) but I have some knowledge of medicine," answered Guevara, resuming his pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with his captors. [46]

 

Another interesting factoid is that Che was captured wearing his famous black beret, and it sported a bullet hole. Yet those on the Bolivian mission with him like Dariel Alarcon attest that Che never once wore that beret during the Bolivian campaign. Che had always worn a military cap, all pictures of him in Bolivia back this up. Some speculate that Che put on his famous black beret (and even shot a hole in it) to make a dramatic celebrity surrender and impress his captors. He probably expected a few snapshots in the process.  

 

After a peaceful capture, Che seemed to have expected a trial which would become a worldwide media sensation, with pleas for his freedom pouring into Bolivia like a blizzard from leftists in every corner of the globe. This would have been the case had the Bolivians been foolish enough to try him. The trial of Regis Debray a few months earlier had given them a taste.

 

Debray was a French Communist journalist who had spent much time in Cuba and was a serious Castro/Che groupie. He had gone to Bolivia and met with Che and his band and seemed poised to do for Che in Bolivia what Herbert Matthews had done for Castro in Cuba. But Debray would also act in a more official capacity as a recruiter and messenger for the guerrillas.

 

Debray was captured by the Bolivian Army, worked over, and sang like a canary about Che's presence in Bolivia (not completely known in April of 1967) and what he was up too. The U.S. was alerted and sent some green Berets to help train a Ranger Battalion of the Bolivian Army, along with some Cuban-American CIA men to help with intelligence work. One of these, Felix Rodriguez (currently President of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, and a friend of mine I'm very, very proud to say,) convinced the Bolivian military to stop summarily executing all the guerrilla prisoners. Questioned properly and treated decently, they could provide valuable information and help close the net on Che and his group.

 

And so it happened with a prisoner named Jose Castillo Chavez. Rodriguez played good cop with him and deciphered Che's whereabouts. He persuaded the Bolivian military to send their Ranger battalion to the area post-haste.

 

"But their training isn't complete," replied the Bolivian commander.

 

"No matter!" answered Rodriguez. "I think we've got Che pin-pointed! Send them in!" Barely a week later Che was yelling his pitiful plea to those Bolivian Rangers. "Don't Shoot! -- I'm Che, I'm worth more to you alive than dead!" [47]

 

The Bolivian high command didn't see it that way. Though he was captured alive, Che was executed the next day. Compared to the courageous and defiant yells of his own firing squad victims --"I kneel for no man! Viva Cuba Libre! Viva Cristo Rey! Abajo Comunismo! Aim right HERE!"-- Che Guevara proved on his last day alive that he was unworthy to carry his victims' slop buckets.

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Humberto Fontova. Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant. Regnery, 2005

[2] Enrique Ros, Che; Mito y Realidad. Ediciones Universal. Miami, 2002       

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Marcos Bravo. La Otra Cara Del Che. Editorial Solar. Bogota, 2003

[6] Author interview with Henry Gomez

[7] Francisco Rodriguez Tamayo. El Diario de Nueva York, June 25th 1959.

[8] Paul Bethel, The Losers, Arlington House. New York, 1970

[9] Enrique Ros, op. cit.

[10] Paul Bethel, op. cit.

[11] Jorge Castaneda, Companero; The Life and Death of Che Guevara. Alfred A. Knopf. New York, 1997

[12] Jose Pardo Llada, El Che Que Yo Conoci. Bolsilibros Bedout. Mexico, 1970

[13] Georgie Ann Geyer. Guerrilla Prince. Little Brown & Co. Boston.

[14] Author interview with Bay of Pigs Veterans' Association Vice President, Nilo Messer.

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid.

[17] Paul Bethel, op. cit.

[18] Humberto Fontova, op. cit.

[19] Enrique Ros, op. cit.

[20] Marcos Bravo. La Otra Cara Del Che, Editorial Solar. Bogota, Colombia.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Enrique Ros, op. cit.

[23] Mario Lazo. Daga En El Corazon, Cuba Traicionada. Minerva, Madrid.

[24] Marcos Bravo, op. cit.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Jose Vilasuso. Come Era El Che. Bayamon/edu. Puerto Rico, 1997

[28] Jorge Castaneda, op. cit.

[29] Humberto Fontova, op. cit.

[30] Víctor Llano, El Carnicerito de La Cabana, Libertad Digital. Madrid.

[31] Jorge Castaneda, op. cit.

[32] Rene Dumont. Cuba Est-Il Socialiste? Seuil. Paris.

[33] Humberto Fontova. “Castro Spies on Jack Nicholson & Pope,” Newsmax Magazine.

[34] Marcos Bravo. cited.

[35] Ernesto Guevara. Temas Economicos, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana.

[36] Pedro Manuel Rodriguez, Ernesto Guevara: Un Sepulcro Blanqueado.Editorial Solar. Bogota, Colombia. 2003

[37] Ibid.

[38] Marcos Bravo, op. cit.

[39] Mike Hoare. Congo Mercenary. Robert Hall. London.

[40] Enrique Ros. Cubanos Combatientes, Ediciones Universal, Miami.

[41] Marcos Bravo.cited.

[42] Jose Friedl. Tania la Guerrillera. Zapata. Montevideo.

[43] Marcos Bravo.cited.

[44] Juan Benemiles. Las Guerra Secreta De Castro. Fundacion Elena Mederos. Miami, 2002. 

[45] Gary Prado. La Guerilla Inmolada. Punta y Coma, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

 

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Humberto Fontova is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit www.hfontova.com


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