CHE: A CRIMINAL AND HIS MYTH
by Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
While, admittedly not as romantic as the myth, the reality about Che is that he was unwanted by Castro and did not have any place to go. Castro sacrificed the inept Che for his own personal and political benefit. He eliminated Che from Cuba, enabling the creation of a false admirable myth that he must continuously, actively support in order to maintain and as a result make a lot of good propaganda and money for his regime. Castro turned a liability into an asset.
Che has a long and documented criminal history. It was Che, in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba, years before Castro’s 1959 triumph, who revealed his fascination with cruelty by asking to be the executioner who kept the troops in line.
At the onset of the revolution on January 1, 1959, Castro appointed Che in charge of La Cabaña fortress in Havana. There, execution squads flourished under Che’s command, assassinating, in mass, those perceived as enemies of the revolution. Che ordered that women and children visiting his prisoners be paraded in front of the execution wall, gruesomely stained with blood and brain parts. All of this was well publicized in Cuba in order to spread fear throughout the population. The surviving ex-prisoners of the infamous La Cabaña fortress remember Che as a “mass murderer.”
The myths that surround Che are much more interesting than the man; problem is, they simply do not resemble reality.
In February 1959, Che began training foreign guerrillas and terrorists in Cuba. His first guerrilla attack (planned with the brothers Fidel and Raul Castro) was to “liberate” Panama in April 1959. But by May 1, he suffered a humiliating defeat by Panama’s National Guard. On June 14, 1959, Fidel Castro sent Che’s guerrillas to the neighboring island of the Dominican Republic to fight against dictator Trujillo. But Che’s guerrillas again failed miserably.
After this second fiasco in June 1959, Castro sent Che to tour third world countries. After his return, Castro put him in charge of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), Industries Division and later, as President of the National Bank (where he signed the currency “Che”). He proved himself inept for those assignments as well and Castro reassigned him again.
On October 29, 1959, Castro sent Che to communist countries to establish commercial ties, negotiating the initially secret sale of sugar to the Soviet Union. He made trade agreements with Czechoslovakia, China and North Korea, announcing on September 10, 1960, that Cuba “had received arms from Czechoslovakia."
In 1965, Castro sent Che as far away as possible. This time to “liberate” Africa. After Che’s failure in Africa, he was summoned to Havana for two days of secret conversations with Castro. He was then sent back to Africa with 200 Cuban soldiers to help a Congolese leftist group. After he failed there, in late 1965, he secretly returned to Cuba, leaving his soldiers behind. Che was kept hidden all through 1966.
Obviously, Castro needed to carefully get rid of him, but all of his attempts to get Che involved in international wars of “liberation” and get him killed and converted into a martyr had failed.
As secretly as he returned to Cuba, Che left again in September 1966, sent by Castro on another international mission. He went to Prague and then on to Paraguay, where disguised as a businessman, he traveled by plane to Bolivia.
Along with 17 Cubans (clandestinely smuggled into Bolivia), he began organizing a guerrilla movement. But he was able to recruit only 15 Bolivians. By the end of March 1967, Castro stopped supplying Che’s guerrillas. The last contact with Havana was in July 1967.
Denounced by the peasants and Indians in the region (who never supported his intrusion), Che and his guerrillas were finally apprehended by the Bolivian army on October 7, 1967. As we all know Che was executed and Castro at last had the martyr he was longing for. His amputated hand is proudly displayed in the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.
Out of Castro’s way, the cruel and inept Che could be heralded now as a big hero. Finally, Castro was free to create an international legendary myth. Che’s image flooded Cuba and posters began to appear in the domain of the academic left: colleges and universities of the U.S. and the free world in order to attract the romantics and uninformed. As with much communist misinformation, it worked! We still have fools displaying posters and wearing Che’s junk offending his victims.
For heaven sake, there is more hatred from the left in America directed against Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush than against a real bad guy and a mass murderer: Che Guevara.
I have not seen in our learning centers an urge for romantic and misleading presentations about criminals like Charles Manson, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. Why Che?
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
Author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.