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Che Guevara
"Guerrillero Heroico"
Che Guevara at the La Coubre memorial service.

Taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960.

Date of birth: June 14, 1928[1]
Place of birth: Rosario, Argentina
Date of death: October 9, 1967 (aged 39)
Place of death: La Higuera, Bolivia
Major organizations: 26th of July Movement, United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution,[2] National Liberation Army (Bolivia)
Religion: None[3]

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃe geˈβaɾa]; June 14,[1] 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.[4]

As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed.[5] 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.[6] This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemala's social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, 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 invaded Cuba aboard the Granma with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.[7] 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.[8]

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,[9] 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[10] and bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.[11] 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.[12]

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,[13] while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was declared "the most famous photograph in the world."[14]


Early life

A teenage Ernesto (left) with his parents and siblings, ca. 1944. Seated beside him, from left to right: Celia (mother), Celia (sister), Roberto, Juan Martín, Ernesto (father) and Ana María.

Ernesto Guevara was born to Celia de la Serna y Llosa and Ernesto Guevara Lynch on June 14, 1928[1] in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a White Argentine family of Spanish, Basque and Irish descent.[15] 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."[16] Very early on in life Ernestito (as he was then called) developed an "affinity for the poor."[17] Growing up in a family with leftist leanings, Guevara was introduced to a wide spectrum of political perspectives even as a boy.[18] His father, a staunch supporter of Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.[19]

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.[20][21] He was an avid rugby union player, and played at fly-half for the University of Buenos Aires First XV.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] He could also recite Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and José Hernández's "Martín Fierro" from memory.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

A 22-year-old Guevara in 1951

As he grew older, he developed an interest in the Latin American writers Horacio Quiroga, Ciro Alegría, Jorge Icaza, Rubén Darío, and Miguel Asturias.[26] 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.[26] His favorite subjects in school included philosophy, mathematics, engineering, political science, sociology, history and archaeology.[27][28]

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."[29]

Motorcycle journey

In 1948, Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. But in 1951, he took a year off from studies to embark on a trip traversing South America by motorcycle 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. 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.[30] 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."[30] Guevara used notes taken during this trip to write an account entitled The Motorcycle Diaries, which later became a New York Times best-seller,[31] and was adapted into a 2004 award-winning film of the same name.

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."[32][33] 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.[5]

Guatemala, Arbenz and United Fruit

Che Guevara's movements between 1953 and 1956, including his trip north to Guatemala, his stay in Mexico and his journey east by boat to Cuba with Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries

On July 7, 1953, Guevara set out again, this time to Bolivia, 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.[34] 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."[35] 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.[36] 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."[37]

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.[38] 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 "eh" or "pal."[39]

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.[40][41] As a result, the U.S. CIA sponsored an army which invaded the country and installed the right-wing dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas.[37] 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.[42] 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.[43] He married Gadea in Mexico in September 1955.[44]

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:

"The last Latin American revolutionary democracy – that of Jacobo Arbenz – failed as a result of the cold premeditated aggression carried out by the U.S.A. Its visible head was the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a man who, through a rare coincidence, was also a stockholder and attorney for the United Fruit Company."[42]

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.[45] 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."[46]

Mexico City and preparation

Guevara with Hilda Gadea at Chichén Itzá on their honeymoon trip

Guevara arrived in Mexico 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.[47] 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.[48] 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."[48]

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 Castro 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 26J Movement.[49] 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."[50]

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.[51] At the end of the course, he was called "the best guerrilla of them all" by their instructor, Colonel Bayo.[52]

Cuban Revolution

Invasion, warfare and Santa Clara

Riding a mule in Las Villas province, Cuba, November 1958

The first step in Castro's revolutionary plan was an assault on Cuba 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.[53] 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,[54] Guevara considered these "the most painful days of the war."[55]

As the war continued, Guevara became an integral part of the rebel army and "convinced Castro with competence, diplomacy and patience."[8] 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.[8] Moreover, Guevara established health clinics, workshops to teach military tactics, and a newspaper to disseminate information.[56] 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.[8]

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.[57] As a result, Guevara became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness.[58] 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.[59]

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.[60] Such information also allowed Batista's army to burn the homes of rebel-friendly peasants.[60] Upon Guerra's request that they "end his life quickly",[60] 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]."[61] His scientific notations and matter-of-fact description, suggested to one biographer a "remarkable detachment to violence" by that point in the war.[61] 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."[61]

In his trademark olive-green military fatigues, 2 June 1959

Although he maintained a demanding and harsh disposition, Guevara also viewed his role of commander as one of a teacher, entertaining his men during breaks between engagements with readings from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Cervantes, and Spanish lyric poets.[62] His commanding officer Fidel Castro has described Guevara as intelligent, daring, and an exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops."[63] Castro has further remarked that Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness."[64] 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."[65]

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.[66]

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."[67] 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.[68]

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.[69] 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.[69] Guevara then directed his "suicide squad" in the attack on Santa Clara, that became the final decisive military victory of the revolution.[70][71] 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."[72]

After the battle of Santa Clara, January 1, 1959

Radio Rebelde broadcast the first reports that Guevara's column had 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."[73] The following day on January 2, Guevara entered Havana to take final control of the capitol.[74] 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 of 1959, Guevara went to live at a summer villa in Tarara to recover from a violent asthma attack.[75] While there he started the Tarara Group, a group that debated and formed the new plans for Cuba's social, political, and economic development.[76] In addition, Che began to write his book Guerrilla Warfare while resting at Tarara.[77]

In February, the revolutionary government proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph.[78] 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,[79] which was finalized on May 22.[80] 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.[81] 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. [82]

La Cabaña, land reform, and literacy

During 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.[83] 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.[84]

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).[85] 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.[86] Serving in the post as commander of La Cabaña, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted during the revolutionary tribunal process.[9] On some occasions the penalty delivered by the tribunal was death by firing squad.[87] 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.[88] Biographers note that in January 1959, the Cuban public was in a "lynching mood",[89] and point to a survey at the time showing 93% public approval for the tribunal process.[9] With 20,000 Cubans estimated to have been killed at the hands of Batista's collaborators,[90] and many of those sentenced to death accused of torture and physical atrocities,[9] the newly empowered government carried out executions "without respect for due process."[91] Although the exact numbers differ, it is estimated that several hundred people were executed during this time.[92]

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.[91] 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."[91] 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."[93]

(right to left) Rebel leader Camilo Cienfuegos, Cuban President Manuel Urrutia, and Guevara (January 1959)

Along with ensuring "revolutionary justice", the other key early platform of Guevara's was establishing agrarian 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."[94] 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.[95] The law also stipulated that sugar plantations could not be owned by foreigners.[96]

On June 12, 1959, Castro sent Guevara out on a three-month tour of 14 countries, most of them Bandung Pact members in Africa and Asia. 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 26th of July Movement members.[97] He spent 12 days in Japan (July 15–27), participating in negotiations aimed at expanding Cuba's trade relations with that nation. During this visit, Guevara secretly visited the city of Hiroshima, where the American military had detonated an atom-bomb 14 years earlier. Guevara was "really shocked" at what he witnessed and by his visit to a hospital where A-bomb survivors were being treated.[98]

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."[99] 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.[99]

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.[100] It was at the memorial service that Alberto Korda took the famous photograph of Guevara, now known as Guerrillero Heroico.[101]

These perceived threats prompted Castro to further eliminate "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.[96] 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.[96] 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."[102]

Guevara was like a father to me ... he educated me. He taught me to think. He taught me the most beautiful thing which is to be human.

 Urbano (aka Leonardo Tamayo),
fought with Che in Cuba and Bolivia [103]

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.[104] 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."[104] By the completion of the campaign, 707,212 adults were taught to read and write, raising the national literacy rate to 96 %.[104]

The "New Man", Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis

Guevara then 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.[102]

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."[105] 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.[105] 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."[106]

Meeting with French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in March 1960. In addition to Spanish, Guevara was fluent in French.[107]

Guevara's first desired economic goal, which coincided with his aversion for wealth, was to see a nation-wide elimination of material incentives in favor of moral ones. He viewed 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."[108] 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 collective spirit."[109] A primary goal of Guevara's thus became to reform "individual consciousness" and values to produce better workers and citizens.[109] 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.[109] In describing this new method of "development", Guevara stated:

"There is a great difference between free-enterprise development and revolutionary development. In one of them, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few, the friends of the government, the best wheeler-dealers. In the other, wealth is the people’s patrimony."[110]

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.[111] He was known for working 36 hours at a stretch, calling meetings after midnight, and eating on the run.[109] 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.[109] Guevara unapologetically defended his personal philosophy towards motivation and work, stating:

"This is not a matter of how many pounds of meat one might be able to eat, or how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many ornaments from abroad one might be able to buy with his current salary. What really matters is that the individual feels more complete, with much more internal richness and much more responsibility."[112]
Che Guevara with Heinrich Rau, East Germany's foreign trade minister, a Spanish Civil War veteran, in December 1960

In the face of a loss of commercial connections with Western states, Guevara tried to replace them with closer commercial relationships with 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.[113] Such agreements helped Cuba's economy to a certain degree but had also the disadvantage of a growing economical dependency on the Eastern Bloc.

Whatever the merits or demerits of Guevara’s economic principles, his programs soon ended in failure.[114] Guevara's program of "moral incentives" for workers caused a rapid drop in productivity and a rapid rise in absenteeism.[115] 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."[116]

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.[10] 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."[10] 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.[117]

In August 1961, during an economic conference of the 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."[118] 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."[119] 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."[119] 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."[26]

Guevara, who was practically the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship,[120] 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.[121] 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.[122] 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."[122] 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.[123]

International diplomacy

By December 1964, Che Guevara had emerged as a "revolutionary statesman of world stature" and thus traveled to New York City as head of the Cuban delegation to speak at the United Nations.[124] 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?"[125] Guevara then denounced the United States policy towards their black population, stating:

"Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?"[125]

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."[125] 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."[125] 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.[125]

Guevara later learned that there were two failed attempts on his life by Cuban exiles during his stop at the U.N. complex.[126] 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.[126][127] 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."[126]

Walking through Red Square in Moscow, November 1964

While in New York City, Guevara also appeared on the CBS Sunday news program Face the Nation[128] and met with a range of people, from U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy[129] 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.[130]

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.[131] 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."[132]

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.[108] 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:

"The laws of capitalism, blind and invisible to the majority, act upon the individual without his thinking about it. He sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists, who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of success. The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this."[108]

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."[108] 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."[133]

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.[134] 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.[135] 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.

Guevara took a pro-Chinese stance on the Sino-Soviet split. In November 1960, he was received in Communist China by Chairman Mao Zedong with an official ceremony in the Government palace.

Two weeks later, in 1965 Guevara dropped out of public life and then vanished altogether. His whereabouts were a great mystery in Cuba, as he was generally regarded as second in power to Castro himself. His disappearance was variously attributed to the failure of the 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, because of the fact that Guevara was opposed to Soviet conditions and recommendations that Castro pragmatically saw as necessary. Of which Guevara described as corrupt "pre-monopolist."[136] 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."[137]

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.[138] Guevara's movements continued to be a closely guarded secret for the next two years.


A 37-year-old Guevara, in the Congo Crisis, 1965

In 1965, Guevara decided to venture to Africa 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.[139] 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.[140] Despite the warning, Guevara traveled to the Congo while using the alias Ramón Benítez.[141] 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.[142][143] They collaborated for a time with guerrilla leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had previously helped supporters of the CIA-slain 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."[144] 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."[145] 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."[146]

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 Pvt Jose F. Valdez (T-AG-169), a floating listening post that continuously cruised the Indian Ocean off Dar es Salaam for that purpose.[147]

Listening to a Zenith Trans-Oceanic shortwave receiver are (seated from the left) Rogelio Oliva, José María Martínez Tamayo (known as "Mbili" in the Congo and "Ricardo" in Bolivia), and Guevara. Standing behind them is Roberto Sánchez ("Lawton" in Cuba and "Changa" in the Congo).

Guevara's aim was to 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.[148] 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."[149] 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."[150]

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.[151] As a result, Guevara spent the next six months living clandestinely in Dar es Salaam and Prague.[152] 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:

"Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary."[153]


Guevara in disguise, while using the alias Adolfo Mena González (1966)

In late 1966, Guevara's location was still not public knowledge, although representatives of Mozambique'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.[154] 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.[155] 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.[156]

In rural Bolivia shortly before his death (1967)

Guevara's first base camp was located in the 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.[157][158]

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.[159] But in September, the Army managed to eliminate two guerrilla groups in a violent battle, reportedly killing one of the leaders.

Location of Vallegrande in Bolivia

Researchers hypothesize that Guevara's plan for fomenting revolution in Bolivia failed, for an array of reasons:

  • He had expected to deal only with the Bolivian military, who were poorly trained and equipped. However, Guevara was unaware that the U.S. government had sent a team of the CIA's Special Activities Division commandos and other operatives into Bolivia to aid the anti-insurrection effort. The Bolivian Army would also be trained, advised, and supplied by U.S. Army Special Forces including a recently organized elite battalion of Rangers trained in jungle warfare that set up camp in La Esperanza, a small settlement close to the location of Guevara's guerrillas.[160]
  • Guevara had expected assistance and cooperation from the local dissidents which he did not receive, nor did he receive support from Bolivia's Communist Party, under the leadership of Mario Monje, which was oriented toward Moscow rather than Havana. In Guevara's own diary captured after his death, he bristled with complaints about the Communist Party of Bolivia, which he characterized as "distrustful, disloyal and stupid."[161]
  • He had expected to remain in radio contact with Havana. However, the two shortwave transmitters provided to him by Cuba were faulty; thus the guerrillas were unable to communicate with and be resupplied, leaving them isolated and stranded.

In addition, Guevara's known preference for confrontation rather than compromise, which had previously surfaced during his guerrilla warfare campaign in Cuba, contributed to his inability to develop successful working relationships with local leaders in Bolivia, just as it had in the Congo.[162] This tendency had existed in Cuba, but had been kept in check by the timely interventions and guidance of Fidel Castro.[163]

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 complained in his diary that "the peasants do not give us any help, and are turning into informers."[164]

Capture and execution

There was no person more feared by the company (CIA) than Che Guevara because he had the capacity and charisma necessary to direct the struggle against the political repression of the traditional hierarchies in power in the countries of Latin America.

 Philip Agee, CIA agent,
later defected to Cuba [165]

Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian troops during the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia.[166] 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.[167]

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."[168]

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.[169] 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.[170] In another instance of defiance, Guevara spat in the face of Bolivian Rear Admiral Ugarteche shortly before his execution.[170]

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."[170] During their short conversation, Guevara complained to Cortez about 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."[170]

Later that morning on October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. 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.[9] 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.[171] 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 regards to a trial.[172]

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."[173] 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!"[174] 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.[175] 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.[170]

Post-execution, remains and memorial

The day after his execution on October 10, 1967, Guevara's corpse was displayed to the world press in the laundry house of the Vallegrande hospital. (photo by Freddy Alberto)
    Camera-photo.svg    Face     Side angle    Shoes

After his execution, Guevara's body was lashed to the landing skids of a helicopter and flown to nearby Vallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta.[176] 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.[177] 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.[178] 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.[179]

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."[180] After the execution, Rodríguez took several of Guevara's personal items, including a Rolex GMT Master wristwatch[181] which he continued to wear many years later, often showing them to reporters during the ensuing years.[182] Today, some of these belongings, including his flashlight, are on display at the CIA.[183] 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.

Plaza de la Revolución, in Havana, Cuba. Aside the Ministry of the Interior building where Guevara once worked, is a 5 story steel outline of his face. Under the image is Guevara's motto, the Spanish phrase: "Hasta la Victoria Siempre" (English: Until the Everlasting Victory Always).

On October 15, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout the island.[184] 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.[185] Fidel Castro closed his impassioned eulogy thusly:

"If we wish to express what we want the men of future generations to be, we must say: Let them be like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in Che’s spirit! If we want the model of a man, who does not belong to our times but to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single stain on his action, is Che!"[186]

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."[187] 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.[187] 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."[187]

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."[169] 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.[188]

Che Guevara's Monument and Mausoleum in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Removed when Guevara was captured was his 30,000-word, hand-written diary, a collection of his personal poetry, and a short story he authored about a young Communist guerrilla who learns to overcome his fears.[189] His diary documented events of the guerrilla campaign in Bolivia[190] 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.[191] 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.[192]

The Bolivian Diary was quickly and crudely translated by Ramparts magazine and circulated around the world.[193] There are at least four additional diaries in existence—those of Israel Reyes Zayas (Alias "Braulio"), Harry Villegas Tamayo ("Pombo"), Eliseo Reyes Rodriguez ("Rolando")[157] and Dariel Alarcón Ramírez ("Benigno")[194]—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.[195] 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.[196]


The current court of opinion places Che on a continuum that teeters between viewing him as a misguided rebel, a coruscatingly brilliant guerrilla philosopher, a poet-warrior jousting at windmills, a brazen warrior who threw down the gauntlet to the bourgeoisie, the object of fervent paeans to his sainthood, or a mass murderer clothed in the guise of an avenging angel whose every action is imbricated in violence – the archetypal fanatical terrorist.

Dr. Peter McLaren, author of Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution [197]

A stylized graphic of Guevara's face on a flag above the words "El Che Vive" (The Che Lives).

Over forty years after his execution, Che's life and legacy still remain a contentious issue. The contradictions of his ethos at various points in his life have created a complex character of unending duality.

As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a new man driven by moral rather than material incentives,[198] Guevara evolved into a quintessential icon of leftist-inspired movements. An array of notable individuals have viewed Che Guevara as a hero;[199] for example, Nelson Mandela referred to him as "an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom"[165] while Jean-Paul Sartre described him as "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age."[200] Others who expressed their admiration include authors Graham Greene who remarked that Che "represented the idea of gallantry, chivalry, and adventure"[201], and Susan Sontag who expounded that "(Che's) goal was nothing less than the cause of humanity itself."[202] In the black community, philosopher Frantz Fanon professed Guevara to be "the world symbol of the possibilities of one man"[203], while Black Panther Party head Stokely Carmichael eulogized that "Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us."[204] Praise has been reflected throughout the political spectrum, with the anarcho-capitalist / libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard extolling Guevara as a "heroic figure", lamenting after his death that "more than any man of our epoch or even of our century, (Che) was the living embodiment of the principle of revolution",[205] while journalist Christopher Hitchens commented that "[Che's] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs."[206] Guevara remains a beloved national hero to many in Cuba, where his image adorns the $3 Cuban Peso and school children begin each morning by pledging "We will be like Che."[207] In his native homeland of Argentina, where high schools bear his name,[208] numerous Che museums dot the country, which in 2008 unveiled a 12 foot bronze statue of him in his birth city of Rosario.[209] Additionally, Guevara has been sanctified by some Bolivian campesinos[210] as "Saint Ernesto", to whom they pray for assistance.[211]

A mural of Che Guevara on the side of a house in Derry, Northern Ireland. Guevara is a popular icon among the Irish Republican community due to his leftist views and Irish heritage. The Irish wording on the mural translates as :"They may kill the revolutionary, but never the revolution".

Conversely, Jacobo Machover, an exiled opposition author, dismisses the hero-worshipping and portrays him as a ruthless executioner.[212] Detractors have theorized that in much of Latin America, Che-inspired revolutions had the practical result of reinforcing brutal militarism and internecine conflict for many years.[213] In an assessment of Guevara, British historian Hugh Thomas acknowledge's that Che was a "brave, sincere and determined man who was also obstinate, narrow, and dogmatic."[214] At the end of his life, according to Thomas, "he seems to have become convinced of the virtues of violence for its own sake", while "his influence over Castro for good or evil" grew after his death, as Fidel took up many of his views. In Thomas' assessment "as in the case of Martí, or Lawrence of Arabia, failure has brightened, not dimmed the legend."[214] Alvaro Vargas Llosa of The Independent Institute has hypothesized that Guevara’s contemporary followers "delude themselves by clinging to a myth", while describing Guevara as "Marxist Puritan" who employed his rigid power to suppress dissent, while also operating as a "cold-blooded killing machine".[213] Llosa has also accused Guevara's "fanatical disposition" as being the linchpin of the "Sovietization" of the Cuban revolution, speculating that he possessed a "total subordination of reality to blind ideological orthodoxy."[213] Guevara remains a hated figure amongst many in the Cuban exile and Cuban-American community of the United States, who view him with animosity as "the butcher of La Cabaña."[215]

Despite his polarized status, a high-contrast monochrome graphic of his face has become one of the world's most universally merchandized and objectified images,[216][217] found on an endless array of items, including t-shirts, hats, posters, tattoos, and bikinis,[218] ironically contributing to the consumer culture he despised. Yet, Guevara still remains a transcendent figure both in specifically political contexts[219] and as a wide-ranging popular icon of youthful rebellion.[220]


Archival media

Video footage

  • Guevara interviewed in 1964 on a visit to Dublin, Ireland, (2:53), English translation, from RTÉ Libraries and Archives, Video Clip
  • Guevara reciting a poem, (1:00), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara showing support for Fidel Castro, (0:22), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking about labor, (0:28), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking about the Bay of Pigs, (0:17), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking against imperialism, (1:20), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip

Audio recording

List of works

Originally written in Spanish by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, later translated into English

  • A New Society: Reflections for Today's World,   Ocean Press, 1996, ISBN 1-875284-06-0
  • Back on the Road: A Journey Through Latin America,   Grove Press, 2002, ISBN 0-8021-3942-6
  • Che Guevara, Cuba, and the Road to Socialism,   Pathfinder Press, 1991, ISBN 0-87348-643-9
  • Che Guevara on Global Justice,   Ocean Press (AU), 2002, ISBN 1-876175-45-1
  • Che Guevara: Radical Writings on Guerrilla Warfare, Politics and Revolution,   Filiquarian Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-59986-999-3
  • Che Guevara Reader: Writings on Politics & Revolution,   Ocean Press, 2003, ISBN 1-876175-69-9
  • Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings,   Pathfinder Press (NY), 1980, ISBN 0-87348-602-1
  • Che Guevara Talks to Young People,   Pathfinder, 2000, ISBN 0-87348-911-X
  • Che: The Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara,   Ocean Press (AU), 2008, ISBN 1-920888-93-4
  • Colonialism is Doomed,   Ministry of External Relations: Republic of Cuba, 1964, ASIN B0010AAN1K
  • Critical Notes on Political Economy: A Revolutionary Humanist Approach to Marxist Economics   Ocean Press, 2008, ISBN 1-876175-55-9
  • Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 1956–58,   Pathfinder Press (NY), 1996, ISBN 0-87348-824-5
  • Guerrilla Warfare: Authorized Edition   Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-920888-28-4
  • Latin America: Awakening of a Continent,   Ocean Press, 2005, ISBN 1-876175-73-7
  • Marx & Engels: An Introduction,   Ocean Press, 2007, ISBN 1-920888-92-6
  • Our America And Theirs: Kennedy And The Alliance For Progress,   Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-876175-81-8
  • Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War: Authorized Edition   Ocean Press, 2005, ISBN 1-920888-33-0
  • Self Portrait Che Guevara,   Ocean Press (AU), 2004, ISBN 1-876175-82-6
  • Socialism and Man in Cuba,   Pathfinder Press (NY), 1989, ISBN 0-87348-577-7
  • The African Dream: The diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo   Grove Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8021-3834-9
  • The Argentine,   Ocean Press (AU), 2008, ISBN 1-920888-93-4
  • The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara   Pathfinder Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87348-766-4
  • The Diary of Che Guevara: The Secret Papers of a Revolutionary,   Amereon Ltd, ISBN 0-89190-224-4
  • The Great Debate on Political Economy,   Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-876175-54-0
  • The Motorcycle Diaries: A Journey Around South America,   London: Verso, 1996, ISBN 1-85702-399-4
  • The Secret Papers of a Revolutionary: The Diary of Che Guevara,   American Reprint Co, 1975, ASIN B0007GW08W
  • To Speak the Truth: Why Washington's "Cold War" Against Cuba Doesn't End,   Pathfinder, 1993, ISBN 0-87348-633-1


  1. ^ a b c The date of birth recorded on his birth certificate was June 14, 1928, although one tertiary source, (Julia Constenla, quoted by Jon Lee Anderson), asserts that he was actually born on May 14 of that year. Constenla alleges that she was told by an unidentified astrologer that his mother, Celia de la Serna, was already pregnant when she and Ernesto Guevara Lynch were married and that the date on the birth certificate of their son was forged to make it appear that he was born a month later than the actual date to avoid scandal. (Anderson 1997, pp. 3, 769.)
  2. ^ Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista de Cuba, aka PURSC
  3. ^ Hall 2004
  4. ^ Casey 2009, p. 128.
  5. ^ a b On Revolutionary Medicine Speech by Che Guevara to the Cuban Militia on August 19, 1960
  6. ^ At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria A speech by Che Guevara to the Second Economic Seminar of Afro-Asian Solidarity in Algiers, Algeria on February 24, 1965
  7. ^ Beaubien, NPR Audio Report, 2009, 00:09-00:13
  8. ^ a b c d "Castro's Brain" 1960.
  9. ^ a b c d e Taibo 1999, p. 267.
  10. ^ a b c Kellner 1989, p. 69-70.
  11. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 526-530.
  12. ^ Ryan 1998, p. 4
  13. ^ Dorfman 1999.
  14. ^ Maryland Institute of Art, referenced at BBC News May 26, 2001
  15. ^ Che's last name "Guevara" derives from the Castilianized form of the Basque "Gebara", a habitational name from the province of Álava. Through his grandmother, Ana Lynch, he was a descendant of Patrick Lynch, an emigrant from Galway, Ireland in the 1740s.
  16. ^ Lavretsky 1976
  17. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 23.
  18. ^ Argentina: Che's Red Mother Time Magazine, July 14, 1961
  19. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 22-23.
  20. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 8.
  21. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 24.
  22. ^ Cain, Nick & Growden, Greg "Chapter 21: Ten Peculiar Facts about Rugby" in Rugby Union for Dummies (2nd Edition), John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 139780470035375, p. 293.
  23. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 28.
  24. ^ a b Hart 2004, pg 98.
  25. ^ Haney 2005, p. 164.
  26. ^ a b c d (Anderson 1997, p. 37–38)
  27. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 10.
  28. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 26.
  29. ^ Ratner 1997, p. 25.
  30. ^ a b Kellner 1989, p. 27.
  31. ^ NYT bestseller list: #38 Paperback Nonfiction on 2005-02-20, #9 Nonfiction on 2004-10-07 and on more occasions.
  32. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 98.
  33. ^ A copy of Guevara's University transcripts showing conferral of his medical diploma can be found on pg 75 of Becoming Che: Guevara's Second and Final Trip through Latin America, by Carlos 'Calica' Ferrer (Translated from the Spanish by Sarah L. Smith), Marea Editorial, 2006, ISBN 987-1307-07-1. Ferrer was a longtime childhood friend of Che, and when Guevara passed the last of his 12 exams in 1953, he gave him a copy to prove to Ferrer, who had been telling Guevara that he would never finish, that he had finally completed his studies.
  34. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 126.
  35. ^ Taibo 1999, p. 31.
  36. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 31.
  37. ^ a b Guevara Lynch 2000, p. 26.
  38. ^ Radio Cadena Agramonte 2006.
  39. ^ Ignacio 2007, p. 172.
  40. ^ U.S. Department of State 2008
  41. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 144.
  42. ^ a b Kellner 1989, p. 32.
  43. ^ Taibo 1999, p. 39.
  44. ^ Snow, Anita. "'My Life With Che' by Hilda Gadea." Associated Press at WJXX-TV. August 16, 2008. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
  45. ^ Che Guevara 1960–67 by Frank E. Smitha
  46. ^ Sinclair, Andrew (1970). Che Guevara. The Viking Press. p. 12. 
  47. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 33.
  48. ^ a b Rebel Wife, A Review of My Life With Che: The Making of a Revolutionary by Hilda Gadea by Tom Gjelten, The Washington Post, October 12, 2008
  49. ^ Taibo 1999, p. 55.
  50. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 28.
  51. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 37.
  52. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 194.
  53. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 213.
  54. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 32.
  55. ^ DePalma 2006, pp. 110–111.
  56. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 45.
  57. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 269–270.
  58. ^ Castañeda 1998, pp. 105, 119.
  59. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 237-238, 269–270, 277–278.
  60. ^ a b c Luther 2001, p. 97-99.
  61. ^ a b c Anderson 1997, 237.
  62. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 35.
  63. ^ Ignacio 2007, p. 177.
  64. ^ Ignacio 2007, p. 193.
  65. ^ Poster Boy of The Revolution by Saul Landau, The Washington Post, October 19, 1997, Page X01
  66. ^ Moore, Don. "Revolution! Clandestine Radio and the Rise of Fidel Castro". Patepluma Radio. 
  67. ^ Bockman 1984.
  68. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 40.
  69. ^ a b Kellner 1989, p. 47.
  70. ^ Castro 1972, pp. 439–442.
  71. ^ Dorschner 1980, pp. 41–47, 81–87.
  72. ^ Sandison 1996, p. 39.
  73. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 48.
  74. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 13.
  75. ^ Castaneda, p. 145-146.
  76. ^ Castaneda, p. 146.
  77. ^ Castaneda, p. 146.
  78. ^ Anderson 1997, 397.
  79. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 400–401.
  80. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 424.
  81. ^ Castaneda, p. 159.
  82. ^ (Castañeda 1998, pp. 264–265).
  83. ^ Gómez Treto 1991, p. 115. "The Penal Law of the War of Independence (July 28, 1896) was reinforced by Rule 1 of the Penal Regulations of the Rebel Army, approved in the Sierra Maestra February 21, 1958, and published in the army's official bulletin (Ley penal de Cuba en armas, 1959)" (Gómez Treto 1991, p. 123).
  84. ^ Gómez Treto 1991, pp. 115–116).
  85. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 372, 425.
  86. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 376.
  87. ^ Niess 2007, p. 60
  88. ^ Gómez Treto 1991, p. 116).
  89. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 388.
  90. ^ Niess 2007, p. 61
  91. ^ a b c Castañeda 1998, pp. 143-144.
  92. ^ Different sources cite different numbers of executions, with some of the discrepancy resulting from which deaths to attribute directly to Guevara or to the regime as a whole. Anderson (1997) gives the number specifically at La Cabaña prison as 55 (p. 387.), while also stating that as a whole "several hundred people were officially tried and executed across Cuba" (p. 387). (Castañeda 1998) notes how historians differ on the number killed and place it as anywhere from 200-700 nationwide (p. 143). This is supported by Lago who gives the figure as 216 executions ordered by Guevara across Cuba in three years (1957-1960), which were, according to Lago, "all carried out without affording the victims due process of law."
  93. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 375.
  94. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 54.
  95. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 57.
  96. ^ a b c Kellner 1989, p. 58.
  97. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 423.
  98. ^ Niwata 2007. Guevara requested that the Japanese government arrange for him to visit Hiroshima. When they refused, he covertly left his Osaka hotel to visit Hiroshima by night train, along with his aide Omar Fernández.
  99. ^ a b Anderson 1997, p. 435.
  100. ^ Casey 2009, p. 25.
  101. ^ Casey 2009, p. 25-50.
  102. ^ a b Kellner 1989, p. 55.
  103. ^ Latin America's New Look at Che by Daniel Schweimler, BBC News, October 9, 2007
  104. ^ a b c Kellner 1989, p. 61.
  105. ^ a b Crompton 2009, p. 71.
  106. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 60.
  107. ^ Dumur 1964 shows Che Guevara speaking French.
  108. ^ a b c d "Socialism and Man in Cuba" A letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of Marcha, a weekly published in Montevideo, Uruguay; published as "From Algiers, for Marcha: The Cuban Revolution Today" by Che Guevara on March 12, 1965
  109. ^ a b c d e Kellner 1989, p. 62.
  110. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 59.
  111. ^ PBS: Che Guevara, Popular but Ineffective
  112. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 75.
  113. ^ [1]|FBIS Latin America Report 1984 p. 24 (p. 29 in linked HTML file).
  114. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 63.
  115. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 74.
  116. ^ The Spirit of Che Guevara by I.F. Stone, New Statesman, October 20, 1967
  117. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 507.
  118. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 509.
  119. ^ a b "Economics Cannot be Separated from Politics" speech by Che Guevara to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), in Punta del Este, Uruguay on August 8, 1961
  120. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 492.
  121. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 530.
  122. ^ a b Anderson 1997, p. 545.
  123. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 73.
  124. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 60.
  125. ^ a b c d e "Colonialism is Doomed" speech to the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City by Cuban representative Che Guevara on December 11, 1964
  126. ^ a b c Bazooka Fired at U.N. as Cuban Speaks by Homer Bigart, The New York Times, December 12, 1964 - page 1
  127. ^ Guillermo Novo Biography by Spartacus Educational Encyclopedia
  128. ^ Snow 2007.
  129. ^ Hart 2004, pg 271.
  130. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 618.
  131. ^
  132. ^ St. Patrick's Day 2005: Che Lives by Peter McDermott, The Irish Echo, March 16–22, 2005 edition
  133. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 78.
  134. ^ Guevara 1969, p. 350.
  135. ^ Guevara 1969, pp. 352–59.
  136. ^
  137. ^ Message to the Tricontinental A letter sent by Che Guevara from his jungle camp in Bolivia, to the Tricontinental Solidarity Organisation in Havana, Cuba, in the Spring of 1967
  138. ^ Guevara 1965.
  139. ^ Ben Bella 1997.
  140. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 624.
  141. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 629.
  142. ^ Gálvez 1999, p 62.
  143. ^ Gott 2004 p. 219.
  144. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 86.
  145. ^ DR Congo's Rebel-Turned-Brain Surgeon by Mark Doyle, BBC World Affairs', December 13, 2005
  146. ^ BBC News January 17, 2001.
  147. ^ "The intercept operators knew that Dar-es-Salaam was serving as a communications center for the fighters, receiving messages from Castro in Cuba and relaying them on to the guerrillas deep in the bush (Bamford 2002, p. 181).
  148. ^ Ireland's Own 2000.
  149. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 87.
  150. ^ Guevara 2000, p. 1.
  151. ^ Castañeda 1998, p. 316.
  152. ^ Che Guevara Hid in Czech Village in 1966 by Canwest, January 23, 2010
  153. ^ Guevara 2009, p. 167.
  154. ^ Mittleman 1981, p. 38.
  155. ^ Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colón. Che: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang, 2009. 96-97.
  156. ^ Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colón. Che: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang, 2009. 98.
  157. ^ a b Selvage 1985.
  158. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 693.
  159. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 97.
  160. ^ U.S. Army 1967 and Ryan 1998, pp. 82–102, inter alia. "U.S. military personnel in Bolivia never exceeded 53 advisers, including a sixteen-man Mobile Training Team (MTT) from the 8th Special Forces Group based at Fort Gulick, Panama Canal Zone" (Selvage 1985).
  161. ^ "Bidding for Che", Time Magazine, Dec 15 1967
  162. ^ Guevara 1972.
  163. ^ Castañeda 1998, pp. 107–112; 131–132.
  164. ^ Wright 2000, p. 86.
  165. ^ a b Guevara 2009, p. II.
  166. ^ Shadow Warrior: The CIA Hero of 100 Unknown Battles, Felix Rodriguez and John Weisman, Simon & Schuster, October 1989
  167. ^ Barbie "Boasted of Hunting Down Che" by David Smith, The Observer, December 23, 2007
  168. ^ Anderson 1997, p.733.
  169. ^ a b "The Man Who Buried Che" by Juan O. Tamayo, Miami Herald, September 19, 1997
  170. ^ a b c d e Ray, Michèle (March 1968). "In Cold Blood: The Execution of Che by the CIA". Ramparts Magazine: 33. 
  171. ^ Grant 2007. René Barrientos has never revealed his motives for ordering the summary execution of Guevara.
  172. ^ Almudevar, Lola. "Bolivia marks capture, execution of 'Che' Guevara 40 years ago." San Francisco Chronicle. Tuesday October 9, 2007. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
  173. ^ Time magazine 1970.
  174. ^ Anderson 1997, p. 739.
  175. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 739.
  176. ^ Almudevar 2007 and Gott 2005.
  177. ^ Casey 2009, p. 179.
  178. ^ Casey 2009, p. 183.
  179. ^ The Death of Che Guevara by Bjorn Kumm, The New Republic, Originally published on November 11, 1967
  180. ^ Lacey 2007a.
  181. ^ Watch blog image of Guevara's GMT Master
  182. ^ Felix Rodríguez entry from Spartacus Schoolnet Encyclopedia
  183. ^ Kornbluh 1997.
  184. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 740.
  185. ^ Anderson 1997, pp. 741.
  186. ^ Kellner 1989, p. 101.
  187. ^ a b c Nadle, Marlene (August 24, 1968). "Régis Debray Speaks from Prison". Ramparts Magazine: 42. 
  188. ^ Cuba salutes 'Che' Guevara: Revolutionary Icon Finally Laid to Rest CNN, October 17, 1997 CNN VIDEO
  189. ^ "Bidding for Che", Time Magazine, Dec 15 1967
  190. ^ Guevara 1967b.
  191. ^ Ryan 1998, p. 45
  192. ^ Ryan 1998, p. 104
  193. ^ Ryan 1998, p. 148
  194. ^ Ramírez 1997.
  195. ^ Bolivia unveils original Che Guevara diary by Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, July 7, 2008
  196. ^ Slain Che Guevara Soldiers Found? video report by National Geographic, August 21, 2009
  197. ^ McLaren 2000, p. 7.
  198. ^ Guevara 2005
  199. ^ Che's Second Coming? by David Rieff, November 20, 2005, New York Times
  200. ^ Moynihan 2006.
  201. ^ Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 80.
  202. ^ Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 127.
  203. ^ McLaren 2000, p. 3.
  204. ^ Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 67.
  205. ^ Ernesto Che Guevara R.I.P. by Murray Rothbard, Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, Volume 3, Number 3 (Spring-Autumn 1967)
  206. ^ Just a Pretty Face? by Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, July 11, 2004
  207. ^ People's Weekly 2004.
  208. ^ Argentina pays belated homage to "Che" Guevara by Helen Popper, Reuters, June 14, 2008
  209. ^ Statue for Che's '80th birthday' by Daniel Schweimler, BBC News, June 15, 2008
  210. ^ On a tourist trail in Bolivia's hills, Che's fame lives on By Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004
  211. ^ Schipani 2007.
  212. ^ Behind Che Guevara’s mask, the cold executioner Times Online, September 16, 2007
  213. ^ a b c Vargas Llosa 2005.
  214. ^ a b Kellner 1989, p. 106.
  215. ^ Casey 2009, p. 325 & 235.
  216. ^ BBC News May 26, 2001
  217. ^ see also Che Guevara (photo)
  218. ^ Lacey 2007b.
  219. ^ BBC News 2007.
  220. ^ O'Hagan 2004.


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External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Che Guevara article)

From Wikiquote

If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (14 June 19289 October 1967), commonly known as Che Guevara, El Che, or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician, military theorist, and guerrilla leader during the Cuban revolution. Following his execution in Bolivia, he became both a stylized countercultural icon and symbol of rebellion for leftist movements worldwide.



I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.
I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to divide all humanity into just two opposing factions, I would be on the side of the common people.
One must harden without ever losing tenderness.
  • Calica keeps cursing the filth and, whenever he treads on one of the innumerable turds lining the streets, he looks at his dirty shoes instead of at the sky or a cathedral outlined in space. He does not smell the intangible and evocative matter of which Cuzco is made, but only the odor of stew and excrement. It's a question of temperament.
  • I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to divide all humanity into just two opposing factions, I would be on the side of the common people.
    • As quoted in Becoming Che : Guevara's Second and Final Trip through Latin America (2005) by Carlos "Calica" Ferrer, as translated by Sarah L. Smith (2006), p. 170
  • Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.
    • Letter to his aunt Beatriz describing what he had seen while traveling through Guatemala (1953); as quoted in Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson ISBN 0802116000
  • I am not Christ or a philanthropist, old lady, I am all the contrary of a Christ.... I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don't get nailed to a cross or any other place.
    • Letter to his mother (July 15, 1956) as quoted in Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson ISBN 0802116000
  • 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]. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: "Yank it off, boy, what does it matter." I did so and his possessions were now mine.
    • Diary entry from Sierra Maestra on the execution of Eutimio Guerra as an anti-revolutionary spy (January 1957), quoted in Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson
  • I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.
    • Statement in Mexico (1958); as quoted in Kaplan AP World History 2005 (2004) edited by the Kaplan staff, p. 240
  • If it is an element of liberation for Latin America, I believe that it should have demonstrated that. Until now, I have not been aware of any such demonstration. The IMF performs an entirely different function: precisely that of ensuring that capital based outside of Latin America controls all of Latin America.
  • The interests of the IMF represent the big international interests that today seem to be established and concentrated in Wall Street.
    • Regarding the IMF, in an interview for Radio Rivadavia of Argentina (3 November 1959)
  • If they attack, we shall fight to the end. If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression. But we haven’t got them, so we shall fight with what we’ve got.
    • Statement in an interview with a reporter for the London Daily Worker (November 1962), as quoted in Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (1998), by Jorge G. Castaneda, p. 231, 1st Vintage Books ISBN 0679759409
    • Variant translation: If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of America including New York. We must never establish peaceful coexistence. In this struggle to the death between two systems we must gain the ultimate victory. We must walk the path of liberation even if it costs millions of atomic victims.
      • As quoted in The Nuclear Deception : Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis (2002) by Servando Gonzalez, p. 111
  • The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.
    • Intercontinental Press (Vol. 3 January -April 1965); also, in Che Guevara speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings (1967)
  • I am not interested in dry economic socialism. We are fighting against misery, but we are also fighting against alienation. One of the fundamental objectives of Marxism is to remove interest, the factor of individual interest, and gain, from people's psychological motivations. Marx was preoccupied both with economic factors and with their repercussions on the spirit. If communism isn't interested in this too, it may be a method of distributing goods, but it will never be a revolutionary way of life.
    • As quoted in The Many Faces of Socialism Comparative Sociology and Politics (1983) by Paul Hollander, p. 224, ISBN 0887387403
  • Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel!
    • As quoted in An American Savage (2003) by J. Flash (Jeff Flashinski), p. 144
  • If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.
    • As quoted in The Quotable Rebel : Political Quotations for Dangerous Times (2005) by Teishan Latner, p. 112
  • We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.
    • As quoted in Wise Guys : Brilliant Thoughts and Big Talk from Real Men (2005) by Allan Zullo, p. 36
  • Silence is argument carried out by other means.
    • As quoted in Secrets to a Richer Life: Illuminating Wisdom from the Human Family on the 12 Ultimate Questions (2005) by Earl Ernest Guile
  • One has to grow hard but without ever losing tenderness.
    • As quoted in Essential Care : An Ethics of Human Nature (2008) by Leonardo Boff, p. 82
  • I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.
    • Variants : I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.
      I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man.
      Know this now, you are killing a man.
    • These reportedly, were his last words, to Sergeant Jaime Terán, who in different accounts had either volunteered to be his executioner, or by most accounts, had been selected by lot (9 October 1967). Because of the many different reports that have arisen, much confusion and uncertainty exists about his actual last words. His last words to Colonel Arnaldo Saucedo Parada, head of intelligence of the Eighth Division who delivered the official report on Che's final moments were reported as: "I knew you were going to shoot me; I should never have been taken alive. Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean the end of the revolution, that it will triumph elsewhere. Tell Aleida to forget this, remarry and be happy, and keep the children studying. Ask the soldiers to aim well." At one point, early in the confusion and conflicting reports surrounding his death, General Ovando, Chief of Bolivian Armed Forces, declared that he had died in battle, and that just before he dying he had declared: "I am Che Guevara and I have failed."; these are sometimes still accepted as having been last words, though subsequent reports have generally discredited that account.
    • Summary of various accounts of Che Guevara's Death at George Washington University

Guerrilla Warfare (1960)

Let us emphasize that there is not a soldier to be compared to Camilo in this war of liberation.
Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote... the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
  • Camilo was the subject of a thousand anecdotes; he created them naturally wherever he went. To his ease of manner, always appreciated by the people, he added a personality that naturally and almost unconsciously put the stamp of Camilo on everything connected with him. Few men have succeeded in leaving on every action such a distinctive personal mark. As Fidel has said, he did not have culture from books; he had the natural intelligence of the people, who had chosen him out of thousands for a privileged position on account of the audacity of his blows, his tenacity, his intelligence, and unequalled devotion. Camilo practiced loyalty like a religion.
  • Let us not try to classify him, to capture him in a mold, that is, kill him. Let us leave him thus, in general lines, without attributing to him a precise social and economic ideology which he never completely defined. Let us emphasize that there is not a soldier to be compared to Camilo in this war of liberation.
    • Dedication
  • When forces of oppression come to maintain themselves in power against established law, peace is considered already broken.
    • Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
  • Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
    • Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
  • The guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area. This is an indispensable condition.
    • Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
  • Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery.
    • Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
  • War is always a struggle in which each contender tries to annihilate the other. Besides using force, they will have recourse to all possible tricks and stratagems to achieve the goal.
    • Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare

On Revolutionary Medicine (1960)

The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.
"On Revolutionary Medicine", speech delivered to the Cuban Militia (16 August 1960).
Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.
  • After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming a famous or making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.
  • The desire to sacrifice an entire lifetime to the noblest of ideals serves no purpose if one works alone.
  • Our youth must always be free, discussing and exchanging ideas concerned with what is happening throughout the entire world.
  • Everything we thought and felt in that past period ought to be deposited in an archive, and a new type of human being created.
  • The task of educating and feeding youngsters, the task of educating the army, the task of distributing the lands of the former absentee landlords to those who laboured every day upon that same land without receiving its benefits, are accomplishments of social medicine.
  • In the future individualism ought to be the efficient utilization of the whole individual for the absolute benefit of a collectivity.
  • We brought ten thousand head of cattle to the Sierra one day and said to the peasants, simply, "Eat". And the peasants, for the first time in years and years, some for the first time in their lives, ate beef.
  • The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.
  • Far more important than a good remuneration is the pride of serving one's neighbor.
  • Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.
  • We should not go to the people and say, "Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you our science, to show you your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance of elementary things." We should go instead with an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at that great source of wisdom that is the people.
  • Our enemy, and the enemy of all America, is the monopolistic government of the United States of America.

Notes on the Cuban Revolution (1960)

"Notes for the Study of the Ideology of the Cuban Revolution" (8 October 1960)
  • When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist or a biologist when asked if he is a "Newtonian," or if he is a "Pasteurian".There are truths so evident, so much a part of people's knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them.
  • The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it, he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed.

Mobilising for Invasion (1961)

"Mobilising the Masses for the Invasion" speech given to sugar workers in Santa Clara, Cuba 20 days before the Bay of Pigs invasion (28 March 1961)
  • We have to remind ourselves of this at every moment: that we are in a war, a cold war as they call it; a war where there is no front line, no continuous bombardment, but where the two adversaries — this tiny champion of the Caribbean and the immense imperialist hyena — are face to face and aware that one of them is going to end up dead in the fight.
  • The victory of the Cuban Revolution will be a tangible demonstration before all the Americas that peoples are capable of rising up, that they can rise up by themselves right under the very fangs of the monster.

Cuba as Vanguard (1961)

"Cuba: Historical exception or vanguard in the anticolonial struggle?" speech (9 April 1961)
We, politely referred to as “underdeveloped,” in truth are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries.
  • On various occasions emissaries of the U.S. State Department came, disguised as reporters, to investigate our rustic revolution, yet they never found any trace of imminent danger. By the time the imperialists wanted to react — when they discovered that the group of inexperienced young men marching in triumph through the streets of Havana had a clear awareness of their political duty and an iron determination to carry out that duty — it was already too late.
  • The first liberating revolutions never destroyed the large landholding powers that always constituted a reactionary force and upheld the principle of servitude on the land.
  • In most countries the large landholders realized they couldn't survive alone and promptly entered into alliances with the monopolies — the strongest and most ruthless oppressors of the Latin American peoples. U.S. capital arrived on the scene to exploit the virgin lands and later carried off, unnoticed, all the funds so “generously” given, plus several times the amount originally invested in the “beneficiary” country.
  • We, politely referred to as “underdeveloped,” in truth are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries. We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy. “Underdevelopment,” or distorted development, brings a dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peoples. We, the “underdeveloped,” are also those with the single crop, the single product, the single market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market imposing and fixing conditions. That is the great formula for imperialist economic domination.
  • The people are weary of being oppressed, persecuted, exploited to the maximum. They are weary of the wretched selling of their labor-power day after day — faced with the fear of joining the enormous mass of unemployed — so that the greatest profit can be wrung from each human body, profit later squandered in the orgies of the masters of capital.
  • The United States hastens the delivery of arms to the puppet governments they see as being increasingly threatened; it makes them sign pacts of dependence to legally facilitate the shipment of instruments of repression and death and of troops to use them.

On Growth and Imperialism (1961)

"Economics Cannot be Separated from Politics" speech to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), in Punta del Este, Uruguay (8 August 1961)
  • Cuba hopes that her children will see a better future, and that victory will not have to be won at the cost of millions of human lives destroyed by the atomic bomb.
  • Democracy is not compatible with financial oligarchy, with discrimination against Blacks and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan, or with the persecution that drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, held prisoner in his own country, and sent the Rosenberg's to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world, including the appeals of many governments and of Pope Pius XII.
  • Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.

Method of Guerrilla Warfare (1963)

"Guerrilla Warfare: A Method " (written September 1963)
  • Guerrilla warfare is a people's warfare; an attempt to carry out this type of war without the population's support is a prelude to inevitable disaster.
  • The guerrilla is supported by the peasant and worker masses of the region and of the whole territory in which it acts. Without these prerequisites, guerrilla warfare is not possible.
  • Revolution, in history, is like the doctor assisting at the birth of a new life, who will not use forceps unless necessary, but who will use them unhesitatingly every time labor requires them. It is a labor bringing the hope of a better life to the enslaved and exploited masses.
  • We should not allow the word “democracy” to be utilized apologetically to represent the dictatorship of the exploiting classes.
  • Violence is not the monopoly of the exploiters and as such the exploited can use it too and, moreover, ought to use it when the moment arrives.
  • The dictatorship tries to function without resorting to force so we must try to oblige it to do so, thereby unmasking its true nature as the dictatorship of the reactionary social classes.

On Development (1964)

"On Development" Speech delivered at the plenary session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland (25 March 1964)
Justice remains the tool of a few powerful interests; legal interpretations will continue to be made to suit the convenience of the oppressor powers.
  • Justice remains the tool of a few powerful interests; legal interpretations will continue to be made to suit the convenience of the oppressor powers.
  • If, on the other hand, the groups of underdeveloped countries, lured by the siren song of the vested interests of the developed powers which exploit their backwardness, contend futilely among themselves for the crumbs from the tables of the world's mighty, and break the ranks of numerically superior forces ... our efforts will have been to no avail.
  • The only way to solve the problems now besetting mankind is to eliminate completely the exploitation of dependent countries by developed capitalist countries, with all the consequences that this implies.
  • The inflow of capital from the developed countries is the prerequisite for the establishment of economic dependence. This inflow takes various forms: loans granted on onerous terms; investments that place a given country in the power of the investors; almost total technological subordination of the dependent country to the developed country; control of a country's foreign trade by the big international monopolies; and in extreme cases, the use of force as an economic weapon in support of the other forms of exploitation.
  • The International Monetary Fund is the watchdog of the dollar in the capitalist camp.
  • The world is hungry but lacks the money to buy food; and paradoxically, in the underdeveloped world, in the world of the hungry, possible ways of expanding food production are discouraged in order to keep prices up, in order to be able to eat. This is the inexorable law of the philosophy of plunder, which must cease to be the rule in relations between peoples.
  • And the imperialists? Will they sit with their arms crossed? No! The system they practice is the cause of the evils from which we are suffering, but they will try to obscure the facts with spurious allegations, of which they are masters.
  • The feeling of revolt will grow stronger every day among the peoples subjected to various degrees of exploitation, and they will take up arms to gain by force the rights which reason alone has not won them.

Address to the United Nations (1964)

"Colonialism is Doomed" speech to the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City (11 December 1964). Geuvara quoted earlier statements of Fidel Castro extensively in this speech, and many of these are often misattributed to him.
  • The final hour of colonialism has struck, and millions of inhabitants of Africa, Asia and Latin America rise to meet a new life and demand their unrestricted right to self-determination.
  • We should like to see this Assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We should like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wishes to convert this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the grave problems of the world. We must prevent their doing so.
  • Peaceful coexistence cannot be limited to the powerful countries if we want to ensure world peace. Peaceful coexistence must be exercised among all states, regardless of size, regardless of the previous historical relations that linked them, and regardless of the problems that may arise among some of them at a given moment.
  • As Marxists we have maintained that peaceful coexistence among nations does not encompass coexistence between the exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed.
  • We speak out to put the world on guard against what is happening in South Africa. The brutal policy of apartheid is applied before the eyes of the nations of the world. The peoples of Africa are compelled to endure the fact that on the African continent the superiority of one race over another remains official policy, and that in the name of this racial superiority murder is committed with impunity. Can the United Nations do nothing to stop this?
  • Our free eyes open now on new horizons and can see what yesterday, in our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that “Western Civilization” disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals ... A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples.
  • Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? The government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.
  • This epic before us is going to be written by the hungry Indian masses, the peasants without land, the exploited workers. It is going to be written by the progressive masses, the honest and brilliant intellectuals, who so greatly abound in our suffering Latin American lands. Struggles of masses and ideas. An epic that will be carried forward by our peoples, mistreated and scorned by imperialism; our people, unreckoned with until today, who are now beginning to shake off their slumber. Imperialism considered us a weak and submissive flock; and now it begins to be terrified of that flock; a gigantic flock of 200 million Latin Americans in whom Yankee monopoly capitalism now sees its gravediggers.
  • Now in the mountains and fields of America, on its flatlands and in its jungles, in the wilderness or in the traffic of cities, on the banks of its great oceans or rivers, this world is beginning to tremble. Anxious hands are stretched forth, ready to die for what is theirs, to win those rights that were laughed at by one and all for 500 years.

Afro-Asian Conference (1965)

"At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria" speech to the Second Economic Seminar of Afro-Asian Solidarity in Algiers, Algeria (24 February 1965)
There are no borders in this struggle to the death.
Planning is one of the laws of socialism, and without it, socialism would not exist.
  • The struggle against imperialism, for liberation from colonial or neocolonial shackles, which is being carried out by means of political weapons, arms, or a combination of the two, is not separate from the struggle against backwardness and poverty. Both are stages on the same road leading toward the creation of a new society of justice and plenty.
  • Ever since monopoly capital took over the world, it has kept the greater part of humanity in poverty, dividing all the profits among the group of the most powerful countries. The standard of living in those countries is based on the extreme poverty of our countries. To raise the living standards of the underdeveloped nations, therefore, we must fight against imperialism. And each time a country is torn away from the imperialist tree, it is not only a partial battle won against the main enemy but it also contributes to the real weakening of that enemy, and is one more step toward the final victory.
  • There are no borders in this struggle to the death. We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, because a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory, just as any country's defeat is a defeat for all of us.
    • Variant translation: There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death. We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory; just as any country's defeat is a defeat for all of us.
  • Each time a country is freed, we say, it is a defeat for the world imperialist system, but we must agree that real liberation or breaking away from the imperialist system is not achieved by the mere act of proclaiming independence or winning an armed victory in a revolution. Freedom is achieved when imperialist economic domination over a people is brought to an end.
    • Variant translation: We said that each time a country is liberated it is a defeat for the world imperialist system. But we must agree that the break is not achieved by the mere act of proclaiming independence or winning an armed victory in a revolution. It is achieved when imperialist economic domination over a people is brought to an end.
  • Imperialism has been defeated in many partial battles. But it remains a considerable force in the world, and we cannot expect its final defeat save through effort and sacrifice on the part of us all.
  • The socialist countries must help pay for the development of countries now starting out on the road to liberation.
  • Socialism cannot exist without a change in consciousness resulting in a new fraternal attitude toward humanity, both at an individual level, within the societies where socialism is being built or has been built, and on a world scale, with regard to all peoples suffering from imperialist oppression.
  • How can it be “mutually beneficial” to sell at world market prices the raw materials that cost the underdeveloped countries immeasurable sweat and suffering, and to buy at world market prices the machinery produced in today's big automated factories?
  • We must agree that the socialist countries are, in a certain way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation ... The socialist countries have the moral duty to put an end to their tacit complicity with the exploiting countries of the West.
    • Variant translation: The socialist countries have the moral duty of liquidating their tacit complicity with the exploiting countries of the West.
  • For us there is no valid definition of socialism other than the abolition of the exploitation of one human being by another. As long as this has not been achieved, if we think we are in the stage of building socialism but instead of ending exploitation the work of suppressing it comes to a halt — or worse, is reversed — then we cannot even speak of building socialism.
    • Variant translation: There is no other definition of socialism valid for us than that of the abolition of the exploitation of man by man.
  • Development cannot be left to complete improvisation. It is necessary to plan the construction of the new society. Planning is one of the laws of socialism, and without it, socialism would not exist. Without correct planning there can be no adequate guarantee that all the various sectors of a country's economy will combine harmoniously to take the leaps forward that our epoch demands.
  • As long as imperialism exists it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neocolonialism.
  • Arms cannot be commodities in our world. They must be delivered to the peoples asking for them to use against the common enemy, with no charge and in the quantities needed and available.
  • Now is the time to throw off the yoke, to force renegotiation of oppressive foreign debts, and to force the imperialists to abandon their bases of aggression.

Man and Socialism in Cuba (1965)

In our zeal as revolutionists we try to move ahead as fast as possible, clearing the way, but knowing we must draw our sustenance from the mass and that it can advance more rapidly only if we inspire it by our example...
A letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of Marcha a radical weekly published in Montevideo, Uruguay; published as "From Algiers, for Marcha : The Cuban Revolution Today" (12 March 1965); also published in Verde Olivo, the magazine of the Cuban armed forces "Socialism and Man in Cuba" - Variant translation by Margarita Zimmermann
Wealth is far from being within the reach of the masses simply through the process of appropriation.
In moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response to moral stimuli; but for them to retain their effect requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new priority of values.
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.
For a long time man has been trying to free himself from alienation through culture and art...
The ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration: to see human beings liberated from their alienation.
The basic clay of our work is the youth; we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands.
  • A common argument from the mouths of capitalist spokespeople, in the ideological struggle against socialism, is that socialism, or the period of building socialism into which we have entered, is characterized by the abolition of the individual for the sake of the state.
  • The state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, a decline in collective enthusiasm is reflected by a resulting quantitative decrease of the contribution of each individual, each of the elements forming the whole of the masses. Work is so paralysed that insignificant quantities are produced. It is time to make a correction.
  • A more structured connection with the mass is needed, and we must improve it in the course of the coming years. But as far as initiatives originating in the upper strata of the government are concerned, we are currently utilizing the almost intuitive method of sounding out general reactions to the great problems we confront.
    In this Fidel is a master. His own special way of fusing himself with the people can be appreciated only by seeing him in action. At the great public mass meetings one can observe something like the dialogue of two tuning forks whose vibrations interact, producing new sounds. Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion crowned by our cry of struggle and victory.
  • In capitalist society individuals are controlled by a pitiless law usually beyond their comprehension. The alienated human specimen is tied to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. This law acts upon all aspects of one's life, shaping its course and destiny.
  • The difficult thing for someone not living the experience of the revolution to understand is this close dialectical unity between the individual and the mass, in which the mass, as an aggregate of individuals, is interconnected with its leaders.
    Some phenomena of this kind can be seen under capitalism, when politicians capable of mobilising popular opinion appear, but these phenomena are not really genuine social movements. (If they were, it would not be entirely correct to call them capitalist.) These movements only live as long as the persons who inspire them do, or until the harshness of capitalist society puts an end to the popular illusions which made them possible.
  • The laws of capitalism, blind and invisible to the majority, act upon the individual without his thinking about it. He sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists, who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of success.
    The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.
    • Variant translation: The laws of capitalism, which are blind and are invisible to ordinary people, act upon the individual without he or she being aware of it. One sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon ahead. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of individual success. The amount of poverty and suffering required for a Rockefeller to emerge, and the amount of depravity entailed in the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible for the popular forces to expose this clearly ... It is a contest among wolves. One can win only at the cost of the failure of others.
  • In any case the road to success is pictured as one beset with perils but which, it would seem, an individual with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. The reward is seen in the distance; the way is lonely. Further on it is a route for wolves; one can succeed only at the cost of the failure of others.
  • I think the place to start is to recognize the individual's quality of incompleteness, of being an unfinished product. The vestiges of the past are brought into the present in one's consciousness, and a continual labor is necessary to eradicate them.
  • It was not capitalism's internal contradictions that, having exhausted all possibilities, caused the system to explode. The struggle for liberation from a foreign oppressor; the misery caused by external events such as war, whose consequences privileged classes place on the backs of the exploited; liberation movements aimed at overthrowing neo-colonial regimes — these are the usual factors in unleashing this kind of explosion.
  • Wealth is far from being within the reach of the masses simply through the process of appropriation.
  • To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman.
  • In moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response to moral stimuli; but for them to retain their effect requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new priority of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.
  • Capitalism uses force but it also educates the people to its system. Direct propaganda is carried out by those entrusted with explaining the inevitability of class society, either through some theory of divine origin or through a mechanical theory of natural law.
    This lulls the masses since they see themselves as being oppressed by an evil against which it is impossible to struggle. Immediately following comes the hope of improvement — and in this, capitalism differed from the preceding caste systems, which offered no possibilities for advancement.
  • For some people, the principle of the caste system will remain in effect: The reward for the obedient is to be transported after death to some fabulous other world where, according to the old beliefs, good people are rewarded.
  • The myth of the self-made man, has to be profoundly hypocritical: it is the self-serving demonstration that a lie is the truth.
  • In this period of the building of socialism we can see the new man and woman being born. The image is not yet completely finished — it never will be, since the process goes forward hand in hand with the development of new economic forms.
  • What is important, however, is that each day individuals are acquiring ever more consciousness of the need for their incorporation into society and, at the same time, of their importance as the motor of that society.
  • The road is long and full of difficulties. At times we wander from the path and must turn back; at other times we go too fast and separate ourselves from the masses; on occasions we go too slow and feel the hot breath of those treading on our heels. In our zeal as revolutionists we try to move ahead as fast as possible, clearing the way, but knowing we must draw our sustenance from the mass and that it can advance more rapidly only if we inspire it by our example.
  • The change in consciousness will not take place automatically, just as it doesn't take place automatically in the economy. The alterations are slow and are not harmonious; there are periods of acceleration, pauses and even retrogressions.
  • In the field of ideas not involving productive activities it is easier to distinguish the division between material and spiritual necessity. For a long time man has been trying to free himself from alienation through culture and art. While he dies every day during the eight or more hours that he sells his labour, he comes to life afterwards in his spiritual activities.
    But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness; it is as a solitary individual that he seeks communion with his environment.
  • Socialism is young and has made errors. Many times revolutionaries lack the knowledge and intellectual courage needed to meet the task of developing the new man with methods different from the conventional ones — and the conventional methods suffer from the influences of the society, which created them.
  • Let us not attempt, from the pontifical throne of realism-at-any-cost, to condemn all the art forms which have evolved since the first half of the nineteenth century for we would then fall into the Proudhonian mistake of returning to the past, of putting a straitjacket on the artistic expression of the man who is being born and is in the process of making himself.
  • What are needed are the development of an ideological-cultural mechanism which permits both free inquiry and the uprooting of the weeds which multiply so easily in the fertile soil of state subsidies.
  • What we must create is the man of the twenty-first century, although this is still a subjective and not a realised aspiration. It is precisely this man of the next century who is one of the fundamental objectives of our work...
  • The great multitudes continue to develop; the new ideas continue to attain their proper force within society; the material possibilities for the full development of all members of society make the task much more fruitful. The present is a time for struggle; the future is ours.
  • Our task is to prevent the present generation, torn asunder by its conflicts, from becoming perverted and from perverting new generations. We must not bring into being either docile servants of official thought or scholarship students who live at the expense of the state — practising "freedom." Already there are revolutionaries coming who will sing the song of the new man in the true voice of the people. This is a process, which takes time.
  • We are doing everything possible to give labor this new status of social duty and to link it on the one side with the development of a technology which will create the conditions for greater freedom, and on the other side with voluntary work based on a Marxist appreciation of the fact that man truly reaches a full human condition when he produces without being driven by the physical need to sell his labor as a commodity.
  • Man still needs to undergo a complete spiritual rebirth in his attitude towards his work, freed from the direct pressure of his social environment, though linked to it by his new habits. That will be communism.
    The change in consciousness will not take place automatically, just as it doesn't take place automatically in the economy. The alterations are slow and are not harmonious; there are periods of acceleration, pauses and even retrogressions.
    • Variant translation: There is still a need to undergo a complete spiritual rebirth in one's attitude toward one's own work, freed from the direct pressure of the social environment, though linked to it by new habits. That will be communism. The change in consciousness does not take place automatically, just as change in the economy does not take place automatically. The alterations are slow and not rhythmic; there are periods of acceleration, periods that are slower, and even retrogressions.
  • At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary people put their love into practice.
    The leaders of the revolution have children just beginning to talk, who are not learning to call their fathers by name; wives, from whom they have to be separated as part of the general sacrifice of their lives to bring the revolution to its fulfilment; the circle of their friends is limited strictly to the number of fellow revolutionists. There is no life outside of the revolution.
    In these circumstances one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
    • Excerpts from the two paragraphs above have sometimes been quoted in abbreviated form: At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality... We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
    • Variant translation: One must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth in order to avoid dogmatic extremes, cold scholasticism, or an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
  • Of course there are dangers in the present situation, and not only that of dogmatism, not only that of weakening the ties with the masses midway in the great task. There is also the danger of weaknesses. If a man thinks that dedicating his entire life to the revolution means, that in return he should not have such worries as that his son lacks certain things, or that his children's shoes are worn out, or that his family lacks some necessity, then he is entering into rationalisations which open his mind to infection by the seeds of future corruption.
    In our case we have maintained that our children should have or should go without those things that the children of the average man have or go without, and that our families should understand this and strive to uphold this standard. The revolution is made through man, but man must forge his revolutionary spirit day by day.
  • We know that sacrifices lie before us and that we must pay a price for the heroic act of being a vanguard nation. We leaders know that we must pay a price for the right to say that we are at the head of a people, which is at the head of the Americas. Each and every one of us must pay his exact quota of sacrifice, conscious that he will get his reward in the satisfaction of fulfilling a duty, conscious that he will advance with all toward the image of the new man dimly visible on the horizon.
  • The ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration: to see human beings liberated from their alienation.
  • The individual under socialism, despite apparent standardization, is more complete.
  • The individual will reach total consciousness as a social being, which is equivalent to the full realization as a human creature, once the chains of alienation are broken. This will be translated concretely into the reconquering of one's true nature through liberated labor, and the expression of one's own human condition through culture and art.
  • In order to develop a new culture, work must acquire a new status. Human beings-as-commodities cease to exist, and a system is installed that establishes a quota for the fulfillment of one's social duty. The means of production belong to society, and the machine is merely the trench where duty is performed.
  • While a person dies every day during the eight or more hours in which he or she functions as a commodity, individuals come to life afterward in their spiritual creations. But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness: that of a solitary being seeking harmony with the world.
  • The law of value is no longer simply a reflection of the relations of production; the monopoly capitalists — even while employing purely empirical methods — surround that law with a complicated scaffolding that turns it into a docile servant. The superstructure imposes a kind of art in which the artist must be educated. Rebels are subdued by the machine, and only exceptional talents may create their own work. The rest become shamefaced hirelings or are crushed.
    • Variant translation: The monopoly capitalists — even while employing purely empirical methods — weave around art a complicated web which converts it into a willing tool. The superstructure of society ordains the type of art in which the artist has to be educated. Rebels are subdued by its machinery and only rare talents may create their own work. The rest become shameless hacks or are crushed.
  • A school of artistic experimentation is invented, which is said to be the definition of freedom; but this “experimentation” has its limits, imperceptible until there is a clash, that is, until the real problems of individual alienation arise. Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated. Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honors — such honors as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage.
  • The fault of many of our artists and intellectuals lies in their original sin: they are not true revolutionaries. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will bear pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees. New generations will come that will be free of original sin.
  • It is not a matter of how many kilograms of meat one has to eat, or of how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many pretty things from abroad you might be able to buy with present-day wages. It is a matter of making the individual feel more complete, with much more inner wealth and much more responsibility.
  • Our children must have, or lack, those things that the children of the ordinary citizen have or lack; our families should understand this and struggle for it to be that way.
  • We socialists are freer because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are freer. The skeleton of our complete freedom is already formed. The flesh and the clothing are lacking; we will create them.
  • The basic clay of our work is the youth; we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands.

Farewell letter to Fidel Castro (1965)

Hasta la victoria siempre!
"Farewell letter from Che to Fidel Castro" Original Spanish text (published 1 April 1965)
Once again I feel beneath my heels the ribs of Rocinante. Once more, I'm on the road with my shield on my arm.
  • In a revolution one wins or dies, if it is a real one.
    • In a revolution, one triumphs or dies (if it is a true revolution).
  • I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban revolution in its territory, and I say farewell to you, to the comrades, to your people, who now are mine.
  • He vivido días magníficos
    • I have lived magnificent days.
  • Other nations of the world summon my modest efforts of assistance.
  • I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds a part of my spirit. I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be.
  • If my final hour finds me under other skies, my last thought will be of this people and especially of you.
  • Hasta la victoria siempre, ¡Patria o Muerte!
    • Until victory always, Homeland or death!
    • Variant translations:
      Always toward Victory!
      Until eternal victory!
      Until the everlasting victory.
      Ever onward until victory.
      Until Victory Forever

Last Letter to his Parents (1965)

"Dear Old Folks", Sent by Che to his parents in 1965 as he embarked for Bolivia.
Many will call me an adventurer — and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes.
  • Once again I feel beneath my heels the ribs of Rocinante. Once more, I'm on the road with my shield on my arm.
  • My Marxism has taken root and become purified. I believe in armed struggle as the only solution for those peoples who fight to free themselves, and I am consistent with my beliefs.
  • Many will call me an adventurer, and that I am... only one of a different sort: one who risks his skin to prove his truths.
    • Variant translation: Many will call me an adventurer — and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes.
  • It is possible that this may be the end. I don't seek it, but it's within the logical realms of probabilities. If it should be so, I send you a final embrace.
  • Now a willpower that I have polished with an artist's delight will sustain some shaky legs and some weary lungs. I will do it. Give a thought once in awhile to this little soldier of fortune of the twentieth century.

Letter to his Children (1965)

Your father has been a man who acted according to his beliefs and certainly has been faithful to his convictions.
"Last Letter from Papa", Letter to all of his children written sometime in 1965, to be read in the event of his death.
  • Your father has been a man who acted according to his beliefs and certainly has been faithful to his convictions.
  • Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard to be able to dominate the techniques that permit the domination of nature. Remember that the Revolution is what is important and that each of us, on our own, is worthless.
  • Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.
  • Until always, little children. I still hope to see you again. A really big kiss and a hug from Papa.

Birthday Letter to his Daughter (1966)

"Birthday Wishes from Papa", sent to Guevara's oldest daughter Hilda on her 10th birthday (written 15 February 1966)
  • Remember, there are still many years of struggle ahead, and even when you are a woman, you will have to do your part in the struggle. Meanwhile, you have to prepare yourself, be very revolutionary — which at your age means to learn a lot, as much as possible, and always be ready to support just causes.
  • You should fight to be among the best in school. The very best in every sense and you already know what that means; study and revolutionary attitude. In other words: good conduct, seriousness, love for the revolution, comradeship. I was not that way at your age but I lived in a different society, where man was an enemy of man. Now you have the privilege of living in another era and you must be worthy of it.

Message to the Tricontinental (1967)

"Message to the Tricontinental" sent from his jungle camp in Bolivia, to the Tricontinental solidarity organisation in Havana in the Spring of 1967, Published: 16 April 1967.
The beginnings will not be easy; they shall be extremely difficult.
  • There is a sad reality: Vietnam — a nation representing the aspirations, the hopes of a whole world of forgotten peoples — is tragically alone. This nation must endure the furious attacks of U.S. technology, with practically no possibility of reprisals in the South and only some of defense in the North — but always alone.
  • The solidarity of all progressive forces of the world towards the people of Vietnam today is similar to the bitter irony of the plebeians coaxing on the gladiators in the Roman arena. It is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.
  • Not for a long time shall we be able to know if President Johnson ever seriously thought of bringing about some of the reforms needed by his people — to iron out the barbed class contradictions that grow each day with explosive power. The truth is that the improvements announced under the pompous title of the "Great Society" have dropped into the cesspool of Vietnam.
  • Our America is integrated by a group of more or less homogeneous countries and in most parts of its territory U.S. monopolist capitals maintain an absolute supremacy. Puppet governments or, in the best of cases, weak and fearful local rulers, are incapable of contradicting orders from their Yankee master.
  • The slogan "we will not allow another Cuba" hides the possibility of perpetrating aggressions without fear of reprisal, such as the one carried out against the Dominican Republic or before that the massacre in Panama — and the clear warning stating that Yankee troops are ready to intervene anywhere in America where the ruling regime may be altered, thus endangering their interests.
  • There are no other alternatives; either a socialist revolution or a make-believe revolution.
  • A new era will dawn in Africa, when the impoverished masses of a nation rise up to rescue their right to a decent life from the hands of the ruling oligarchies.
  • We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism — and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals — instruments of domination — arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.
  • We must not underrate our adversary; the U.S. soldier has technical capacity and is backed by weapons and resources of such magnitude that render him frightful. He lacks the essential ideological motivation which his bitterest enemies of today — the Vietnamese soldiers — have in the highest degree. We will only be able to overcome that army by undermining their morale — and this is accomplished by defeating it and causing it repeated sufferings.
  • It is absolutely just to avoid all useless sacrifices. Therefore, it is so important to clear up the real possibilities that dependent America may have of liberating itself through pacific means. For us, the solution to this question is quite clear: the present moment may or may not be the proper one for starting the struggle, but we cannot harbor any illusions, and we have no right to do so, that freedom can be obtained without fighting.
  • These battles shall not be mere street fights with stones against tear-gas bombs, or of pacific general strikes; neither shall it be the battle of a furious people destroying in two or three days the repressive scaffolds of the ruling oligarchies; the struggle shall be long, harsh, and its front shall be in the guerrilla's refuge, in the cities, in the homes of the fighters — where the repressive forces shall go seeking easy victims among their families — in the massacred rural population, in the villages or cities destroyed by the bombardments of the enemy.
  • The beginnings will not be easy; they shall be extremely difficult. All the oligarchies' powers of repression, all their capacity for brutality and demagoguery will be placed at the service of their cause. Our mission, in the first hour, shall be to survive; later, we shall follow the perennial example of the guerilla, carrying out armed propaganda ... the great lesson of the invincibility of the guerrillas taking root in the dispossessed masses; the galvanizing of the national spirit, the preparation for harder tasks, for resisting even more violent repressions. Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.
    • Variant translation: The great lesson of the guerrillas' invincibility is taking hold among the masses of the dispossessed. The galvanization of the national spirit; the preparation for more difficult tasks, for resistance to more violent repression. Hate as a factor in the struggle, intransigent hatred for the enemy that takes one beyond the natural limitations of a human being and converts one into an effective, violent, selective, cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be like that; a people without hate cannot triumph over a brutal enemy.
  • We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.
  • To die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today's armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, even a European.
  • Each spilt drop of blood, in any country under whose flag one has not been born, is an experience passed on to those who survive, to be added later to the liberation struggle of his own country. And each nation liberated is a phase won in the battle for the liberation of one's own country.
  • How close we could look into a bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world.
  • Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism, and a battle hymn for the people's unity against the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America.
  • 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 and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge with the staccato singing of the machine-guns and new battle cries of war and victory.
    • Variant: "Whenever death may surprise us..."
      • As quoted in Che : Selected Works of Ernesto Guevara (1969) edited by Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson P. Valdes


  • To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.
    • As quoted in The Cuban Revolution : Years of Promise (2005) by Teo A. Babun and Victor Andres Triay, p. 57, without citation of sources; neither original sources nor published occurrences of this statement prior to 2005 have been located.


  • ¡Patria o muerte! Venceremos!
    • Homeland or death! We will triumph!
    • Though Gueverra often used this slogan or part of it, it originates with Fidel Castro, who first used it in a speech at a cemetery in Colon, Cuba (5 March 1960)
  • Y esa ola de estremecido rencor, de justicia reclamada, de derecho pisoteado, que se empieza a levantar por entre las tierras de Latinoamérica, esa ola ya no parará más. Esa ola irá creciendo cada día que pase.
    • And the wave of anger, of demands for justice, of claims for rights trampled underfoot, which is beginning to sweep the lands of Latin America, will not stop. That wave will swell with every passing day.
    • Fidel Castro, in the Second Declaration of Havana (4 February 1962). Guevara quoted this extensively in his famous speech to the 19th United Nations General Assembly (11 December 1964), and lines from it are often misattributed to him; this portion has also been paraphrased as Esa ola irá creciendo cada día que pase, esa ola ya no parará mas. (This wave will swell with everyday that passes, this wave will no longer be stopped.)

Quotes about Guevara

Che is a figure who can constantly be examined and re-examined. ~ Jon Lee Anderson
He may well go down in history as the greatest continental figure since Bolivar. Legends will be created around his name. ~ Richard Gott
When one thinks of Che as a hero, it is more in terms of Byron than Marx. ~ Christopher Hitchens
I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che. ~ Alberto Korda
For Che, the true Communist, the true revolutionary was one who felt that the great problems of all humanity were his or her personal problems ~ Michael Löwy
Che was the most complete human being of our age. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Che is a figure who can constantly be examined and re-examined. To the younger, post-cold-war generation of Latin Americans, Che stands up as the perennial Icarus, a self-immolating figure who represents the romantic tragedy of youth. Their Che is not just a potent figure of protest, but the idealistic, questioning kid who exists in every society and every time.
  • The discussions that count, are those that continue albeit silently in thought.
    In my mind, the discussion with Che has continued for all these years, and the more time passed, the more he has been right.
    Even today, dying while putting in motion a never ending struggle, he continues, always, to be right.
  • He wasn't able to inspire revolutions because individuals don't inspire revolutions — they inspire movements, respect, and, sometimes, adulation and admiration. Once he was dead, of course, the fact that you could read him any way you wanted, and that there was no danger of being contradicted by him, made it easier in a sense for Che to inspire people. But the fact is that none of the political movements that Che inspired after his death in 1968 were triumphant. The cultural movements were, but the political movements didn't go anywhere.
  • This secular saint was ready to die because he could not tolerate a world where the poor of the earth, the displaced and dislocated of history, would be relegated to its vast margins.
  • What has made Guevara a cultural icon is not his example for poor countries, but his capacity to provoke empathy among the spoiled youth of the affluent West.
    • Mark Falcoff, in "He Thinks We Still Care" a review of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life :by Jon Lee Anderson, in The American Spectator, Vol. 30, No. 6 (June 1997)
  • It was difficult to recall that this man had once been one of the great figures of Latin America. It was not just that he was a great guerrilla leader; he had been a friend of Presidents as well as revolutionaries. His voice had been heard and appreciated in inter-American councils as well as in the jungle. He was a doctor, an amateur economist, once Minister of Industries in revolutionary Cuba, and Castro's right-hand man. He may well go down in history as the greatest continental figure since Bolivar. Legends will be created around his name.
  • What I appreciated most was his honesty — and his ability to transform negative things into positive things. ... he was not compromising. It wasn't easy unless you shared his vision and believed in it.
  • Che was wearing green fatigues, and his usual overgrown and scraggly beard. Behind the beard his features are quite soft, almost feminine, and his manner is intense. He has a good sense of humor, and there was considerable joking back and forth during the meeting ... Although he left no doubt of his personal and intense devotion to communism, his conversation was free of propaganda and bombast. He spoke calmly, in a straightforward manner, and with the appearance of detachment and objectivity ... I had the definite impression that he had thought out his remarks very carefully — they were extremely well organized.
  • He belongs more to the romantic tradition than the revolutionary one. To endure as a romantic icon, one must not just die young, but die hopelessly. Che fulfils both criteria. When one thinks of Che as a hero, it is more in terms of Byron than Marx.
  • As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che.
  • Che was not only a heroic fighter, but a revolutionary thinker, with a political and moral project and a system of ideas and values for which he fought and gave his life. The philosophy which gave his political and ideological choices their coherence, colour, and taste was a deep revolutionary humanism. For Che, the true Communist, the true revolutionary was one who felt that the great problems of all humanity were his or her personal problems, one who was capable of feeling anguish whenever someone was assassinated, no matter where it was in the world, and of feeling exultation whenever a new banner of liberty was raised somewhere else.
  • On his trips, he would receive gifts from his hosts, some of them very expensive. He would get presents for me as well, and he would give them away if he considered them too ostentatious. I was given a color TV only to see Che pass it on to a factory worker. And back then, it was sort of an unimaginable item. Once, after a trip to Algeria, he received a barrel of an excellent wine. When he arrived home, he told me to give it to the army barracks near our home. I would not always unconditionally obey his mandates. Knowing that wine was one of the few treats he allowed himself, I kept five liters.
  • I worked with Che in the military regiment at La Cabaña, putting order into the revolution; he personally asked me to take command of the new revolutionary police ... there was a lot of resentment against us at the beginning. People still loyal to the old regime would have done anything against us and the new, free, Cuba. Not many people wanted to stain their hands with such a job. But I did, and Che even more. Some call him "the butcher of La Cabaña" because of all the executions he had to carry out, but he did it honourably. He was a great man - so humble, so free, with such conviction. It was such a pleasure and an honour to be around him. But we were all convinced of what we were fighting for. We fought for our people to be fully happy. And we stayed alive to keep an eye on that marvellous victory.
  • We feel sick about this grand show that goes on every year on the anniversary of his death. Rather than honour a man who came to invade the country, we should honour the armed forces, the soldiers who defended the country.
  • Most people don't know the real Che Guevara — the Che Guevara who wrote that he was thirsty for blood, the Che who assassinated thousands of people without any regard for any real legal process.
  • Che T-shirts are among the first things you'll see after landing at the Havana airport. But at least the Cubans know whom they're glorifying. In the United States, Che's life story and ambitions seem beside the point, or maybe they've just been reduced to caricature. The guy's face is shorthand for "I'm against the status quo." He's politics' answer to James Dean, a rebel with a very specific cause.

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