Che Guevara's Rendezvous With Justice
By Humberto Fontova
41 years ago this week (Oct.9, 1967) in Boliva, Ernesto "Che" Guevara
got a major dose of his own medicine. Without trial, he was declared a
murderer, stood against a wall and shot.
Historically speaking, justice has rarely been better served. The number
of men Che's "revolutionary tribunals" condemned to death in the
identical manner range anywhere from 400 to 1,892. The number of
defenseless men (and boys) Che personally murdered with his own pistol
runs to the dozens.
"Executions?" Che Guevara exclaimed while addressing the hallowed halls
of the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1964. "Certainly, we execute!" he
declared to the claps and cheers of that august body. "And we will
continue executing as long as it is necessary! This is a war to the
DEATH against the Revolution's enemies!"
According to "The Black Book of Communism," those firing-squad
executions had reached around 10,000 by that time. "I don't need proof
to execute a man," snapped Che to a judicial underling in 1959. "I only
need proof that it's necessary to execute him!"
Not that you'd surmise any of the above from the mainstream media or
academia-much less Hollywood. From the high priests of the Fourth
Estate, Che Guevara gets only accolades. Time magazine, for instance,
honors Che Guevara among "The 100 Most Important People of the Century."
The man who declared, "a revolutionary must become a cold killing
machine motivated by pure hate" (and set a spirited example), who
boasted that he executed from "revolutionary conviction" rather than
from any "archaic bourgeois details" like judicial evidence, and who
urged "atomic extermination" as the final solution for those American
"hyenas" (and came hearth-thumpingly close with Nuclear missiles in
October 1962), is hailed by Time-not just among the "most important"
people of the century-but in the "Heroes and Icons" section, alongside
Anne Frank, Andrei Sakharov and Rosa Parks.
"If the nuclear missiles had remained we would have used them against
the very heart of America, including New York City," Che Guevara
confided to the London Daily Worker in November 1962. "We will march the
path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims. ... We must
keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm." This was Che's
prescription for America almost half a century before Osama bin Laden,
Mullah Omar and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appeared on our radar screens.
But for the prudence of Nikita Khrushchev, Che Guevara's fondest wish
would have made New York's 9/11 explosions appear like an errant cherry
bomb. Yet listed alongside Che Guevara in Time's "Heroes and Icons of
the Century," is Mother Theresa. From here the ironies only get richer.
The most popular version of the Che T-shirt, for instance, sports the
slogan "fight oppression," under his famous face. This is the face of a
man who co-founded a regime that jailed more of its subjects than
Stalin's and declared that "individualism must disappear!" In 1959, with
the help of Soviet GRU agents, the man celebrated on that T-shirt helped
found, train and indoctrinate Cuba's secret police. "Always interrogate
your prisoners at night," Che ordered his goons. "A man's resistance is
always lower at night." Today the world's largest Che mural adorns
Cuba's Ministry of the Interior, the headquarters for Cuba's KGB and
STASI trained secret police. Nothing could be more fitting.
Yet somehow, this same image is considered the height of hipness on
everything from shirts, watches and snowboards, to thong underwear and
an undisclosed location on Angelina Jolie's epidermis. Jolie, by the
way, recently won the UN's "Global Humanitarian Award" for her work with
Will someone please inform Angelina Jolie that her tattoo idol, with his
firing squads and prison-camps, provoked one of the biggest refugee
crises in the history of this hemisphere. On top of the 2 million who
made it with only the clothes on their back, the Cuban Archives project
meticulously compiled and documented by scholars Maria Werlau and Dr.
Armando Lago, estimate that close to 80,000 Cubans have died of thirst
and exposure, drowning, or been ripped apart by sharks attempting to
flee the handiwork of the man "Ms Global Humanitarian" honors by having
him permanently emblazoned on her skin.
Not that ignorance, willful or otherwise, is exactly rare on the topic
of Cuba or Che Guevara. When Carlos Santana and Eric Burdon (among many
other rockers) smugly sport their elegant Che T-shirts they plug a
regime that in the mid to late 1960s rounded up "roqueros" (Cuban
rock-n-roll fans) and long hairs en masse, and herded them into prison
camps for forced labor under a scorching sun. These young prisoners'
"counter-revolutionary crimes" often involved nothing more than
listening to music by the Animals and Santana.
When Madonna camped it up in her Che outfit for the cover of her
American Life CD she plugged a regime that criminalized gays and
anything smacking of gay mannerisms. In the mid-1960s, the crime of
effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba's streets
and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with "Work Will
Make Men Out of You," in bold letters above the gate (the one at
Auschwitz' gate read: "Work Will Set You Free) and with machine gunners
posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not
GULAG. But the conditions were identical.
"Iron" Mike Tyson used to end fights with his arms upraised in triumph.
In 2002 he got a huge Che tattoo on his torso, visited Cuba and has been
consistently and horribly stomped in fight after fight ever since, a
process perfectly mimicking the combat record of his tattoo idol. Che
was indeed proficient at smiting his enemies-thousands of them-but only
after they were bound, gagged and blindfolded. Chances are, nobody
disclosed this to you in Cuba, much less in the mainstream media. But
I'm afraid the National Boxing Federation won't allow it anyway.
When the crowd of A-list hipsters and beautiful people at the Sundance
Film Festival (which included everyone from Tipper and Al Gore to Sharon
Stone, Meryl Streep and Paris Hilton) exploded in a rapturous standing
ovation for Robert Redford's "The Motorcycle Diaries," they were
cheering a film glorifying a man who jailed or exiled most of Cuba's
best writers, poets and independent film-makers while converting Cuba's
press and cinema-at Czech machine-gun point-into propaganda agencies for
a Stalinist regime.
Executive producer of the movie, Robert Redford (who always kicks off
the film festival with a long dirge about the importance of artistic
freedom), was forced to screen the film for Che's widow (who heads
Cuba's Che Guevara Studies Center) and Fidel Castro for their approval
before release. We can only imagine the shrieks of outrage from the
Sundance crowd-about "censorship!" and "selling out!"-had, say, Robert
Ackerman required (and acquiesced in) Nancy Reagan's approval to release
HBO's "The Reagans" that same year.
Che groupies are many and varied. Christopher Hitchens, for instance,
marvels at Che's "untamable defiance" and assures us in the same New
York Times article that "Che was no hypocrite."
The noted historian Benicio Del Toro, who won the best actor award in
Cannes for his starring role as Che in Steven Soderbergh's biopic
"Guerrilla" says, "Che was just one of those guys who walked the walk
and talked the talk. There's just something cool about people like that.
The more I get to know Che, the more I respect him."
More than his cruelty, megalomania or even his epic stupidity, what most
distinguished Ernesto "Che" Guevara from his peers was his sniveling
cowardice. One day before his death in Bolivia, Che Guevara-for the
first time in his life-finally faced something properly describable as
combat. So he ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight
to their last breaths and to their last bullet. A few hours later his
"untamable defiance," lack of hypocrisy and "walking of the walk" all
manifested themselves. With his men doing just what he ordered (fighting
and dying to the last bullet) a slightly wounded Che snuck away from the
firefight and surrendered with a full clip in his pistol while
whimpering to his captors: "Don't Shoot! I'm Che. I'm worth more to you
alive than dead!"
His Bolivian captors begged to differ.
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real
Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.