Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

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LOS ULTIMOS DIAS DEL CHE GUEVARA | THE LAST DAYS OF CHE GUEVARA

Estaba en la sombra. La sombra del interior de su domicilio de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, la laberíntica ciudad de los siete anillos, lo protegía del sol de noviembre que aquel viernes había dado una tregua en la capital más grande del oriente boliviano.

Lo vimos desde el otro lado de la reja color verde claro que protege el jardincillo de la vivienda. No había timbre ni llamador alguno, así que fue necesario golpear con el candado para advertir de nuestra presencia. Él se dio la vuelta para mirar quién tocaba, pero la que salió fue una mujer de edad indefinida con una pañoleta que le sujetaba el cabello.

-Buenas tardes…

-Buenas tardes.

-¿Sí?

-Estamos buscando a don Mario.

-¿De parte de quién?

-El señor que me acompaña está trabajando en un informe sobre la Operación Milagro y queremos hablar con él.

-Ya. Ahoringa… un ratito, ¿ya?

Sonido exclusivo del hombre que mató al Ché ANA GONZÁLEZ RUEDA
Y mientras esperamos, hablamos del caos urbano de aquella ciudad en la que muchas casas, como aquella, tenían dos direcciones en su puerta. Esa casa, además, tenía dos perros, un mestizo de razas imposibles de definir y un rottweiler que se limitaban a retozar mientras aguardábamos.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre
Estaba en la sombra y desnudo de la cintura para arriba. Por lo que alcanzábamos a divisar desde el otro lado de la reja, era un hombre que aparentaba su edad, 72 años, con escaso cabello blanco y una notoria barriga.

A través de la ventana abierta por la que lo veíamos, él también pudo vernos, y ahí mismo, en la salita de su casa desde donde podíamos verlo, se puso una polera sin mangas color mostaza y caminó hacia la puerta.

Cruzó el pequeño jardín en el que todas las plantas estaban en macetas sostenidas por floreros de hierro soldado y llegó hasta la reja. Por fin, después de 47 años había salido de las sombras y estaba frente a nosotros.

-Hola…

-Buenas tardes.

-Buenas tardes, señores…

Abrió la reja, que chirrió como saludando también. Entramos preguntando si los perros eran mansos y él dijo que sí. Llegamos al pequeño porche donde había algunos asientos y nos preguntó si queríamos hablar ahí o adentro, en la salita. “Mejor adentro que está más fresco”.

Entramos, nos sentamos e iniciamos una charla de 23 minutos y 32 segundos con Mario Terán Salazar, el hombre que mató al Che Guevara.

La confesión

En la salita de su casa no existe un solo retrato de él en sus tiempos del Ejército boliviano. En la mesita que está frente al sofá donde se sienta él hay una foto familiar. Allí se puede ver a un Mario Terán abuelo, rodeado de hijos y nietos, en una evidente actitud patriarcal. Han pasado 47 años y el sargento Terán, que se jubiló como suboficial mayor y ahora cumple los 72, juega al escondite con las palabras. Es él. No es él. Verdad. Mentira. Ésa ha sido su vida desde el 9 de octubre de 1967 en que ocurrió todo. Por eso una mentira, que enseguida es desvelada, nos ha llevado a su fortín de verdes rejas. A las primeras, don Mario desmiente a Granma, el periódico cubano que había voceado el milagro: médicos de la revolución devuelven la visión en Bolivia al hombre que mató al Che. “No, no… No es como se dice que me han devuelto la vista. Falso. Yo no estaba ciego, una simple catarata tenía, y como están viendo me han fregado, me han dejado el ojo [derecho] colorado”.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

Sosteniendo tranquilamente la mirada, sin apenas parpadear, intentamos ver en el soldado agazapado que se sienta a poco más de un metro de nosotros a aquel sargento de la confesión por escrito. El mandado que dio testimonio secreto para la superioridad del día de la matanza en la mísera escuela de La Higuera donde el héroe de la revolución cubana dio con sus huesos, y su sangre, en la tierra: «Cuando llegué, el Che estaba sentado… Al verme me dijo: “Usted ha venido a matarme”. Yo me sentí cohibido y bajé la cabeza sin responder. Yo no me atrevía a disparar. En ese momento vi al Che grande, muy grande. Sentía que se me echaba encima y cuando me miró fijamente me dio un mareo. Pensé que con un movimiento rápido podía quitarme el arma. “Póngase sereno, usted va a matar a un hombre”. Entonces di un paso atrás, hacia el umbral de la puerta, cerré los ojos y disparé la primera ráfaga. El Che cayó al suelo con las piernas destrozadas, se contorsionó y comenzó a regar muchísima sangre. Yo recobré el ánimo y disparé la segunda ráfaga, que lo alcanzó en un brazo, en un hombro y en el corazón…”.

¿Es ciertamente él? Hasta tres nombres de Mario Terán se han dado, en lo que parece una ceremonia orquestada de la confusión o el camuflaje, para poner identidad al sargento que mató al guerrillero Ramón (el Che): Mario Terán Ortuño, Mario Terán Reque y Mario Terán Salazar. Tenía entonces 25 años, corta estatura (no más de 1,60), nariz chica, piel cobriza y ojos claros. El señor Mario es pequeño y el poco pelo que le resta ha emblanquecido con el tiempo. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

-¿Es cierto que usted formaba parte del grupo que detuvo al Che?

-No es cierto. Habíamos dos o tres Marios Teranes (sic) en el Ejército, pero con diferentes apellidos maternos…

-En estos años otros periodistas [Jon Lee Anderson, el gran biógrafo del Che entre ellos] han venido a intentar hablar con usted…

-Puede ser, pero nunca he tenido charlas con nadie…

-Ha escrito, en cambio, Douglas Duarte, que llegó de Brasil, que un día usted terminó reconociéndole que era el hombre que mató el Che pese a que durante dos días le mantuvo que usted se llamaba Pedro Salazar. También le dijo: “Sólo yo sé cómo es vivir con esto. No puedo ni quiero hablar”.

-[Carraspea levemente antes de responder…] No.

-Porque, de serlo, a usted no le importaría reconocer que sí, que es el hombre que lo mató.

-…No [es casi un susurro].
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre
-Pero usted sabe, porque es Historia, que fue el sargento Mario Terán quien, cumpliendo órdenes [“saluden a papá” fueron las palabras en clave], disparó al Che en la escuelita de La Higuera.

-Como les digo, somos dos, tres Marios Teranes.

-¿Y usted no es él?

-No soy yo…

-Le enseño, señor Mario, una foto… [en ese momento le mostramos la única imagen conocida hasta hoy del sargento que mató al mito, tomada dos meses después de la ejecución]

– Sí, soy yo…

Cochabamba. Diciembre de 1967. “Allí me la tomaron, en la puerta de la escuela… Había varios que insistían en quererme fotografiar y hablar conmigo. Y justo salí a la calle. Y bueno, ya. Me posé y es la única foto…”.

A sangre fría

Aquel retrato recorrió el mundo como la pólvora. La periodista francesa de Paris Match que la logró, Michèle Ray, tiempo después esposa del cineasta Costa Gavras, mostró el rostro del verdugo y un scoop (30 de diciembre de 1967) con dinamita: el Che fue asesinado a sangre fría. Y así tituló el libro que terminaría escribiendo al poco la bella Michelle: In cold blood.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre
La misma foto que le mostramos a Mario Terán Salazar (ésa ante la que respondió sin titubeos: “Sí, soy yo”) recibe al instante la autentificación del capitán Gary Prado, el oficial que capturó al Che: “Es él…”

-¿Está seguro? ¿Éste es Mario Terán, el hombre que mató al Che?

-Sí. Y no se le puede culpar de lo ocurrido. Las circunstancias le llevaron a eso, no más… Cuando le sacaron esa foto le hice una recomendación: “No te metas en este baile, ¡carajo!”. ¿Por qué le aconsejé que se quedara callado? Para que no hubiera venganza contra él… Y me hizo caso.

Además de certificarnos que el hombre que salió de la sombra y desnudo de cintura para arriba de su casa con rejas verdes era el mismo, 47 años después, que mató al Che como le ordenaron, Gary Prado no esconde que siguen siendo amigos: “Fui su instructor en la Escuela de Sargentos durante años. Llegó a suboficial mayor, su grado máximo, y se jubiló. Lo veo ocasionalmente aquí en Santa Cruz”.

El clavo del Che

Cuando, en 1987, el hoy general retirado Gary Prado Salmón escribió La guerrilla inmolada. La campaña del Che en Bolivia [le compramos por 100 bolivianos la tercera edición, que nos firma], hacía ya 20 años de “los sucesos de La Higuera”. Hoy nos recibe en su casa de Santa Cruz, donde está confinado en “detención domiciliaria” desde mayo de 2010, por su supuesta implicación en el denominado caso Terrorismo. Acusaciones que pesan sobre él: terrorismo y alzamiento armado, por su presunto papel de principal asesor de Eduardo Rózsa (a quien muchos llamaban El Che de la derecha). Él lo resume así: “Alguien se quiere quitar el clavo conmigo por la cuestión del Che. Pura venganza”.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre
Gary Prado, que en 1967 tenía 28 años y llevaba uno de capitán, será siempre recordado como el hombre que apresó al Che. “Lo entregué vivo… y luego lo mataron”, se explica. También sabe de primera mano quién terminó ejecutando la orden: uno de sus soldados, Mario Terán Salazar. “Tengo la versión correcta de la ejecución que me contaron los propios participantes. Fue así. Cuando el coronel Joaquín Zenteno recibe por radio la orden (“Saludos a papá”, fueron las palabras en clave), hizo llamar a los suboficiales y sargentos que había en La Higuera (tres suboficiales y cuatro sargentos). Les transmitió la orden y pidió voluntarios. Los siete se ofrecieron, y entonces Zenteno señaló con su índice a dos: usted, a Willy; y usted, indicó con el dedo a Mario Terán, al Che. Hay que ponerse en el lugar y en el momento. Teníamos soldados muertos también y estábamos con mucha adrenalina allí toditos. Así que cogieron sus carabinas M2, se dieron la vuelta y entraron a los cuartos donde estaban los prisioneros. No hubo palabras ni despedidas ni discursos. No correspondía. Después han aparecido versiones, que si apunte bien, que si va a matar a un hombre… El propio Mario Terán no ha hecho nunca una declaración pública. Lo demás son elucubraciones. Ha habido en todos estos años un gran esfuerzo para crear el mito…”.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

La idea de Gary Prado es que el Che, después de que Fidel Castro hiciera pública su carta de despedida, cuando aún estaba en el Congo, donde renunciaba a todos sus cargos y derechos que la Revolución le había otorgado, inició su aventura en Bolivia con la intención de quedarse en la zona del río Ñancahuazú hasta vencer o morir. “No tenía a dónde ir. Fidel le había obligado a un exilio forzoso y clandestino en Praga de varios meses, hasta permitir su retorno encubierto a La Habana para, elegido el personal y organizado el programa de apoyo, iniciar su aventura en Bolivia. Y aquí la guerrilla fue prácticamente abandonada a su suerte”. Vencer o morir. Y no venció.

La batalla final

El 8 de octubre de 1967, cuando llegó la hora de la batalla final del Ejército boliviano con el ya acorralado grupo guerrillero del Che, el sargento Mario Terán Salazar estaba allí, moviéndose entre las quebradas del terreno. Amanecía cuando el subteniente Carlos Pérez, al frente de la compañía A estacionada en La Higuera, y en la que figuraba Terán, pidió al capitán Prado que verificara la información del campesino Honorato Rojas: la presencia de 17 hombres extraños en las quebradas de las proximidades, del Churo y la Tusca. Pronto comenzó el combate. Murieron el grueso de los guerrilleros y muchos soldados. Desde las alturas del terreno, Gary Prado dispuso a sus hombres para cortar la huida a quienes intentaran escapar de la encerrona, con fuego de mortero y ametralladora. Cuando el Che, herido y jadeando por el asma, asomó la cabeza quebrada arriba, tras una subida por un paredón, su suerte estaba echada. «Mi capitán, mi capitán, aquí hay dos [el propio Che y el boliviano Simón Cuba Willy], los hemos agarrado», gritó un soldado. Eran las 15.30 horas del 8 de octubre en la quebrada del Churo, a tres kilómetros del poblado de La Higuera. Palabra de Gary Prado:

-¿Quién es usted?- pregunté al más alto antes de pedirle que me mostrara la mano izquierda para verificar la cicatriz que sabía que tenía en el dorso. Llevaba una boina negra con el emblema del CITE, uniforme de soldado completamente sucio, una chamarra azul con capucha y el pecho casi desnudo, pues la blusa no tenía botones…

-Soy Che Guevara-me respondió en voz baja-, me destrozaron el arma cuando su ametralladora empezó a disparar. Supongo que no me van a matar, valgo más para ustedes vivo que muerto… ¿No le parece, capitán, una crueldad tener a un herido amarrado?

Lo teníamos atado a un pequeño árbol, y entonces me mostró la pantorrilla. Y vi que tenía un proyectil. “Desátenle las manos”, ordené. Fue cuando me pidió agua, y yo que me acordé de Himmler y algunos jerarcas nazis que se suicidaron con una cápsula de veneno al ser apresados, le di de beber de mi propia cantimplora, evitando la suya. Le ofrecí luego tabaco. “Es muy suave ese Pacific… ¿tiene alguien Astoria?”, se dirigió a mis soldados.

La radio PRC-10 que Gary Prado llevaba consigo no tardó en transmitir a Vallegrande la captura del Che: “Tengo a Papá y Willy. Papá herido leve. Combate continúa. Capitán Prado”.

Cuando capitán y guerrillero abatido se vieron por última vez, el Che tenía los ojos cerrados y la mandíbula abierta. Lo ataban a los patines del helicóptero que lo llevaría a Vallegrande, y Gary Prado tomó su verde pañuelo militar y se lo ató en la cabeza al Che para encajarle la quijada. Llegó a su destino con la boca cerrada y, “seguro que por el viento”, los ojos abiertos y más grandes que nunca. “Él me seguía con la mirada. Unos ojos grandes, vivos. Yo iba para un lado y me miraban, iba para el otro lado y me miraban”, cuenta la enfermera Susana Osinaga, a la que se encomendó que lo lavara, afeitara y peinara. Hasta le enfundó un pijama limpio, y tan reluciente quedó -frente a sus compañeros, amontonados a los pies de los fregaderos de la lavandería del hospital Nuestro Señor de Malta, inmundos, con expresión de fieras vencidas-, que enseguida el teniente coronel Andrés Selich ordenó revestirlo con sus ropas ensangrentadas. Las ya históricas fotos de Freddy Alborta del Che difunto en Vallegrande dan fe de todo ello. Y de la expectación que arrastró hasta el último momento: más de un millar de personas visitó la lavandería aquel 10 de octubre de 1967.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre Los ‘rolex’ del Che

De lo ocurrido un día antes queda también este diálogo, que Gary Prado ha incorporado a su libro. Él y el Che.

-Capitán, hay algo más que puede hacer por mí, aunque no sé cómo decirlo.

-Dígalo, no tenga reparos.

-Tenía conmigo dos relojes, uno mío y otro de uno de mis compañeros, que me fueron quitados por los soldados cuando veníamos hacia aquí.

El capitán Gary Prado, cuenta él mismo hoy, reaccionó rápido. Él no había autorizado aquello, y sabía quiénes habían acompañado al Che herido desde El Churo, donde fue capturado y maniatado a un árbol, hasta La Higuera. “Salí y los hice llamar de inmediato. Efectivamente tenían los relojes, dos Rolex Oyster Perpetual, de acero inoxidables, idénticos….

-Acá tiene sus relojes. Nadie se los quitará- le dije volviendo a la escuela.

-Me temo que son muy notorios… Preferiría que me los guarde usted hasta cuando pueda recuperarlos o para que se los haga llegar a los míos cuando sea posible. ¿Me haría ese favor?”.

El suyo, el del Che, que para ello tomó una piedrecilla del suelo de su celda, lo marcó haciéndole una cruz en la parte interior. En su casa de Santa Cruz, el hoy retirado general Gary Prado asoma una sonrisa de orgullo y remata. “El único que no se quedó con nada [del Che] fui yo”. La célebre pipa, “creo que sí”, la retuvo en prenda Mario Terán.

La maldición

Desaparecer, esa fue la orden que Prado, y de alguna forma los oficiales bolivianos que participaron en la captura y muerte del Che, dieron a Mario Terán. ¿La maldición del Che? Lo crea o no Gary Prado, que no cree en ella, hasta siete involucrados en los sucesos de La Higuera y Vallegrande han muerto de forma violenta. El mismísimo presidente, René Barrientos Ortuño, el que dio la orden de ejecución, falleció cuando el helicóptero en el que volaba se desplomó cerca de Cochabamba, la ciudad donde nació Mario Terán. Aún hoy, aunque es pura especulación, hay quien dice que fue un atentado y no un accidente.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre
El general Alfredo Ovando Candia, jefe del Estado Mayor en 1967 y otro de los que tomaron la decisión, fue asesinado en Argentina en un atentado perpetrado por la Triple A, mientras el coronel Joaquín Zenteno, el que eligió a Mario para que ejecutara al Che, fue ultimado en París en 1976 por un comando guevarista. Aunque quizás el vértigo corría ya por la sangre de Terán desde el 15 de julio de 1969. En esa fecha, militares del segundo Ejército de Liberación Nacional, en el que se enrolaron algunos del primero (el del Che), invadieron la hacienda con que fue premiado Honorato Rojas, el campesino que condujo al Ejército hasta la guarida de la guerrilla, y lo mataron con varios disparos en la cabeza. Fatalidad tras fatalidad, la lista se fue alargando: el 10 de octubre de 1970, el teniente coronel Eduardo Huerta, el superior inmediato de Mario Terán, perdió la cabeza, decapitado, en un coche con un camión en la carretera que liga Oruro con la Paz. Y otra vez la sospecha de que hubo un plan, no sólo un accidente, para liquidarlo. Más lejos, en Hamburgo, encontró la muerte Roberto Quintanilla, el militar que habría propuesto cortar la cabeza del cadáver del guerrillero y habría intervenido en la amputación de las manos como le pidió el presidente. Era 1971 y Quintanilla, entonces cónsul de Bolivia, se tropezó con una mujer que le descerrajó tres tiros. En el bolsillo le dejó una nota: “¡Victoria o muerte!”. Horas después, un telegrama enviado a periódicos bolivianos reivindicaba el atentado en nombre del ELN.

En 1973, Andrés Selich, quien habría dispuesto y ejecutado la desaparición del cadáver del Che (no fue encontrado hasta tres décadas después), terminaría linchado por sus compañeros de armas. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

Finalmente, el 2 de junio de 1976, el entonces presidente depuesto de Bolivia, Juan José Torres Gonzales, fue secuestrado y posteriormente asesinado por un comando que habría actuado en el marco de la Operación Cóndor. Hoy, en el libro Jaque Mate: Cayó el Che, el Instituto de Investigación Histórica Militar (IIHM), del Ejército boliviano, afirma que fue Torres, en 1967 Jefe de Estado Mayor, quien sugirió ejecutar al Che para evitar mayores problemas de los que el juicio a Régis Debray ya le había causado a Bolivia.

E incluso la lista podría haber crecido si antes, en 1968, cuatro seguidores brasileños del Che no hubieran errado en su objetivo. Pretendían matar a Gary Prado y terminaron equivocándolo con un compañero que estudiaba con él en la Escuela Militar de Río, al que liquidaron de ocho tiros.

Un detalle que no consignan los cultivadores de la maldición del Che es que el hijo de René Barrientos, César Barrientos Galindo, también cayó en desgracia porque terminó drogadicto. En agosto de 2004 fue detenido y encarcelado por haber robado un automóvil y cometido delitos menores para financiar su adicción… Los detractores de la supuesta maldición creen que todos esos casos son coincidencia. El que más, Gary Prado, en silla de ruedas desde que una bala perdida terminara seccionándole la columna vertebral en 1981. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

Desde 2005, y eso es ya Historia, el país lo gobierna Evo Morales. Al conquistar la presidencia decoró la pared de su gabinete con un retrato del Che hecho con hojas de coca meticulosamente sobrepuestas… Mario quedó definitivamente al otro lado de la Historia, como el anverso invisible e innombrable de ese retrato. La sombra.

Los tres marios

“Habíamos tres Marios Teranes en el Ejército…”, es la letana que, a cada pregunta, repite el hombre que nunca estuvo ciego. Por ley, pudo jubilarse “tras más de 30 años de servicio”, con algún ascenso. Llegó a suboficial mayor de Infantería.

-¿Es decir, que durante toda su vida le han confundido con el otro?

-Seguramente.

-¿Con el que mató al Che Guevara?

-Seguramente.

-¿Y eso no le ha perjudicado a lo largo de estos 47 años? Que lo confundan con él, que lo busquen…

-No… Es lo que les puedo informar, no más.

-¿Recuerda, en todo caso, cómo vivió usted, dentro del Ejército como estaba, la muerte del Che?

-Como estaba alejado del sector de Ñancahuazú y La Higuera, vivíamos nuestra vida normal. Pero sí, sentíamos lo que estaba ocurriendo… sentíamos.

En realidad sí hubo tres Marios. Y ahí la herida. Ocurrió la víspera. Pero la tragedia entre los uniformados que acompañaban a Terán arranca meses antes, el 4 de abril de 1967, cuando a la compañía de Mario, la A del Regimiento Manchego de Bolivia, le tocó incursionar en la zona del río Ñancahuazú, en el sudeste boliviano. Su misión es triste y sobrecogedora: recoger los cadáveres de los compañeros emboscados 13 días atrás por un grupo de guerrilleros encabezados por Ernesto Che Guevara. Los cuerpos no habían podido ser recogidos por voluntarios de la Cruz Roja debido a que ya habían entrado en estado de descomposición y no había bolsas de plástico para transportarlos. Unos días más tarde, en otra emboscada, su propio comandante, el mayor Rubén Sánchez, sería tomado prisionero para ser liberado después por la guerrilla con el encargo de transmitir un mensaje al pueblo boliviano cuyo contenido jamás fue revelado.

Debido a ello, la compañía fue desmantelada y rearticulada. Al llegar octubre, estaba bajo el mando del capitán Celso Torrelio Villa. A esa altura, el Ejército ya había logrado algunas victorias contra los guerrilleros, capturado a Régis Debrey y Ciro Bustos y aniquilado al grupo de Juan Vitalio Acuña Núñez (Joaquín) mientras que el del Che Guevara estaba acorralado en la quebrada del Churo.

Eran la s 13.00 del domingo 8 de octubre de 1967 y las compañías A y B, esta última comandada por el capitán Gary Prado Salmón, ejecutaban la Operación Yunque y Martillo. La compañía A tenía la misión de empujar al grupo guerrillero contra el yunque de Prado.

“Son las 13.00 horas, los soldados se encontraban nerviosos, avanzando lentamente sobre un terreno fragoso, observaban cuidadosamente la maraña del monte, las grandes rocas y la arena de las sendas en busca de huellas, o algo que los alerte sobre una posible emboscada”, relata el sargento Bernardino Huanca, que dirigía una patrulla de la compañía B.

Mario Terán estaba en la patrulla de la A, liderada ese día por el subteniente Carlos Pérez, y debió tener su familia en su mente más que nunca ya que su esposa, Julia, estaba en los últimos meses de su embarazo. Debido a la campaña, no había podido obtener un permiso que le permitiera acompañarla, así que debía resignarse a saber de ella mediante cartas.

“De pronto, un soldado quedó paralizado por fracción de segundos -prosigue Huanca-. Ha detectado al enemigo. Grita ‘¡Sapos!’ y repite excitadamente ‘¡Allí están los sapos!’ disparando simultáneamente su carabina automática. El grito y los disparos provocaron una movilización general. Segundos después truenan los morteros. Gary Prado ha ordenado abrir fuego contra el fondo de la cañada. Cinco granadas estallan en la quebrada. Es el principio del fin”.

Terán estuvo en primera línea. Aquel, que fue el más duro combate en el que intervino, lo marcaría por el resto de su vida. No sólo por el fuego y la sangre que vio aquel día, sino porque dos amigos que se habían hecho entrañables para él, los dos llamados también Mario, murieron ante sus ojos. En eso no miente el jubilado que habla con nosotros: hubo tres Marios.

Tan importante debió de ser ese episodio de los tres Marios que el IIHM del Ejército de Bolivia lo describe así: “El sargento Mario Terán, en su progresión por el Churo, chocó con la vanguardia del grupo subversivo, que se encontraba en ese punto. Lanzó su ataque con admirable decisión. Terán, muy cerca de sus hombres, vio caer muertos a dos de sus soldados, Mario Characayo y Mario Lafuente. Este hecho le impactó profundamente en lo más íntimo de su ser, y muy pronto sería motivo de una decisión dramática”.

Esa decisión dramática sería matar al Che Guevara. Por eso, tal vez, dio un paso al frente cuando llegó la orden de ejecución desde La Paz en nombre del presidente René Barrientos: “Saluden a Papá”. Llegó por radio. A las 9.00 horas del 9 de octubre. Mario la recibió tiempo después. Y la ejecutó “a la una con 10 de la tarde”, si se cree lo que dejó por escrito en su diario el agente de la CIA Félix Rodríguez, llegado para verificar la identidad del apresado.

Enarca la ceja Gary Prado cuando se le refiere la declaración por escrito de Mario Terán dos años después de la matanza [su confesión secreta, dada a conocer por el general Luis Reque Terán en Argentina al periodista César Peña en 1978, al que mostró un dossier top secret que incluía 357 folios y 400 fotos]. “No sabía…”. Para el capitán Prado, Mario Terán nunca ha confesado, nunca ha hablado. Él se lo pidió.

Tal fue así que el nombre de Mario Terán Salazar se diluyó hasta hoy. Fue el Bono Dignidad, una paga de 250 bolivianos (unos 36 dólares) que Evo Morales reparte entre los mayores de 65 años, lo que le empujó a registrarse y dar completa su filiación, incluyendo dirección en Santa Cruz. Un rastro. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

El hijo del comerciante

Don Mario nació en Cochabamba el 9 de abril de 1941. Cuando vino al mundo, su padre, Vicente Terán, tenía 46 años y su madre, Candelaria Salazar, contaba con 45. Su nacimiento fue inscrito a mano en la página 27 de un libro de actas que tiene el sello del Registro Civil de Bolivia. Por la letra, las anotaciones son confusas y debajo del nombre de su padre se puede leer la palabra “comerciante”. Junto al sello están dos firmas y sólo en una se puede reconocer “VTerán”. La segunda es más bien un garabato y se presume que pertenece a la madre.

Aparentemente, ese registro manual fue la única certificación del nacimiento de Mario Terán Salazar durante 37 años. El 2 de agosto de 1978, cuando ya habían pasado más de 10 años de la muerte del Che, su inscripción de nacimiento fue regularizada mediante una orden judicial. En esa fecha, su esposa, Julia Peralta Salas, lo registra bajo la partida 143. Curiosamente, se modifica su fecha de nacimiento porque se mantiene la del 9 de abril, pero se cambia el año a 1942.

Por alguna razón, Mario manejó el dato de 1942 incluso en el momento de contraer matrimonio. Se casó el 21 de julio de 1965 en Montero, provincia Obispo Santistevan del departamento de Santa Cruz, con Faustino Fernández como testigo. En la partida de matrimonio ya figura su fecha de nacimiento como 9 de abril de 1942. Su esposa, Julia Peralta Salas, aparece como nacida el 21 de julio de 1945 y declara que se dedica a labores de casa. La casilla de “ocupación” del contrayente está en blanco.

Mario y Julia tuvieron seis hijos. El primero se llama como él y actualmente tiene 49 años; el segundo es Víctor Hugo, 47 años, que tiene como domicilio la Arboleda de Fátima, en Santa Cruz, pero parece vivir con su padre porque está en su casa a toda hora. Tiene vitíligo y se encarga de espantar a los periodistas que intentan entrevistar a su padre. En 2007 amedrentó al reportero Douglas Duarte y repitió su actitud con nosotros cuando volvimos al día siguiente. «Yo trabajo con el Gobierno, para que sepás», advirtió en tono amenazador.

El resto de su filiación está integrada por mujeres: Ana María (45 años), Ana Karina (43), Janet (34) y Abigaíl (20). En el caso de Janet también hubo rectificaciones en su partida de nacimiento porque en la original aparece como Yanet.

Una de sus hijas, probablemente Ana María, la que nos atendió primero, no ocultó su nerviosismo mientras hablábamos con su padre. En algún momento de la conversación le preguntó, desde adentro, a qué hora se desocuparía y él respondió “enseguida” pero haciendo prevalecer su condición de jefe de familia.

Mario es el abuelo. Alguna vez -aunque a nosotros también nos lo niega durante el encuentro- ha contado que viajó al extranjero. A Estados Unidos, Virginia exactamente, donde se localiza Langley, la sede de la CIA, aunque él dijo que trabajó allí de jardinero. También a España, donde viven al menos dos de sus hijas.

El invasor idolatrado

-¿Y ahora, pasado todo este tiempo, qué piensa hoy del Che?

-Para mí, y para la mayor parte, ha sido un invasor… Tenía otras ideas que con su guerrilla quería inculcar en otra gente, en la gente boliviana… Y no como lo idolatran ahora. ¡Tanta gente ha caído!

-¿Habla con sus hijos del tema?

-No, nunca.

-¿Alguno de los seis que ha tenido ha seguido la carrera militar?

-No… Y me da alegría que a ninguno le haya llamado la atención la carrera militar.

-¿Ha visto alguna película de las que hay sobre el Che, ha leído algún libro o asistido a alguna obra de teatro sobre el personaje, sobre el mito?

-No, nunca, no… Nunca me ha interesado seguir cuanto se decía del Che. Yo tenía ideas diferentes… Nunca he sido un seguidor.

-Entonces, ¿insiste usted en que había dos o tres Mario Terán en el Ejército boliviano?

-Sí, así, mismos nombres pero con diferentes apellidos maternos… Aunque Mario Terán Salazar sólo hay uno. Yo…

Con un “ojalá les vaya bien” y un apretón de manos, Mario se levanta y da por concluido el encuentro. Las mujeres de la familia, desde otra habitación, llevaban ya un tiempo apremiándole… Han sido 23 minutos y 32 segundos cara a cara con el hombre, “el soldadito boliviano”, que mató con dos ráfagas de fusil al guerrillero Ramón, al jefe. A Ernesto Che Guevara.

***El resto de la historia ya es conocida. El Che se hizo icono, “santo”. A Mario, sin más, se lo tragó la tierra.

Juan José Toro es director del periódico “El Potosí”, de Potosí (Bolivia)
LA HIGUERA, EL SANTUARIO

La Higuera ni siquiera tiene nombre. Le decían -y le dicen- así porque en tiempos inmemoriales era un lugar en el que abundaban árboles de higo. “Era un caserío… no había más de 20 casas”, dice el general Gary Prado Salmón. Sus recuerdos son de 1967, de aquella campaña contra la guerrilla del Che a la que asistió con el grado de capitán. Entonces, la compañía B del Regimiento Manchego, la que había capturado a Ernesto Guevara y al boliviano Simeón Cuba Sarabia (Willy) en la Quebrada del Churo, tuvo que llevarlos hasta La Higuera porque era la población civil más próxima. En el lugar también estaba una casucha que hacía de escuela. Allí fueron encerrados, en cuartos separados, el Che y Willy. Allí pasaron su última noche, del 8 al 9 de octubre, soportando el clima de esta región del sudoeste boliviano, donde se juntan dioses andinos de las montañas y febriles deidades de la selva para hacer el amor y parir valles mesotérmicos que arden de calor en el día y calan los huesos en las noches. Otro general en retiro que combatió a la guerrilla, Luis Reque Terán, describió a La Higuera como un terreno accidentado, “monte bajo con algunos árboles altos, escasa población y muy dispersa, escasa vida animal, ganadería pobre…”. Ahí estuvo Willy. Ahí enfrentó la carabina de Bernardino Huanca. Ahí estuvo el Che. Ahí enfrentó la carabina de Mario Terán. Ahí fueron ejecutados los dos. La Higuera era un caserío en 1967 y lo sigue siendo. Sólo se pueden ver algunas casas alineadas a lo largo de un camino que ahora remata en un busto del Che. El mensaje debajo: “Tu ejemplo alumbra un nuevo amanecer”. La escuelita ya no es escuelita. Mantiene la apariencia que debió de tener en 1967 y está pintada, cubierta con teja colonial y en su interior existen recuerdos del Che. A los escasos visitantes del lugar les gusta decir que el sitio en el que fue ejecutado es un museo. Afuera hay pintadas, consignas revolucionarias y banderas, abundan las bolivianas y cubanas. La Higuera es ahora un destino turístico. Forma parte de La ruta del Che que es ofrecida por varias agencias de viaje. Cubre todo el camino que recorrió Guevara encabezando a sus guerrilleros, muestra los lugares donde combatió, donde fue capturado y sí, muestra La Higuera. Afuera del museo no está un busto sino una estatua de cuerpo entero. La miras y recuerdas que, si bien el Che murió en aquel lugar, ahí también nació su mito… su leyenda. Y al tiempo de marcharte, siguiendo viaje rumbo a Vallegrande, te enteras que aquel caserío que depende del municipio de Pucará todavía no tiene nombre, pero los lugareños ya le dieron uno: “San Ernesto de La Higuera”.
TODO SOBRE EL CHE

Nació en Rosario (Argentina) el 14 de mayo de 1928. Antes de Cuba, nunca fue el Che: su familia le decía Ernestito / Estudió Medicina en Buenos Aires / Pasó a México en 1954 y se inscribió en el Movimiento 26 de Julio de Fidel Castro / Fue uno de los ideólogos y comandantes de la Revolución cubana / Partió rumbo a Cuba en el yate ‘Granma’ en 1956, con 82 militantes entre los que estaba Castro / Comandó la toma de Santa Clara en 1958. El presidente Batista escapó el 1 de enero de 1959 / Desempeñó cargos en la Cuba revolucionaria: ministro de Industria, presidente del Banco Nacional… / Intentó llevar la revolución a otros países, como Argentina, Congo o Bolivia, donde fue asesinado en 1967 / Su figura ha inspirado decenas de películas, incluidas ‘Diarios de Motocicleta’ (2004) y ‘Che’ (2008) / Su foto con boina y melena, de Alberto Korda, es una de las más reproducidas del mundo.The Death of Che Guevara | La Muerte del Che Guevara
BY BJORN KUMM

Originally published on November 11, 1967.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

They brought Che Guevara at five o’clock in the afternoon of October 9 to the airfield outside the small town of Vallegrande in southeastern Bolivia. The fighting had been fierce. Che had been among the first casualties and his comrades had been fighting viciously to recover the body. They failed. Most of them also fell, among them Che’s Cuban bodyguards Antonio and Pancho. The remainder, after 30 hours of battle, managed to get away, pursued by the Bolivian army’s tough, US-trained Rangers.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 

 

Che’s body was brought in tied to the landing shafts of a helicopter, swirling gently down at the airport one hour before dusk. A car was waiting at the far end of the field; so were, it seemed, most of Vallegrande’s 10,000 inhabitants. Soldiers tried to keep the crowds away, but as the helicopter touched down, they lost control. Even the soldiers ran toward the helicopter, and behind them came the crowds. When eventually they came to their senses, the soldiers turned about and pointed menacingly at the civilians, forcing them to stay where they were. From the air it must have looked like a gigantic chess game, with pawns frozen in absurd positions. Meanwhile, the helicopter unloaded the body into the automobile, and the car rapidly took off toward the hospital of Vallegrande.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 



That is where, a few minutes later, I got my first glimpse of Guevara. They had taken him to an outdoor morgue that looked rather more like a stable on a small hill above the hospital. About 10 persons–doctors, soldiers, nurses–were around the body, working frantically. A nun dressed in white was standing at the body’s head. Now and then she smiled gently. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

At flrst, I thought Che was still alive. It looked as if the doctors were administering a blood transfusion. Through two openings in the neck, they were injecting liquid from a vessel being held by a soldier standing with his legs wide apart above the body. Then I was told they were filling the body with formalin to embalm it.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

It was a ghastly sight. Not so much because of the corpse, whose face as the soldiers lifted its head seemed rather peaceful. But there was the white-clad nun, smiling encouragingly; and the laughing soldiers who were slapping each others’ backs; and a sturdy man in battle dress and an American T-shirt, with a very modern machine-gun, who seemed somehow to be in charge of the whole performance.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

He saw to it that the fingerprints were properly taken. He waved at the soldiers not to disturb the doctors and nurses at work, and above all he seemed bent on keeping journalists away. Earlier in the day he had ejected two British journalists from Vallegrande’s airfield, as they were taking pictures of the troops. He was overheard saying, “Let’s get the hell out of here,” in a most American way. But at this point he was taciturn, answered questions only in Spanish, and shied away from having his photograph taken. His name is Ramos, one of the Bolivian journalists told me. He is a Cuban refugee, employed, the journalist said, by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Americans brought him and a half-dozen other Cubans here to interrogate guerrilla prisoners.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 

This, then, was to be Che Guevara’s fate: a slab of meat tied to a helicopter, carried from the battlefield in the jungle to a morgue in Vallegrande, laid out in front of the press, and– to top it all–identified and inspected by a refugee gusano from Cuba, whose pleasure and satisfaction it was to check personally that his most hated enemy, next to Fidel Castro, was dead. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

As long as they were busy filling the body with formalin, it was rather difficult to see who it really was. The head was thrown back, the long hair was dangling and almost touching the floor. The stench of the formalin was almost impossible to stomach. Suddenly, one of the soldiers grabbed the body by its hair and yanked it into a sitting position.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre



There was no doubt about it. It was Che, much slimmer than he used to be in the old photographs, smiling at Punta del Este, cutting cane in Cuba. But that seemed to be a normal consequence of half a year in the Bolivian jungle. He didn’t look emaciated, as one had been given to believe by Bolivian army reports that Che, known as “Ramon” among the Bolivian guerrillas, was a very sick man, suffering from asthma and rheumatism, and finding it impossible to walk. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

I recalled a picture that had been hanging in every newsstand in La Paz during the last month. It was originally from Paris-Match and showed Che delightfully stretched out on a sofa, like some kind of male model for a female edition of Playboy. That picture was supposedly taken shortly before his disappearance from Cuba in 1965. Crowds had stood around that picture in La Paz, reading eagerly every word about the mysterious Number One Revolutionary of Latin America. And now here, in the improvised morgue which had been set up at Vallegrande, the picture had its dreadful counterpart.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre They were washing the body. “Show some respect,” a Bolivian army sergeant exhorted the journalists, “at least don’t take pictures of him in the nude.” A captain threateningly showed a film he had grabbed from a bystander’s camera and confiscated. The soldiers were trying to dress the body. They got the trousers on, but when they tried to put on the jacket, it turned out that the arms were already getting stiff. And so they had to give up their attempt.

General Ovando, chief of the Bolivian armed forces, was inspecting the ceremony in person. One of the radio reporters, representing a station in Santa Cruz, talked into his tape recorder: “This is Vallegrande. The leader of the Castro communist invasion of our fatherland has fallen here, thanks to the effort of the Bolivian armed forces, commanded by the glorious General Ovando.” The general smiled a delphic smile.

How had Che died? He had been captured Sunday night, the army said; he was mortally wounded and had died early Monday morning. Impossible, the doctors said. Che died from wounds in the heart and both lungs, around noon Monday, five or six hours before he was brought to Vallegrande. What conclusion must one draw?–that Che had been coolly executed after his capture. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

If the army officials had stuck to one story from the beginning, they would have fared better. But while Colonel Zenteno, chief of the Eighth Division in Santa Cruz, who was directly responsible for the killing of Che, maintained Che had died immediately, officials higher up talked freely of what Che had said and how he had acted after his capture. I flew to Vallegrande in a military transport plane from Santa Cruz, together with Admiral Ugarteche, commander-in-chief of the Bolivian navy, who said: “I have been told that Che’s last words were: ‘I am Che. Don’t kill me. I have failed.’ I have the impression he wanted to save his life. It’s very often like that. In battle, you don’t feel fear, but afterwards you become a coward.”

The crowd outside the hospital had broken through the gates and were now streaming upwards toward the morgue. The soldiers kept them at a distance, but when finally the body was brought out on a stretcher for the benefit of the journalists, men, women, little girls came forward and the soldiers carrying the stretcher dropped it. For a short while, I thought the crowd was going to tear the body apart. Then the soldiers once again gained control and the body was brought back to the morgue. That’s where I threw a last glance at it. “The forehead,” I thought, “those very heavy, almost swollen lobes above the eyebrows, that ought to be one of the surest ways to identify Che.”

I looked at the body. The lobes were very heavy, strongly accentuated. If this was not Che, it was his twin brother.

We went by jeep back to Santa Cruz, and then on to La Paz to tell the world Che was gone. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

He had left Cuba in March 1965 because there was no longer a place for him in the Cuban political leadership and because the Russians on whom the Cubans depend in order to survive the American embargo, wanted Guevara out of the way. He was their enemy. On his last official journey around the world, in the spring of 1965, Che had caused a sensation in Algiers when he made a scathing attack on the Russians. Then Guevara returned home and disappeared. It did not seem far-fetched to assume he had been liquidated.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre Only now is it possible to piece together Che’s itinerary after his disappearance. He seems to have traveled widely in Latin America, appearing now and then in Guatemala, where guerrillas are active, in Peru and in Brazil. He used various passports, some of which the Bolivian government found in a dead guerrilla fighter’s mochila. He may have been in the Congo. He most certainly at one time or another was in North Vietnam, where the hard-core Bolivian guerrillas were sent for training as a kind of revolutionary counterpart to the American Special Forces who get their training in South Vietnam and use their knowledge to train highly efficient Bolivian Rangers. For a couple of weeks during the spring of 1966, Guevara was in Paris; then in late 1966, he arrived in Bolivia.

His affection for Bolivia apparently began when, as a young student in the fifties, he had bummed his way around Latin America. Bolivia had had a glorious revolution; its army had been completely wiped out in three days of heavy battle in April 1952; the tin mines had been nationalized, the large estates broken up. But the army was recreated by President Victor Paz Estenssoro; life for the miners was still bad; land reform did nothing to improve agriculture; the peasants’ trade unions soon turned into armed gangs used by sindicato leaders for their own ends.

It was easy for Che Guevara to conclude later that the Bolivian revolution had failed because it hadn’t gone whole hog as had the Cuban’s. But he apparently had no illusions that the Bolivians could repeat, the Cuban pattern. For one thing, the Cuban revolution had taken place at a time when the Soviet Union was favorably inclined to helping revolutions in the Third World. This was no longer so, Che had observed; then too, the Cuban revolution was at the outset at least tolerated by the United States. But not even democratic liberal, “constitutional” revolutions, such as the one in the Dominican Republic in 1965, would any longer be tolerated by the US, he thought. A successful revolution in Bolivia would mean intervention on a massive scale by US troops, Che believed, and this actually was what he was aiming for. In his 1967 message to the Tricontinental Conference in Havana, written when he already was in Bolivia, he exhorted revolutionaries all over Latin America to create “two, three, many Vietnams” and try to bleed the American military forces to death. As he was writing that message, he himself was actively training his men in Kfancahuazu in southern Bolivia to do just that. Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

It is now known that Guevara appeared at a secret meeting in Prague in early May 1965, after his disappearance from Cuba. At the meeting, a group of Bolivians, who were later to become the nucleus of the guerrilla force, listened to Che explain that they had to prepare themselves by studying the revolutionary situation in Latin America, but above all by preparing themselves militarily. One of those attending was Coco Peredo, member of the Bolivian Communist Party’s Central Committee, and by profession a taxi driver in La Paz, who immediately proceeded to North Vietnam, where for the next year he and others were given training in guerrilla warfare. In late 1966, they resurfaced in Bolivia, where a farm had been bought, and where military training was taking place, much as Fidel and Che 10 years earlier had trained their troops on a deserted farm in the state of Michoacan in Mexico. But things didn’t go as planned. In early 1967, both the CIA and the Bolivian army were aware something was going on. A member of the original nucleus had talked, and, it is believed, had done so for money. In March, after a sudden battle with Bolivian troops in the area, the guerrillas had to move on hurriedly.

They did fairly well up till August. Then the Rangers encircled the main body of them. Joaquin, one of the Cuban advisers, and Tania, an Argentinian girl who served as liaison officer, and several others were killed at a river pass in August. In late September, Coco Peredo was killed. Less than two weeks later, Guevara.

MR. KUMM, a reporter for Aftonbladet, one of Stockholm’s leading dailies, was one of four correspondents present when Guevara’s body was brought to Vallegrande, Bolivia, last month.
Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 



More info: DeClassified Che Guevara
The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified

By Peter Kornbluh

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 5
For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Washington, D.C. – On October 9th, 1967, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was put to death by Bolivian soldiers, trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives. His execution remains a historic and controversial event; and thirty years later, the circumstances of his guerrilla foray into Bolivia, his capture, killing, and burial are still the subject of intense public interest and discussion around the world.

As part of the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project is posting a selection of key CIA, State Department, and Pentagon documentation relating to Guevara and his death. This electronic documents book is compiled from declassified records obtained by the National Security Archive, and by authors of two new books on Guevara: Jorge Castañeda’s Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (Knopf), and Henry Butterfield Ryan’s The Fall of Che Guevara (Oxford University Press). The selected documents, presented in order of the events they depict, provide only a partial picture of U.S. intelligence and military assessments, reports and extensive operations to track and “destroy” Che Guevara’s guerrillas in Bolivia; thousands of CIA and military records on Guevara remain classified. But they do offer significant and valuable information on the high-level U.S. interest in tracking his revolutionary activities, and U.S. and Bolivian actions leading up to his death.

Peter Kornbluh 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Washington, D.C. – On October 9th, 1967, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was put to death by Bolivian soldiers, trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives. His execution remains a historic and controversial event; and thirty years later, the circumstances of his guerrilla foray into Bolivia, his capture, killing, and burial are still the subject of intense public interest and discussion around the world.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre As part of the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project is posting a selection of key CIA, State Department, and Pentagon documentation relating to Guevara and his death. This electronic documents book is compiled from declassified records obtained by the National Security Archive, and by authors of two new books on Guevara: Jorge Castañeda’s Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (Knopf), and Henry Butterfield Ryan’s The Fall of Che Guevara (Oxford University Press). The selected documents, presented in order of the events they depict, provide only a partial picture of U.S. intelligence and military assessments, reports and extensive operations to track and “destroy” Che Guevara’s guerrillas in Bolivia; thousands of CIA and military records on Guevara remain classified. But they do offer significant and valuable information on the high-level U.S. interest in tracking his revolutionary activities, and U.S. and Bolivian actions leading up to his death.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 

THE DEATH OF CHE GUEVARA:

A CHRONOLOGY

Compiled by:

Paola Evans, Kim Healey, Peter Kornbluh, Ramón Cruz and Hannah Elinson

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

OCTOBER 3, 1965: In a public speech, Fidel Castro reads a “Farewell” letter written by Che in April, in which Che resigns from all of his official positions within the Cuban government. The letter, which Che apparently never intended to be made public, states that “I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban revolution…and I say goodbye to you, to the comrades, to your people, who are now mine.” (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, “Castro and Communism: The Cuban Revolution in Perspective,” 5/9/66)

OCTOBER 18, 1965: A CIA Intelligence Memorandum discusses what analysts perceive as Che Guevara’s fall from power within the Cuban government beginning in 1964. It states that at the end of 1963, Guevara’s plan of “rapid industrialization and centralization during the first years of the Revolution brought the economy to its lowest point since Castro came to power.” “Guevara’s outlook, which approximated present -day Chinese–rather than Soviet–economic practice, was behind the controversy.” In July 1964, “two important cabinet appointments signaled the power struggle over internal economic policy which culminated in Guevara’s elimination.” Another conflict was that Guevara wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa, while “other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the Revolution.” In December, 1964, Guevara departed on a three-month trip to the United States, Africa, and China. When he returned, according to the CIA report, his economic and foreign policies were in disfavor and he left to start revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world. (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, “The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution,” 10/18/65)

FALL, 1966: Che Guevara arrives in Bolivia sometime between the second week of September and the first of November of 1966, according to different sources. He enters the country with forged Uruguayan passports to organize and lead a communist guerrilla movement. Che chooses Bolivia as the revolutionary base for various reasons. First, Bolivia is of lower priority than Caribbean Basin countries to US security interests and poses a less immediate threat, “… the Yanquis wouldn’t concern themselves… .” Second, Bolivia’s social conditions and poverty are such that Bolivia is considered susceptible to revolutionary ideology. Finally, Bolivia shares a border with five other countries, which would allow the revolution to spread easily if the guerrillas are successful. (Harris, 60, 73; Rojo 193-194; Rodríguez:1, 157;Rodríguez:1, 198)

SPRING, 1967: From March to August of 1967, Che Guevara and his guerrilla band strike “pretty much at will” against the Bolivian Armed Forces, which totals about twenty thousand men. The guerrillas lose only one man compared to 30 of the Bolivians during these six months. (James, 250, NYT 9/16/67)

APRIL 28, 1967: General Ovando, of the Bolivian Armed Forces, and the U.S. Army Section signed a Memorandum of Understanding with regard to the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Bolivian Army “which clearly defines the terms of U.S.-Bolivian Armed Forces cooperation in the activation, organization, and training of this unit.”

MAY 11, 1967: Walt Rostow, presidential advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson, sends a message to the President saying that he received the first credible report that “Che” Guevara is alive and operating in South America, although more evidence is needed. (Rostow 05/11/67)

JUNE, 1967: Cuban-American CIA agent Félix Rodríguez receives a phone call from a CIA officer, Larry S., who proposes a special assignment for him in South America in which he will use his skills in unconventional warfare, counter-guerrilla operations and communications. The assignment is to assist the Bolivians in tracking down and capturing Che Guevara and his band. His partner will be “Eduardo González” and Rodríguez is to use the cover name “Félix Ramos Medina.” (Rodríguez:1, 148)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre JUNE 26-30, 1967: Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin visits Cuba for discussions with Fidel Castro. According to a CIA intelligence cable, the primary purpose of his “trip to Havana June 26-30, 1967 was to inform Castro concerning the Middle East Crisis…A secondary but important reason for the trip was to discuss with Castro the subject of Cuban revolutionary activity in Latin America.” The Soviet Premier criticizes the dispatch of Che Guevara to Bolivia and accuses Castro of “harming the communist cause through his sponsorship of guerrilla activity…and through providing support to various anti-government groups, which although they claimed to be “socialist” or communist, were engaged in disputes with the “legitimate” Latin American communist parties, those favored by the USSR.” In reply Castro stated that Cuba will support the “right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of his country.” (CIA Intelligence Information Cable, 10/17/67)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

AUGUST 2, 1967: Rodríguez and González arrive in La Paz, Bolivia. They are met by their case officer, Jim, another CIA agent, and a Bolivian immigration officer. The CIA station in La Paz is run by John Tilton; eventually the CIA’s Guevara task force is joined by another anti-Castro Cuban-American agent, Gustavo Villoldo. (Rodríguez:1, 162)

AUGUST 31, 1967: The Bolivian army scores its first victory against the guerrillas, wiping out one-third of Che’s men. José Castillo Chávez, also known as Paco, is captured and the guerrillas are forced to retreat. Che’s health begins to deteriorate. (James, 250, 269)

SEPTEMBER 3, 1967: Félix Rodríguez flies with Major Arnaldo Saucedo from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande to interrogate Paco. (Rodríguez: 1, 167)

SEPTEMBER 15, 1967: The Bolivian Government air-drops leaflets offering a $4,200 reward for the capture of Che Guevara. (NYT 9/16/67)

SEPTEMBER 18, 1967: Fifteen members of a Communist group, who were providing supplies to the guerrillas in the southeastern jungles of Bolivia, are arrested. (NYT 9/19/67)

SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Che’s guerrillas arrive at Alto Seco village in Bolivia. Inti Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla, gives the villagers a lecture on the objectives of the guerrilla movement. The group leaves later that night after purchasing a large amount of food. (Harris, 123)

According to Jon Lee Anderson’s account, Che takes the food from a grocery store without paying for it after discovering that the local authorities in Alto Seco have left to inform the army about the guerrilla’s position. (Anderson, 785)

SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Guevara Arze, the Bolivian Foreign Minister, provides evidence to the Organization of American States to prove that Che Guevara is indeed leading the guerrilla operations in Bolivia. Excerpts taken from captured documents, including comparisons of handwriting, fingerprints and photographs, suggests that the guerrillas are comprised of Cubans, Peruvians, Argentineans and Bolivians. The foreign minister’s presentation draws a loud applause from the Bolivian audience, and he gives his assurance that “we’re not going to let anybody steal our country away from us. Nobody, at any time.” (NYT 9/23/67)

SEPTEMBER 24, 1967: Che and his men arrive, exhausted and sick, at Loma Larga, a ranch close to Alto Seco. All but one of the peasants flee upon their arrival. (Harris, 123)

SEPTEMBER 26, 1967: The guerrillas move to the village of La Higuera and immediately notice that all the men are gone. The villagers have previously been warned that the guerrillas are in the area and they should send any information on them to Vallegrande. The remaining villagers tell the guerrillas that most of the people are at a celebration in a neighboring town called Jahue. (Harris, 123)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre 1 p.m.: As they are about to depart for Jahue, the rebels hear shots coming from the road and are forced to stay in the village and defend themselves. Three guerrillas are killed in the gun battle: Roberto (Coco) Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla leader who was one of Che’s most important men; “Antonio,” believed to be Cuban; and “Julio,” likely a Bolivian. Che orders his men to evacuate the village along a road leading to Rio Grande. The army high command and the Barriento government consider this encounter a significant victory. Indeed, Che notes in his diary that La Higuera has caused great losses for him in respect to his rebel cell. (Harris 123,124; NYT 9/28/67)

CIA agent, Félix Rodríguez, under the alias, “Captain Ramos,” urges Colonel Zenteno to move his Rangers battalion from La Esperanza headquarters to Vallegrande. The death of Antonio, the vanguard commander [also called Miguel by Rodríguez], prompts Rodríguez to conclude that Che must be close by. Colonel Zenteno argues that the battalion has not yet finished their training, but he will move them as soon as this training is complete. Convinced that he knows Che’s next move, Rodríguez continues pressuring Zenteno to order the 2nd Ranger battalion into combat. (Rodríguez:1, 184)

SEPTEMBER 26-27, 1967: After the battle of La Higueras, the Ranger Battalion sets up a screening force along the river San Antonio to prevent exfiltration of the guerrilla force. During the mission, the troops captures a guerrilla known as “Gamba.” He appears to be in poor health and is poorly clothed. This produces an immediate morale effect on the troops because they notice that the guerrillas are not as strong as they thought. “Gamba” says that he had separated from the group and was traveling in hope of contacting “Ramón” (Guevara). (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report – 11/28/67).

SEPTEMBER 29, 1967: Colonel Zenteno is finally persuaded by Rodríguez, and he moves the 2nd Ranger battalion to Vallegrande. Rodríguez joins these six hundred and fifty men who have been trained by U.S. Special Forces Major “Pappy” Shelton. (Rodríguez:1, 184)

SEPTEMBER 30, 1967: Che and his group are trapped by the army in a jungle canyon in Valle Serrano, south of the Grande River. (NYT 10/1/67)

OCTOBER 7, 1967: The last entry in Che’s diary is recorded exactly eleven months since the inauguration of the guerrilla movement. The guerrillas run into an old woman herding goats. They ask her if there are soldiers in the area but are unable to get any reliable information. Scared that she will report them, they pay her 50 pesos to keep quiet. In Che’s diary it is noted that he has “little hope” that she will do so. (Harris, 126; CIA Weekly Review, “The Che Guevara Diary,” 12/15/67)

Evening: Che and his men stop to rest in a ravine in Quebrada del Yuro. (Harris, 126)

OCTOBER 8, 1967: The troops receive information that there is a band of 17 guerrillas in the Churro Ravine. They enter the area and encounters a group of 6 to 8 guerrillas, opens fire, and killed two Cubans, “Antonio” and “Orturo.” “Ramon” (Guevara) and “Willy” try to break out in the direction of the mortar section, where Guevara is wounded in the lower calf. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report – 11/28/67)

OCTOBER 8, 1967: A peasant women alerts the army that she heard voices along the banks of the Yuro close to the spot where it runs along the San Antonio river. It is unknown whether it is the same peasant woman that the guerrillas ran into previously. (Rojo 218)

By morning, several companies of Bolivian Rangers are deployed through the area that Guevara’s Guerrillas are in. They take up positions in the same ravine as the guerrillas in Quebrada del Yuro. (Harris,126)

About 12 p.m.: A unit from General Prado’s company, all recent graduates of the U.S. Army Special Forces training camp, confronts the guerrillas, killing two soldiers and wounding many others. (Harris, 127)

1:30 p.m.: Che’s final battle commences in Quebrada del Yuro. Simon Cuba (Willy) Sarabia, a Bolivian miner, leads the rebel group. Che is behind him and is shot in the leg several times. Sarabia picks up Che and tries to carry him away from the line of fire. The firing starts again and Che’s beret is knocked off. Sarabia sits Che on the ground so he can return the fire. Encircled at less than ten yards distance, the Rangers concentrate their fire on him, riddling him with bullets. Che attempts to keep firing, but cannot keep his gun up with only one arm. He is hit again on his right leg, his gun is knocked out of his hand and his right forearm is pierced. As soldiers approach Che he shouts, “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.” The battle ends at approximately 3:30 p.m. Che is taken prisoner. (Rojo, 219; James, 14)

Other sources claim that Sarabia is captured alive and at about 4 p.m. he and Che are brought before Captain Prado. Captain Prado orders his radio operator to signal the divisional headquarters in Vallegrande informing them that Che is captured. The coded message sent is “Hello Saturno, we have Papá !” Saturno is the code for Colonel Joaquin Zenteno, commandant of the Eighth Bolivian Army Division, and Papá is code for Che. In disbelief, Colonel Zenteno asks Capt. Prado to confirm the message. With confirmation, “general euphoria” erupts among the divisional headquarters staff. Colonel Zenteno radios Capt. Prado and tells him to immediately transfer Che and any other prisoners to La Higuera. (Harris, 127)

In Vallegrande, Félix Rodríguez receives the message over the radio: “Papá cansado,” which means “Dad is tired.” Papá is the code for foreigner, implying Che. Tired signifies captured or wounded. (Rodríguez:1, 185)

Stretched out on a blanket, Che is carried by four soldiers to La Higuera, seven kilometers away. Sarabia is forced to walk behind with his hands tied against his back. Just after dark the group arrives in La Higuera and both Che and Sarabia are put into the one-room schoolhouse. Later that night, five more guerrillas are brought in. (Harris, 127)

Official army dispatches falsely report that Che is killed in the clash in southeastern Bolivia, and other official reports confirm the killing of Che and state that the Bolivian army has his body. However, the army high command does not confirm this report. (NYT 10/10/67)

OCTOBER 9, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a memorandum to the President with tentative information that the Bolivians have captured Che Guevara. The Bolivian unit engaged in the operation was the one that had been trained by the U.S. (Rostow 10/9/67)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

OCTOBER 9, 1967: 6:15 a.m.: Félix Rodríguez arrives by helicopter in La Higuera, along with Colonel Joaquín Zenteno Anaya. Rodríguez brings a powerful portable field radio and a camera with a special four-footed stand used to photograph documents. He quietly observes the scene in the schoolhouse, and records what he sees, finding the situation “gruesome” with Che lying in dirt, his arms tied behind his back and his feet bound together, next to the bodies of his friends. He looks “like a piece of trash” with matted hair, torn clothes, and wearing only pieces of leather on his feet for shoes. In one interview, Rodríguez states that, ” I had mixed emotions when I first arrived there. Here was the man who had assassinated many of my countrymen. And nevertheless, when I saw him, the way he looked….I felt really sorry for him.” (Rodríguez:2)

Rodríguez sets up his radio and transmits a coded message to the CIA station in either Peru or Brazil to be retransmitted to Langley headquarters. Rodríguez also starts to photograph Che’s diary and other captured documents. Later, Rodríguez spends time talking with Che and takes a picture with him. The photos that Rodríguez takes are preserved by the CIA. (Anderson, 793; Rodríguez:1, 193)

10 am: The Bolivian officers are faced with the question of what to do with Che. The possibility of prosecuting him is ruled out because a trial would focus world attention on him and could generate sympathetic propaganda for Che and for Cuba. It is concluded that Che must be executed immediately, but it is agreed upon that the official story will be that he died from wounds received in battle. Félix Rodríguez receives a call from Vallegrande and is ordered by the Superior Command to conduct Operation Five Hundred and Six Hundred. Five hundred is the Bolivian code for Che and six hundred is the order to kill him. Rodríguez informs Colonel Zenteno of the order, but also tells him that the U.S. government has instructed him to keep Che alive at all costs. The CIA and the U.S. government have arranged helicopters and airplanes to take Che to Panama for interrogation. However, Colonel Zenteno says he must obey his own orders and Rodríguez decides, “to let history take its course,” and to leave the matter in the hands of the Bolivians. (Anderson, 795; Harris 128, 129; Rodríguez:1, 193; Rodríguez:2)

Rodríguez realizes that he cannot stall any longer when a school teacher informs him that she has heard a news report on Che’s death on her radio. Rodríguez enters the schoolhouse to tell Che of the orders from the Bolivian high command. Che understands and says, “It is better like this … I never should have been captured alive.” Che gives Rodríguez a message for his wife and for Fidel, they embrace and Rodríguez leaves the room. (Rodríguez:2; Anderson, 796)

According to one source, the top ranking officers in La Higuera instruct the noncommissioned officers to carry out the order and straws are drawn to determine who will execute Che. Just before noon, having drawn the shortest straw, Sergeant Jaime Terán goes to the schoolhouse to execute Che. Terán finds Che propped up against the wall and Che asks him to wait a moment until he stands up. Terán is frightened, runs away and is ordered back by Colonel Selich and Colonel Zenteno. “Still trembling” he returns to the schoolhouse and without looking at Che’s face he fires into his chest and side. Several soldiers, also wanting to shoot Che, enter the room and shoot him. (Harris, 129)

Félix Rodríguez has stated that, “I told the Sargento to shoot….and I understand that he borrowed an M-2 carbine from a Lt. Pérez who was in the area.” Rodríguez places the time of the shooting at 1:10 p.m. Bolivian time. (Rodríguez:2)

In Jon Lee Anderson’s account, Sergeant Terán volunteers to shoot Che. Che’s last words, which are addressed to Terán, are “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.” Terán shoots Che in the arms and legs and then in Che’s thorax, filling his lungs with blood. (Anderson, 796)

OCTOBER 9, 1967: Early in the morning, the unit receives the order to execute Guevara and the other prisoners. Lt. Pérez asks Guevara if he wishes anything before his execution. Guevara replies that he only wishes to “die with a full stomach.” Pérez asks him if he is a “materialist” and Guevara answers only “perhaps.” When Sgt. Terán (the executioner) enters the room, Guevara stands up with his hands tied and states, “I know what you have come for I am ready.” Terán tells him to be seated and leaves the room for a few moments. While Terán was outside, Sgt. Huacka enters another small house, where “Willy” was being held, and shoots him. When Terán comes back, Guevara stands up and refuses to be seated saying: “I will remain standing for this.” Terán gets angry and tells Guevara to be seated again. Finally, Guevara tells him: “Know this now, you are killing a man.” Terán fires his M2 Carbine and kills him. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report – 11/28/67).

Later that afternoon: Senior army officers and CIA Agent, Félix Rodríguez, leave La Higuera by helicopter for army headquarters in Vallegrande. Upon landing, Rodríguez quickly leaves the helicopter knowing that Castro’s people will be there looking for CIA agents. Pulling a Bolivian army cap over his face, he is not noticed by anyone. (Rodríguez:1, 12; Harris, 130)

Che’s body is flown to Vallegrande by helicopter and later fingerprinted and embalmed. (NYT 10/11/67)

General Ovando, Chief of Bolivian Armed Forces, states that just before he died, Che said, “I am Che Guevara and I have failed.” (James, 8)

OCTOBER 10, 1967: W.G. Bowdler sends a note to Walt Rostow saying that they do not know if Che Guevara was “among the casualties of the October 8 engagement.” They think that there are no guerrilla survivors. By October 9, they thought two guerrilla were wounded and possibly one of them is Che. (Bowdler, The White House 10/10/67)

OCTOBER 10, 1967: Two doctors,. Moisés Abraham Baptista and José Martínez Cazo, at the Hospital Knights of Malta, Vallegrande, Bolivia, sign a death certificate for Che Guevara. The document states that “on October 9 at 5:30 p.m., there arrived…Ernesto Guevara Lynch, approximately 40 years of age, the cause of death being multiple bullet wounds in the thorax and extremities. Preservative was applied to the body.” On the same day, and autopsy report records the multiple bullets wounds found in Guevara’s body. “The cause of death,” states the autopsy report, “was the thorax wounds and consequent hemorrhaging.” (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)

OCTOBER 10, 1967: General Ovando announces that Che died the day before at 1:30 p.m. This means that Che lived for twenty-two hours after the battle in Quebrada del Yuro, which contradicts Colonel Zenteno’s story. Colonel Zenteno changes his story to support General Ovando’s. (James, 15)

The New York Times reports that the Bolivian Army High Command dispatches officially confirm that Che was killed in the battle on Sunday October 8th. General Ovando states that Che admitted his identity and the failure of his guerrilla campaign before dying of his wounds. (NYT 10/10/67)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

Ernesto Guevara, the father of Che, denies the death of his son, stating that there is no evidence to prove the killing. (NYT 10/11/67)

OCTOBER 11, 1967: General Ovando claims that on this day Che’s body is buried in the Vallegrande area. (James, 19)

OCTOBER 11, 1967: President Lyndon Johnson receives a memorandum from Walt W. Rostow: “This morning we are about 99% sure that “Che” Guevara is dead.” The memo informs the President that according to the CIA, Che was taken alive and after a short interrogation General Ovando ordered his execution. (Rostow, “Death of Che Guevara,” 10/11/67)

OCTOBER 11, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a memorandum to the President stating that they “are 99% sure that ‘Che’ Guevara is dead.” He explains that Guevara’s death carries significant implications: “It marks the passing of another of the aggressive, romantic revolutionaries…In the Latin American context, it will have a strong impact in discouraging would -be guerrillas. It shows the soundness of our ‘preventive medicine’ assistance to countries facing incipient insurgency–it was the Bolivian 2nd Ranger Battalion, trained by our Green Berets from June-September of this year, that cornered him and got him.” (Rostow 10/11/67)

OCTOBER 12, 1967: Che’s brother, Roberto, arrives in Bolivia to take the body back to Argentina. However, General Ovando tells him that the body has been cremated. (Anderson, 799)

OCTOBER 13, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a note to the President with intelligence information that “removes any doubt that ‘Che” Guevara is dead.” (Rostow 10/13/67)

OCTOBER 14, 1967: Annex No.3 – three officials of the Argentine Federal police, at the request of the Bolivian Government, visited Bolivian military headquarters in La Paz to help identify the handwriting and fingerprints of Che Guevara. “They were shown a metal container in which were two amputated hands in a liquid solution, apparently formaldehyde.” The experts compared the fingerprints with the ones in Guevara’s Argentine identity record, No. 3.524.272, and they were the same. (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)

OCTOBER 14, 1967: Students at Central University of Venezuela protest the U.S. involvement in Che’s death. Demonstrations are organized against a U.S. business, the home of a U.S. citizen, the U.S. Embassy and other similar targets.

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

OCTOBER 15, 1967: Bolivian President Barrientos claims that Che’s ashes are buried in a hidden place somewhere in the Vallegrande region. (Harris, 130)

OCTOBER 16, 1967: The Bolivian Armed Forces released a communiqué together with three annexes on the death of Che Guevara. The communiqué is “based on documents released by the Military High Command on October9…concerning the combat that took place at La Higuera between units of the Armed Forces and the red group commanded by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, as a result of which he, among others, lost his life…” The report states that Guevara died “more or less at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 8…as a result of his wounds.” Also, in order to identify his body it requested the cooperation of Argentine technical organizations to identify the remains to certify that the handwriting of the campaign diary coincides with Guevara’s. Henderson, the U.S. Embassy agent in La Paz, comments that “it will be widely noted that neither the death certificate nor the autopsy report state a time of death.” This “would appear to be an attempt to bridge the difference between a series of earlier divergent statements from Armed Forces sources, ranging from assertions that he died during or shortly after battle to those suggesting he survived at least twenty-four hours.” He also notes that some early reports indicate that Guevara was captured with minor injuries, while later statements , including the autopsy report, affirm that he suffered multiple wounds. He agrees with a comment by Preséncia, that these statements are “going to be the new focus of polemics in the coming days.” (U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

OCTOBER 18, 1967: The U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia sends an airgram to the Department of State with the Official Confirmation of Death of Che Guevara. (U.S. Embassy, La Paz, Bolivia, 10/18/97)

OCTOBER 18, 1967: A CIA cable highlights the errors leading to Guevara’s defeat. “There were negative factors and tremendous errors involved in the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara Serna and the defeat of the guerrillas in Bolivia… .” Che’s presence at the guerrilla front in Bolivia, ” … precluded all hope of saving him and the other leaders in the event of an ambush and virtually condemned them to die or exist uselessly as fugitives.” The fact that the guerrillas were so dependent on the local peasant population also proved to be a mistake according to the CIA. Another error described in this cable is Che’s over-confidence in the Bolivian Communist Party, which was relatively new, inexperienced, lacking strong leadership and was internally divided into Trotskyite and Pro-Chinese factions. Finally, the cable states that the victory of the Bolivian army should not be credited to their actions, but to the errors of Castroism. ” The guerrilla failure in Bolivia is definitely a leadership failure…”(“Comments on the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara Serna,” 10/18/67) Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

OCTOBER 18, 1967: Fidel Castro delivers a eulogy for Che Guevara to nearly a million people –one of his largest audiences ever–in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. Castro proclaims that Che’s life-long struggle against imperialism and his ideals will be the inspiration for future generations of revolutionaries. His life was a “glorious page of history” because of his extraordinary military accomplishments, and his unequaled combination of virtues which made him an “artist in guerrilla warfare.” Castro professes that Che’s murderers’ will be disappointed when they realize that “the art to which he dedicated his life and intelligence cannot die.” (Anderson, 798; Castro’s Eulogy, 10/18/67)

OCTOBER 19, 1967: Intelligence and Research’s Cuba specialist, Thomas L. Hughes, writes a memorandum to Secretary of State, Dean Rusk. Hughes outlines two significant outcomes of Che Guevara’s death that will affect Fidel Castro’s future political strategies. One is that “Guevara will be eulogized as the model revolutionary who met a heroic death,” particularly among future generations of Latin American youth. Castro can utilize this to continue justifying his defiance of the usual suspects–“US imperialism, the Green Berets, the CIA.” Another outcome is that Castro will reassess his expectations of exporting revolutions to other Latin American countries. Some Latin American leftists “will be able to argue that any insurgency must be indigenous and that only local parties know when local conditions are right for revolution.” (Intelligence and Research Memorandum, “Guevara’s Death–The Meaning for Latin America”, 10/19/97)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

NOVEMBER 8, 1967: The CIA reports that Cuba is threatening assassin a prominent Bolivian figure, such as President Barrientos or General Ovando, in revenge of Che Guevara’s death. ( CIA cable, 11/8/67)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

JULY 1, 1995: In an interview with biographer Jon Lee Anderson, Bolivian General Mario Vargas Salinas reveals that “he had been a part of a nocturnal burial detail, that Che’s body and those of several of his comrades were buried in a mass grave near the dirt airstrip outside the little mountain town of Vallegrande in Central Bolivia.” A subsequent Anderson article in the New York Times sets off a two-year search to find and identify Guevara’s remains. (Anderson,1)

JULY 5, 1997: Che Guevara biographer, Jon Lee Anderson, reports for the New York Times that although the remains have not been exhumed and definitely identified, two experts are “100 percent sure” that they have discovered Che’s remains in Vallegrande. The fact that one of the skeletons is missing both of its hands is cited as the most compelling evidence. (NYT 7/5/97)

JULY 13, 1997: A ceremony in Havana, attended by Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials, marks the return of Che’s remains to Cuba. (NYT 7/14/97)

OCTOBER 17, 1997: In a ceremony attended by Castro and thousands of Cubans, Che Guevara is reburied in Santa Clara, Cuba. (NYT, 10/18/97)

Che Guevara Bolivia | Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

 

LIST OF SOURCES

Anderson=Anderson, Jon Lee, Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life, Grove Press, 1997.

Harris= Harris, Richard, Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara’s Last Mission, W.W. Norton and Company Inc.,1970.

James = James, Daniel, Che Guevara: A Biography, Stein and Day, 1970

National Security Files, “Bolivia, Vol. 4″ Box 8.

NYT =New York Times

Rodríguez:1 = Rodríguez, Félix I.,Shadow Warrior, Simon and Schuster Inc., 1989

Rodríguez:2 = Rodríguez, Félix . BBC documentary, “Executive Action,” 1992.

Rojo = Rojo, Ricardo, My Friend Che, The Dial Press, Inc., 1968

WT = Washington Times

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