Humberto Fontova: When They Killed Che
[Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real Che Guevara.]
Forty two years ago this week, 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. If the saying “what goes around comes around” ever fit, it’s here.
Consider the kind of man Che was. “When you saw the beaming look on Che’s face as the victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad,” a former Cuban political prisoner told this writer, “you saw there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara.”
As commander of the la Cabana execution yard, Che often shattered the skull of the condemned man (or boy) by firing the coup de grace himself. When other duties tore him away from his beloved execution yard, he consoled himself by viewing the slaughter. Che’s second-story office in La Cabana had a section of wall torn out so he could watch his darling firing-squads at work.
Romanian journalist Stefan Bacie visited Cuba in early 1959 and was fortunate enough to get an audience with the already quasi-famous Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Upon entering Castro’s chief executioner’s office, Bacie noticed Che motioning him over to the office’s newly constructed window. Bacie got there just in time to hear the command of “Fuego!” and the blast from the firing squad and to see a condemned prisoner crumple and convulse. The stricken journalist immediately left and composed a poem, titled, “I No Longer Sing of Che.” (”I no longer sing of Che any more than I would of Stalin,” go the first lines.)
Even as a youth, Ernesto Guevara’s writings revealed a serious mental illness. Take these macabre musings from Guevara’s famous Motorcycle Diaries, somehow overlooked by Robert Redford while he was directing the movie version of the book.
“My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any vencido that falls in my hands! With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!”
The Spanish word vencido, by the way, translates into “defeated” or “surrendered.” And indeed, “the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood” rarely reached Guevara’s nostrils from anything properly describable as combat. It mostly came from the close-range murders of unarmed and defenseless men – and boys.
Carlos Machado was 15 years old in 1963 when the bullets from the firing squad shattered his body. His twin brother and father collapsed beside Carlos from the same volley. All had resisted Castro and Che’s theft of their humble family farm; all refused blindfolds; and all died sneering at their Communist murderers, as did thousands of their valiant countrymen. “Viva Cuba Libre! Viva Cristo Rey! Abajo Comunismo!” “The defiant yells would make the walls of La Cabana prison tremble,” wrote an eyewitness to the slaughter, Armando Valladares.
Rigoberto Hernandez was 17 when Che’s soldiers dragged him from his cell in La Cabana, jerked his head back to gag him, and started dragging him to the stake. “Rigo” pleaded his innocence to the very bloody end. But his pleas were garbled and difficult to understand. His struggles while being gagged and bound to the stake were also awkward. The boy had been a janitor in a Havana high school and was mentally retarded. His single mother had pleaded his case with hysterical sobs. She had begged, beseeched, and finally proven to his “prosecutors” that it was a case of mistaken identity. Her only son, a boy in such a condition, couldn’t possibly have been “a CIA agent planting bombs.”
“Fuego!” and the firing squad volley shattered Rigo’s little bent body as he moaned and struggled awkwardly against his bounds, blindfold and gag. Remember Che Guevara’s instructions to his revolutionary courts: “judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail.” And remember Harvard Law School’s invitation and rollicking ovation to Fidel Castro during the very midst of this appalling bloodbath.
Not that the victims of this Stalinist bloodbath were exclusively men and boys. In their refusal to discriminate among potential victims, the Castroites were well ahead of the Taliban. On Christmas Eve 1961, a young Cuban woman named Juana Diaz spat in the face of the executioners who were binding and gagging her. They found her guilty of feeding and hiding “bandits” (Che’s term for Cuban rednecks who took up arms to fight his theft of their land to create Stalinist kolkhozes.) When the blast from that firing squad demolished her face and torso, Juana was six months pregnant.
The term “hatred” was a constant in Che Guevara’s writings: “Hatred as an element of struggle”; “hatred that is intransigent”; “hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him a violent and cold-blooded killing machine.”
The one genuine accomplishment in Che Guevara’s life was the mass-murder of defenseless innocents. Under his own gun dozens died. Under his orders thousands crumpled. At everything else Che Guevara failed abysmally, even comically.
During his Bolivian “guerrilla” campaign, Che split his forces whereupon they got hopelessly lost and bumbled around, half-starved, half-clothed and half-shod, without any contact with each other for 6 months before being wiped out. They didn’t even have WWII vintage walkie-talkies to communicate and seemed incapable of applying a compass reading to a map. They spent much of the time walking in circles and were usually within a mile of each other. During this blundering they often engaged in ferocious firefights against each other.
“You hate to laugh at anything associated with Che, who murdered so many,” says Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA officer who played a key role in tracking him down in Bolivia. “But when it comes to Che as ‘guerrilla’ you simply can’t help but guffaw.”
Che’s genocidal fantasies included a continental reign of Stalinism. And to achieve this ideal he craved “millions of atomic victims” – most of them Americans. “The U.S. is the great enemy of mankind!” raved Ernesto Che Guevara in 1961:
“Against those hyenas there is no option but extermination. We will bring the war to the imperialist enemies’ very home, to his places of work and recreation. The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we’ll destroy him! We must keep our hatred against them [the U.S.] alive and fan it to paroxysms!”
This was Che’s prescription for America almost half a century before Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Al-Zarqawi appeared on our radar screens. Compared to Che Guevara, Ahmadinejad sounds like the Dalai Lama.
So for many, the questions remains: How did such an incurable idiot and sadist attain such iconic status?
The answer is that this psychotic and thoroughly unimposing vagrant named Ernesto Guevara de la Serna y Lynch had the magnificent fortune of linking up with modern history’s top press agent, Fidel Castro, who—from the New York Times’ Herbert Matthews in 1957, through CBS’ Ed Murrow in 1959 to CBS’ Dan Rather, to ABC’s Barbara Walters, to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell more recently—always had the mainstream media anxiously scurrying to his every beck and call and eating out of his hand like trained pigeons.
Had Ernesto Guevara not linked up with Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico city that fateful summer of 1955 – had he not linked up with a Cuban exile named Nico Lopez in Guatemala the year before who later introduced him to Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico city – everything points to Ernesto continuing his life of a traveling hobo, panhandling, mooching off women, staying in flophouses and scribbling unreadable poetry.
Although a fixture on modern college campuses, Che was no hero. It is thus fitting that when death came for him, on Oct. 8 1967, Che went not with a bang but with a whimper. “Don’t shoot!” I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!” he pleaded when approached by two Bolivian soldiers, dropping the fully loaded weapons he had not hesitated to discharge against unarmed victims. To the very end, Che Guevara remained a coward.
comments powered by Disqus
- Five Things You Need to Know to be a Better Digital Preservationist
- Book on Losing British Generals Wins American History Prize
- Stanford scholar explores civil rights revolution's positive impact on the South's economy
- Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn on Amazon's Tentacular Reach
- Q&A with historian and author Nick Turse