9 October 1967 – Che Guevara
But what a man.
It’s not often we get to write about personal heroes, but today’s post is one such occasion, for these are purported to be some of the final words of Che Guevara, El Che or just Che to his mates.
Of course the words may be little more than an urban myth, but the man who uttered them was so much more. He has become a legend.
Che Guevara has changed the course of history for several countries, freeing them from the shackles of Fascism and dictatorship with his brand of egalitarian democracy, albeit via bloody methods.
But hey, you’re here to read about his death, so we’ll stop waxing lyrical about his left-wing crusades. You can get those elsewhere.
Che was a wanted man. He’d helped lead Cuba to freedom from the iron grip of Fulgencio Batista. It was now safely in the left-hand palm of his comrade-in-arms Fidel Castro.
The Argentine was then to head deep into the bowels of Bolivia (via The Congo), where he started stirring up just as much trouble.
Stunningly, it wasn’t just the Bolivians who feared his unique style of revolution. He had opposers further north of the border too – the Americans quaked in their Louboutins1 at the very thought that infectious Communism was edging ever closer to their Capitalist shores.
After all, it would never do to have such a successful advocate so close in proximity to them, extolling the virtues of a leftie paradise. Moreover, it wouldn’t do to have one so seductive and one who was unafraid of employing such bloody methods.
So the question is, who ultimately got there first? The Bolivians? Or the Americans? The answer is both, thanks inadvertently to one of Che’s Russian mates.
Up to that point, he’d been the scourge of the beleaguered Bolivians’ efforts to keep the country revolution-free. Instead, he had become ensconced in establishing the National Liberation Army of Bolivia and he was already well-known for his stop-at-nothing guerrilla tactics.
As a result both camps deemed he must die, helped not least by Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider ‘better known by her nom de guerre “Tania”, who had been installed as his primary agent in La Paz, was reportedly also ‘working for the KGB and is widely inferred to have unwittingly served Soviet interests by leading Bolivian authorities to Guevara’s trail’. At least that’s the story according to Wikipedia.
The CIA teamed up with the Bolivian Army and hunted him down like a dog. Of course, that’s not how the Bolivians saw it. Indeed the BBC tracked down one of the Cuban-born CIA agents who made the historic coup.
‘Most people don’t know the real Che Guevara – the Che Guevara who wrote that he was thirsty for blood, the Che who assassinated thousands of people without any regard for legal process’ said Felix Rodriguez who actually took a photo of the man on capture.
‘Legal process’ eh? Where was the legal process when Rodriguez took the order from on high to execute without trial?
The soldier tasked with carrying out the job was instructed to make it look like he’d been killed in battle.
That didn’t stop the execution party lopping off his hands and pickling them in formaldehyde as a way of preserving them. Why? This was carried out in case Castro asserted that Che was still alive and kicking arse. You can’t argue with fingerprints after all.
Che was then laid out on a slab, Christ-like and more photos taken as proof that the commandante was dead.
And so the legend was born. With that solitary action, 39-year-old Che morphed from prolific guerrilla and freedom fighter to immortal icon.
1 Anachronistic we know, but a great example of capitalism at its best.
Also on this day…and it’s another big name!
9 October 2002 – Aileen Wuornos
The US-born highway hooker and serial man-killer was put to death for a nine-month killing spree spanning north and central Florida.
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