Cuba pays tribute to Che Guevara

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Cuba pays tribute to Che Guevara

Post by Guysanto » Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:08 pm

The memory of Latin American Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara is being honoured in Cuba 40 years after his capture and summary execution.

About 10,000 people are attending a ceremony at his mausoleum in Santa Clara, the town where he once fought a battle during Cuba's revolution.

Raul Castro, brother of ailing Cuban leader Fidel, is at the event.

Other commemorations are being held in Bolivia and Venezuela, countries where the Argentine-born hero was active.

He had travelled to Bolivia to help lead an uprising but was tracked down and killed by soldiers in 1967.

Che's ideas and looks have been captivating young people across the world since the late 1960s, his bearded face and beret acquiring iconic status.

His critics describe Che as a brutal man who ordered the execution of dozens of his opponents and helped move Cuba further towards communism in the early years of the revolution.

'Infinite revolutionary'

The ceremony in Santa Clara opened with Raul Castro reading out a message from Fidel.

"I halt in my day-to-day combat to bow my head, with respect and gratitude, before the exceptional fighter who fell 40 years ago," the message said.

Suffering from intestinal illness, the 81-year-old Cuban leader handed over power to Raul 14 months ago.

Che's daughter Aleida Guevara said her father's work had been vindicated by the recent leftward shift in Latin America.

"Today Latin America begins to awaken and their dreams are coming true," she said in the mausoleum.

In Bolivia, the leftist President, Evo Morales, visited the site where Che was first buried after his execution, and addressed a crowd of mourners on a windswept hill just outside Vallegrande.

"Che lives," he said.

"His heroic struggle and that of other revolutionaries will continue until savage capitalism is changed.

"Latin America cannot continue being the backyard of American imperialism."

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez described Che as an "infinite revolutionary" in a speech on TV just before the anniversary.

Story from BBC NEWS: ... 033880.stm

Published: 2007/10/08 21:11:07 GMT


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Post by Guysanto » Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:11 pm

Cubans honour Che as a hero
By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine-born doctor who fought alongside Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution.

He died in Bolivia trying to foment a similar revolution there.

To this day he remains one of Cuba's leading "heroes of the revolution" whose image can be seen on posters and walls across this communist island in the Caribbean.

Every Friday morning at primary schools across Cuba, the children line up at assembly dressed in their red and white uniforms with red neck scarves.

After standing to attention, singing the national anthem and saluting the flag, they recite together.

"Pioneers for communism," they chant in unison. "We will be like Che."


In one Havana school, head teacher Lauris Perez asks the children what Che stands for. Up goes a hand.

"Honesty" is the first reply. Another child says "courage". A third hesitates, searching for the word. "Internationalism," says the 10-year-old from memory.

"We teach the children Che's values," Ms Perez explains.

"Most important of all is his humanity. Che came from another country to fight for our independence. We love him a lot."

After the overthrow of Cuba's US-backed military dictator Fulgencio Batista, Che went on to become Mr Castro's right-hand man in government. He was given honorary Cuban citizenship and became head of the Central Bank and then Industry Minister.

But then he vanished, giving it all up to spread the revolution to Africa and Latin America.

He went on to become his head of security, fighting alongside him in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as in the ill-fated campaign in Bolivia.

Today Gen Villegas is vice president of the Cuban Veteran's Association.

We met at his office in the association's headquarters in Havana. On one wall there was a large oil painting to Che, while his bookcase was full of literature, in both Spanish and English, about his former boss.

'Formidable fighter'

Gen Villegas told me of his first encounter with Che Guevara. At the time he was a young peasant farmer living close to the Sierra Maestra mountains and had decided to join Mr Castro's guerrilla fighters who were hiding from government forces.

"Che was already a legend in the villages here. He was known as a formidable fighter, who took the art of guerrilla warfare to new levels."

"My first impressions were of admiration and respect for a man who was capable of giving his life for a people he didn't know, us Cubans."

But once Che had got to power why did he give it up? Had he become hooked on guerrilla fighting?

"I think Che was a revolutionary at heart much more than a guerrilla fighter," Gen Villegas said.

"For Che it was about social change and justice. A revolutionary fights to change the whole structure of society at once, not some gradual change. Given the conditions in Latin America at the time, Che considered the only way to achieve this was by the armed struggle.

"It was imperialism which defined Che. He wasn't a violent man, or one who liked to assassinate or kill. On the contrary, he was a loving man who wanted build socialism. That's something very difficult for capitalists to understand"


In the west Che image has become largely depoliticised. For many he has turned into an almost rock star like figure, a romantic rebel icon, far removed from a committed Marxist revolutionary fighter.

The famous photo of Che with his beard and beret is said to be one of the most reproduced pictures in the history of photography. I recently saw a doctor in Britain wearing a Che badge, on it the words "Join the stop smoking revolution".

For cash strapped Cuba, Che's image has become a much needed hard currency earner. Havana is full of tourist shops and markets selling everything from T-shirts to posters, calendar key rings and fridge magnets.

"I don't think its right to commercialise his image but we shouldn't criticise it," said Gen Villegas.

"I think the really important thing is that tourists want to use Che's image, whether they know much about him or not. If young people look up to him, there's more chance they will go on to learn about who he was and what he fought for, a more just society."

Story from BBC NEWS: ... 033432.stm

Published: 2007/10/08 13:55:31 GMT


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