Archive for the ‘CHE’ Category

Who Killed Che?

March 10, 2015


Here’s my review of the book Who Killed Che, written for the New Left Project:,,

Review: Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder by Helen Yaffe A new book clarifies the CIA’s role in the killing of Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Who Killed Che? How the CIA got away with murder, by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, OR Books, 2011

This book by two leading US civil rights lawyers provides both documentary evidence and a clear accessible narrative to clarify a number of disputed aspects about the life and death of Argentinian revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, and the early years of the Cuban Revolution. The principal facts established are: 1) that Che did not leave Cuba in 1965 because of a split with Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution of 1959; 2) ‘that the US government, particularly its Central Intelligence Agency, had Che murdered, having secured the participation of its Bolivian client state’; and 3) that the Cuban’s foreign policy was independent of, and even antipathetic to the interests of the USSR.

These facts may not be controversial to supporters of the Cuban Revolution and those knowledgeable about US imperialism’s modus operandi in Latin America. However, as the authors point out, the idea that ‘the United States, and particularly the CIA, was not implicated in Che’s murder, has been accepted by almost every writer on the subject’. This includes the authors of the major biographies of Che published around the 30th anniversary of his execution in Bolivia in 1997; ‘none of these writers consider the CIA’s own admission that it had tried to assassinate Che, as well as Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, on various occasions when they were in Cuba’. Likewise, the notion of a split between Che and Fidel, and the crude caricature of Cuban internationalism as an instrument of USSR’s foreign policy, continue to be repeated by bourgeois and left commentators.

Applying their professional rigour, Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith have located, analysed and interpreted dozens of internal US government documentation, much of it previously unpublished, and used it to tell the story about how the CIA got away with Che’s murder. Most important, rather than expecting us to take their word for it, they have reprinted these documents so the reader can themselves access and evaluate their contents. This forms the most substantial section of the book, covering 110 pages, and the material is fascinating. The foreword of the book is written by Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power who affirms that ‘among the many ways that the American empire has used to preserve its dominance, suppression and manipulation of information stands out’, and praises the authors for their ‘determination to defend truth, adherence to the law, and freedom’.

In April 1965, Che Guevara left Cuba to join a secret mission of Cuban military assistance to the guerrilla struggle in the Congo. Even his closest collaborators in Cuba’s Ministry of Industries, where Che was Minister from 1961 until his departure, had no knowledge of his whereabouts. While they lamented his absence, none of them were surprised when he left; they were clear that he had conditioned his involvement with the revolutionary struggle in Cuba on an agreement that he would move on following victory. Ratner and Smith cite this agreement through Fidel’s recollections. During my own research in Cuba, Che’s closest compañeros testified that this remained his objective after January 1959. Tirso Saenz, a vice minister under Che told me: ‘Che set a personal example in everything – can you imagine him encouraging the guerrillas in Latin America but sitting back as a minister in Cuba smoking a cigar? He couldn’t do it. I personally heard Che several times saying “I will not die as a bureaucrat. I will die fighting on a mountain”.’ Guevara’s decision to renounce his position in the Cuban government and return to armed struggle, first in Africa and then in Latin America, is perhaps less striking than the fact that he stayed so long as part of the Revolution’s leadership in Cuba.

This did not stop the CIA from exploiting Che’s lack of public appearance by launching a campaign of misinformation; fostering speculation that Che had been imprisoned or even killed by Fidel Castro or the Soviets due to political differences or rivalry. ‘The truth is that there was no split’ assert Ratner and Smith. They back up their claim with reference to a CIA Intelligence Information Cable, ‘a document of historic significance’, summarising the content of discussions between Fidel Castro and the Soviet leadership in which the latter made clear the USSR’s strong objection to the Cuban support for guerrilla movements in Latin America and to not being informed of Che’s mission in Bolivia. Castro’s response was to affirm the right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of the continent and to accuse the USSR of:
‘having turned its back upon its own revolutionary tradition and of having moved to a point where it would refuse to support any revolutionary movement unless the actions of the latter contributed to the achievement of Soviet objectives, as contrasted to international communist objectives… Castro concluded by stating that regardless of the attitudes of the Soviet Union, Cuba would support any revolutionary movement which it considered as contributing to this objective [the liberation of mankind throughout the world]’.

As Ratner and Smith conclude on this issue ‘This document effectively puts to rest any questions regarding a split with Fidel or claims that Fidel did not support Che in Bolivia’.

The main focus of the book is Che’s guerrilla activity in Bolivia and the reaction of the Bolivian military and the US establishment, especially the CIA, to the guerrilla presence. The detailed narrative establishes the facts which led up to Che’s execution and confront the question of responsibility. ‘The history of who is responsible for his murder has heretofore not been understood accurately, especially in America, where it is commonly believed that the Bolivian military dictatorship had him killed. Documents which have recently been obtained from the US government lead to a different conclusion’. The authors attest to the US establishment’s moral and legal responsibility, despite the smokescreen of ‘plausible deniability’ provided by the CIA for Che’s murder.

Usefully, the book contextualises the assassination of Che within the framework of US ‘national security interets’ and the emergence of counterinsurgency as ‘a wholly new kind of strategy’ (President Kennedy, 1962) by US imperialism. President Kennedy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, adviser Walt Rostow and Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor, understood the threat implied by Che’s call to create ‘two, three, many Vietnams’, which would stretch US manpower and resources beyond its capabilities. Shifting from a policy of ‘massive retaliation’, they developed a strategy of ‘flexible response’ and ‘rapid deployment’ to destroy guerrilla groups before they were able to establish themselves. One year before Che arrived in Bolivia, McNamara testified before the US Senate that ‘the ability to concentrate our military power in a matter of days rather than weeks can make an enormous difference in the total force ultimately required and in some cases serves to halt aggression before it really gets started’.

The emergence of counterinsurgency strategy was the flip side of Alliance for Progress, a programme set up by the US government in 1961 officially to improve the economic and social conditions in Latin America. Recognising the poverty, exploitation and oppression which created the conditions for rebellion in Latin America, as in Cuba, the idea was to undermine the root causes of the emerging guerrilla movements. However: ‘Within ten years the US began reducing the loans, relying instead on overt military repression. The escalating violence included covert CIA activity, attempted assassinations, and the training of Latin American police and military for counterinsurgency. The murder of Che, who was the embodiment of revolutionary change, was a critical part of this’. US officials stated at that time ‘Che Guevara’s death was a crippling – perhaps fatal – blow to the Bolivian guerrilla movement and may prove a serious setback for Fidel Castro’s hopes to foment violent revolution in all or almost all Latin American countries’. The culmination of this policy was Operation Condor and active support for military dictatorships throughout the Americas which decimated the left and opposition of any kind and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who were detained, tortured, killed and disappeared.

The implications of the evidence provided by Ratner and Smith are important and should be politically pursued. ‘Under the laws that govern warfare, including guerrilla war, the killing of a prisoner is murder and constitutes a war crime. It is not the actual shooter who is guilty of a war crime. Those higher up that ordered, acquiesced or failed to prevent the murder are guilty of a war crime as well’. The CIA got away with Che’s murder and continues to pursue a policy of assassinating political opponents. Today the US government has invented the status of ‘enemy combatants’ to avoid international obligations in the treatment of prisoners and President Obama utilises US special forces and unmanned drones to assassinate enemies in foreign territories, violating domestic and international laws and trampling on the sovereignty of other nations. It is the responsibility of us all to make use of the evidence provided by Ratner and Smith and demand from the US establishment accountability for the murder of Che and other war crimes past and present.

Helen Yaffe is the author of “Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution”. She is a Research Associate in the Department of Georgraphy at the University of Leicester

A Book that was Missing : Who killed CHE ?

February 26, 2015


by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, in addition to being eminent lawyers, are
active participants in the most important battles of the North American people for
justice and freedom. Their book, dedicated to Leonard Weinglass – who, up to his last
breath, devoted his life to the liberation of the Five Cuban antiterrorists who served
long years of unjust and cruel imprisonment in the United States – pays well-deserved
tribute to our mutual friend when our heroes have now returned free to the Homeland.
To fight for justice in that country means, above all, to seek the truth and make it known
in the most difficult of circumstances, confronting the concealment and manipulation of
a powerful machinery determined to impose nothing else but ignorance on millions of
people. This is a task that Lenny as well as Ratner and Smith have known how to carry
out assiduously and consistently.

To prove that Ernesto Guevara was assassinated by the CIA, that his death was a war
crime – a crime that never perishes – and that this deed was entirely the responsibility
of the U.S. government called for an unremitting search. After many years of
demanding that the authorities comply with their own laws with respect to public access
to information, today we can read documents that, despite the crossings-out and
deletions that still seek to conceal numerous facts, allow the reader to discover that the
official versions about Ernesto Guevara’s final combat were deliberately distorted. It’s
all about trying to make us believe that Washington preferred that Che, defeated and
taken prisoner, would continue to live and that the crime was the result of unilateral
decisions made by soldiers of the Bolivian Army who were then a docile instrument of
Much has been written about Che and his epic Bolivian campaign and there are
many authors who echoed the interpretation fabricated by the exponents of “plausible
deniability.” At this stage, when both selective and massive assassination and the
practice of torture and extrajudicial executions have become a generalized practice
of a new way of making war, the book by Ratner and Smith is an opportune reminder
that such treatment has a long trajectory. It is as old as that of using servile armies
and assassins – uniformed or not – as simple tools causing countless suffering to the
peoples of Latin America under military dictatorships that the United States equipped,
In an earlier book, published in 1997 and the result of an equally relentless pursuit, the
authors had revealed how the FBI tracked Ernesto Guevara’s activities in Guatemala
and Mexico when he was not yet Che. In this book that they offer us now it can be
confirmed that during his Bolivian campaign he was obsessively followed at the highest
The U.S. Government’s Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the cold-
blooded murder of a wounded and unarmed young prisoner by the name of Ernesto
Guervara. The actual perpetrators of the cowardly act were soldiers who acted under
the control of the CIA and obeyed their orders without batting an eye.
Some are still walking, however, on the streets of Miami or are in their offices at
Langley, mulling over their frustration. Because they could not kill Che. Che continued
to live and his message returned victorious in a new Bolivia and in a Latin America that
confidently moves ahead towards complete emancipation.
Because Che fought all his life leading the list of those named as essential by Bertolt
Brecht. Essential are those who are never missing when they are most needed,
those who are present, always on the front line, when the struggle is harder and more
That is why Che lives. Because we need him now more than ever.
The Cuban edition of this book appears in a new juncture in which we greatly need the
Guevarian light. Now we are entering a stage that poses new challenges that we must
face with wisdom and firmness. The historic enemy of our people has not changed its
nature or its strategy of domination, only its tactics. Because its crude and violent policy
– and it is recognized as such – of half a century failed, now it will test methods that
intend to be more subtle to achieve the same ends.
We must accept the challenge and advance down that path without ever abandoning
our principles. And always remembering Che’s visionary warning. Do not trust the
imperialists “not even a little bit, not in anything.”

Havana, February 13, 2015

Words at the presentation of the book ¿Quién mató al Che? Cómo la CIA logró salir
impune del asesinato by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, Social Sciences
[Spanish translation of Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder]
Unofficial translation by Susana Hurlich, Havana

Cuban Hero René Gonzàlez Pays Tribute to Che Guevara

June 19, 2013

rene ante el nicho del Che-2013-6-17

Cuban hero René Gonzàlez paid homage on Monday to Cuban-Argentinean guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara at the memorial that treasures his mortal remains in the central city of Santa Clara.
Gonzàlez is one of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, who were arrested in 1998 and given unfair and extremely long sentences in the United States after they monitored Florida-based ultra-right organizations that planned terrorist actions against the island.
He returned to Cuba after having met his 13 year-prison sentence and following the approval by US authorities to modify his supervised freedom conditions in exchange for the renouncing of his US citizenship.
At the mausoleum, Gonzàlez and his family paid honors to Che and his compatriots killed in Bolivia.
Paying tribute to the Heroic Guerrilla is a compromise with his legacy, said Gonzàlez.
Yudi Rodriguez, member of the Communist Party Central Committee and Jorgelina Pestana, president of the provincial government welcomed the Gonzàlez family as they arrived at the Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara Revolution Square, a complex that includes the mausoleum.
During the ceremony in front of the niche that treasure Che’s remains, Gonzalez said that Guevara will always live as far as there are people like the Cubans who, Che and his four compatriots still held in US jails belong with.
Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino are the four anti-terrorists who, along Gonzàlez, are internationally known as the Cuban Five.
The hero recalled that he had the chance to shake Che’s hand when he was still a child, an event that left an imprint as strong as the news about his death in Bolivia.
Che is the reason for daily renewal, and in this historic stage, he continues to be a crucial example, said René meaning that Cubans must resort to Che’s critical thinking and ask themselves if what has been done can still be improved.
The saddest thing is that my four brothers are still in jail; every single day in prison is a crime committed against them, because there is no reason for people like them to be under such conditions, he pointed out.
Following a tour of the museum that treasures documents, photos and other belongings of Che Guevara, Gonzalez held a moving encounter with leaders of the Young Communist League and the University Student Federation. ( acn )

René en mausoleo Che


photos: Tania Ramos and Arelys María Echavarría

One of the murderers of Che receives Yoani Sanchez in Miami

April 2, 2013

On his return from Cuba, on orders from the CIA, Felix Rodriguez took a course at Fort Bennings along with the most fanatical members of Operation 40, including Luis Posada Carriles, future terrorist gang leader, and Jorge Mas Canosa, who went on to found and direct the terrorist Cuban-American National Foundation.

International | Cafe Fuerte/ Yoanislandia | 03/31/2013 |

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez returns to the U.S. in April. In this new tour she will travel to Miami, the famous anti-Castro historical city, to –among other things — receive new awards for her service to Washington. Her appearance in the city has divided the anti-Cuban exiles because of statements she has made throughout her tour, especially those related to the lifting of the blockade, which totally contradict that which this group has defended throughout the years.

The Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, an emblematic Cuban exile group, urged the citizens of Miami to welcome the blogger Yoani Sanchez as a “fighter for democracy and human rights” on the island.

The group called on its followers to “show that as free men and women we can respectfully have our differences, but we are united by something sublime: our homeland Cuba,” said a statement released Tuesday.

However, some of the mercenaries of old understood that methods have changed and that Sanchez is part of a new mutation from the mercenerarismo of 30 or 40 years ago, so they want to sponsor her visit and thereby prevent her from encountering even more than the expected rejection in Miami.

Most are excited to welcome Felix Rodriguez, the man who is credited with the assassination of Che Guevara and the members of Brigade 2506 who invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. These latter felt obliged to issue a statement of support for the blogger to calm down some of those who were speaking out against her.

Google translation. Revised by Walter Lippmann [with a little additional help from klw. I should note that in addition to Google’s normal troubles in translating since it uses a word-by-word approach that is unable to reflect the meaning of a passage, the Spanish wasn’t all that well-written in spots making it even harder to write a good English version — but I think readers will get the idea. Spanish readers of course should just skip the English and go down to the original Spanish. klw],

Uno de los asesinos del Che recibe a Yoani Sánchez en Miami

A su regreso de Cuba, por órdenes de la CIA, Félix Rodríguez pasa un curso en Fort Bennings con los elementos más fanáticos de la Operación 40, entre otros Luis Posada Carriles, futuro jefe de pandilla terrorista, y Jorge Mas Canosa, quien fundara y dirigirá la terrorista Fundación Nacional Cubano-Americana
Internacional | Café Fuerte / Yoanislandia | 31-03-2013 | facebook yahoo twitter

La bloguera cubana Yoani Sánchez volverá en abril a Estados Unidos. En esta nueva visita se trasladará a Miami, ciudad insigne del anticastrismo histórico, para entre otras cosas recibir nuevas condecoraciones por sus servicios a Washington. Su aparición en la ciudad tiene divido al exilio anticubano debido a las declaraciones que ha hecho a lo largo de su gira, sobre todo, las relacionadas con el levantamiento del bloqueo, las cuales se contraponen totalmente con las que este grupo ha defendido a lo largo de los años.

La Asociación de Veteranos de Bahía de Cochinos, un emblemático grupo del exilio cubano, exhortó a la ciudadanía de Miami a darle la bienvenida en Miami a la bloguera Yoani Sánchez como una “luchadora por la democracia y los derechos humanos” en la isla.

La agrupación llamó a “demostrar que como hombres y mujeres libres podemos, respetuosamente, tener nuestras diferencias, pero que estamos unidos por algo sublime: nuestra Patria Cuba”, indicó un comunicado difundido este martes.

Sin embargo, algunos de los mercenarios de antaño comprenden que los métodos han variado y que Sánchez forma parte de una nueva mutación del mercenerarismo de hace 30 o 40 años, por eso quieren apadrinar su visita y con esto evitar que encuentre más rechazo del esperado en la ciudad.

Los más entusiasmados con el recibimiento son Félix Rodríguez, el hombre al que se le atribuye el asesinato del Che Guevara y los integrantes de la Brigada 2506, que invadieran Cuba por Bahía de Cochinos en abril de 1961. Estos últimos se vieron en la obligación de emitir un comunicado de respaldo a la bloguera para apaciguar los ánimos en su contra.

Félix Rodríguez Mendigutía: El hombre que asesinó al Che,

chesiempre-y Félix Rodríguez 2

Cooperatives and Socialism A View from Cuba

March 5, 2013

- 1 coop and socialism book

message from Helen Yaffe

Cooperatives and Socialism A View from Cuba, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker (ed)

In March 2011, the book Cooperativas y Socialism: Una Mirada Desde Cuba, edited by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, was published in Havana. Chapter 5 was written by me: El Che Guevara: las cooperativas y la economía política de la transición al socialismo.This publication is available free here:, Please feel free to circulate widely.
The book has now been translated and published in English as Cooperatives and Socialism: a View From Cuba, by Palgrave Macmillan (, )- with a somewhat less enticing cover. Unfortunately, it is only available in hardback and costs a hefty £75. But if you can order it into your academic or local library, then please do.
The book is divided into four sections: Part 1, what is a cooperative; Part 2, cooperatives and socialist thinkers (which includes my chapter Che Guevara: Cooperatives and the Political Economy of Socialist Transition, and other chapters looking at Marx, Engels and Lenin on cooperatives and self-management); Part 3, cooperatives in other countries (with different chapters looking at experiences in the Basque country, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela); Part 4, cooperatives and Cuba’s path to socialism, which includes an overview of the development of agricultural cooperatives in Cuba from 1959 to the present.
The book is interesting, important and timely, which of course is no coincidence. It is published as the process of ‘updating’ the Cuban economy sees an increased emphasis on cooperatives to solve the problems of incentives and under-employment, and consequent low-productivity and its many consequences, within a socialist framework. An significant expansion of cooperatives, which are emerging for the first outside of agriculture, has already begun and is set to increase in the coming years.,

‘Che dreamed of united Latin America standing strong against the US’ – Guevara’s daughter

February 27, 2013

Aleida Guevara (AFP Photo / Adalberto Roque)

Download video(771.47 MB),

Despite the propaganda surrounding Che Guevara, the Latin leader was a true revolutionary, and modern-day circumstances would have made him even more zealous to unite Latin Americans against their common foe, daughter Aleida Guevara told RT.

RT: Ms. Guevara, welcome and thank you for joining us. You have said that you have been very close to Fidel Castro. What do you think of the media speculation about his health; some reports claiming he’s dead, some reports claiming he’s alive? What do you think about that?

Aleida Guevara: Fidel is a totally unique man. He doesn’t get offended easily; it has to be something really offensive and usually something about other people for him to get offended. That’s why, for example, right now he is upset over all this media hype around Hugo Chavez’s medical problems. But Fidel never cared what others said about him. He pays no attention to such things, unless it is something really offensive or something about the people. That’s when he will react immediately.

RT: Aleida, your mother stayed silent about her romance with the fabled Comandante Che Guevara for almost 40 years – until recently, when she published a book revealing some of the details. Why did she find it so difficult to tell her story before? Why did she wait so long?

AG: First of all, you should know my mother. She comes from a rural area, and village folk in Cuba – like anywhere else, I suppose – are very sensitive about their romantic experiences. They are very tight-lipped about these things, and she was brought up in that culture. She has always been like that. That said, she was overwhelmingly in love with him. It was an incredibly beautiful love story. And it’s one of the things that make me feel so special – not because I am the daughter of a great man, oh no. I feel special because I am the daughter of a man and a woman who were dearly in love with each other, and I am the product of their love. That’s what makes me special.
Mother’s book tells the story of their relationship, the story of her life through the lens of that love. Just imagine what it was like for my Mother when Father died. He had been her first man. He was her fiancé, her comrade, her friend, her mentor, her lover, the father of her children. He was everything.
And then, just like that, he was gone. Imagine the pain she went through. She had to bring up and support four little children. So she was forced to lock up all those memories somewhere deep down and get on with her life. If she had been open, she wouldn’t have been able to carry on. A long, long time had to pass before she felt strong enough to revisit those memories. When she was getting down to writing the book I would often see her in tears. She cried so much I once told her, “Mom, why don’t you quit that book.” Luckily, she didn’t listen to me and she finished it. And that book is a truly incredible gift for me.

RT: That is a beautiful story. In the past ten years, there were lots of movies about Ernesto Che Guevara, and lots of biographies written. Which of the works you’ve seen and read give the most-reliable accounts?

AG: So far, there is not a single biography that I would recommend. When I talk to young people, I usually advise them to read what my Father wrote about himself. He had this habit of writing down everything that was happening around him since he was 17. Many of his diaries have made it through to us, you can read it firsthand and make your own conclusions. The only movie I would probably point you to is ‘The Motorcycle Diaries,’ the only worthy production in my opinion. It was made entirely by Latin Americans. It’s a great movie and I highly recommend it.

RT: There are plenty of different views about Che Guevara. Some say he was a hero and a martyr, others say he was a terrorist, a murderer. What do you think about the chapter in his life when had to kill people for the sake of his ideas?

AG: We are talking about war. When you are involved in a guerrilla war, you either live or die. This is the law of guerrilla warfare. But it is not murder. You don’t murder people. Murder is when you attack a defenseless person. But this is not the case when you are engaged in a battle. In a battle, you shoot at them because they shoot at you. You kill them because otherwise they’ll kill you. This is war. On the contrary, it was Che who was murdered. He was captured; he was unarmed and defenseless, and they killed him without trial. That was real murder.
But my father never did anything like that. They never killed their prisoners; they would take care of them, provide medical care; they would even slow down their advance because they had to guard the prisoners and leave them in a safe place.
So people who accuse him of murder simply don’t know the whole story and have no idea of how great these people were – not only Che but everybody who fought together with him, all those people. This war shaped them. The Cuban revolution never involved murder. We were defending ourselves. And we will keep doing this.

RT: There’s also a lot of speculation about Fidel on this matter. Some even say that Che being dead was much more useful to Castro than when he was alive.

AG: This is the stupidest thing you can say. When Che was alive, he was immensely helpful to Fidel in Cuba. Fidel has said this many, many times. He said he was at peace working on other things, because he knew that Che was the minister of industries. The Cuban economy was in good hands, because Fidel fully trusted Che. But the situation changed when Che left. But Che had to move on. From the very start, when Fidel and Che were in Mexico, they made a deal. Che promised Fidel he would stay in Cuba until it is liberated, and then, if he is still alive, he will move on to other countries in Latin America. Fidel agreed to that, and he kept his promise.
Once I came to Fidel. We had a very long conversation; we talked for several hours, and eventually I said to him, “Tell me about your disagreements with Dad. Tell me about these arguments people keep talking about.”
So he told me how one time, when they were in Mexico, they knew they would all be arrested, and Fidel told everybody to keep their mouth shut about their political views. And then he asked me, “What do you think your father did?” When he was in prison, he started talking to prison guards about politics. He even talked to them about Stalin! As a result, everybody was released except Che, because police said he was a Communist. Fidel tried talking to him but eventually he realized that Dad could not lie.
He was too honest; he could not lie. And there was nothing Fidel could say; there was nothing to talk about. “How can I argue with such a person?” Fidel said. So, that’s one of the arguments people say they had. But that was not even an argument. And Fidel stayed in Mexico and did not leave until my father was released, even though this jeopardized the entire plan they had for Cuba. And this was the beginning of a unique friendship between Fidel and my father. Dad realized that Fidel was a true general who always felt responsible for each of his soldiers.
That very evening, when I had that conversation with Fidel, I laughed and he asked me what was so funny. I said, “Uncle, – he was always Uncle Fidel to me – I’m laughing at you.” He said, “Why?” I said, “You don’t even notice it but you speak about Dad in the present tense, as if he was still alive.” He gave me a very serious look and said, “No, your dad is really here with us.” And that was the end of our conversation that night.

RT: The whole world knows your father’s face, and people buy merchandise with his picture on it. What do you feel when you see this?

AG: Sometimes I get angry because in many cases people abuse his image. Sometimes I even joke that I will sue them for distorting his face because Dad was a handsome man. Some of his images are just ugly. On the other hand, I always say that those pictures mean nothing if you don’t know what they represent, if you are not familiar with his life and what he did. Sometimes I would ask someone, “Why did you put on this T-shirt with Che?” And they say, “I have an exam coming up, and I’m not sure I’ll pass. So I put the T-shirt on, look at Che and tell myself not to give up, because if he made it, so can I.” Some responses are just marvelous. It means that, despite all the propaganda and nonsense told about him, people are not fooled. They don’t believe those lies. They understand what sort of people those revolutionaries were.

RT: Traveling across Latin America changed Che Guevara’s mindset. It made him a revolutionary. If he were to take a similar trip today, what would he see? Would it strike him as much as back then in the 1950s?

AG: Sadly enough, what made Che seek social justice for all is still alive and has even gained ground since then. The gap between the rich and the poor is only getting bigger, and people in Latin America know this very well. However, in recent years we have observed a new trend, with more leaders caring about people’s needs. Latin American leaders are beginning to understand that, if we join our efforts, nothing will stop us.
My dad would have certainly loved to find out that a Native American like Evo Morales has made it to the presidency. I think Che would’ve tried to support him and offer whatever assistance he could. He would have also endorsed the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. For the first time in history, a president made his people the sole owner of all the oil resources in the country. It is unique in modern history. I think Che would have welcomed it and would have done his best to help Chavez. So many things nowadays would have made him a little happier, but the same things would have made him even more zealous because there is still so much more to do.

RT: How do you think Che would respond to today’s integration across Latin America? Would he support it?

AG: Well, that has long been a dream, and not just for Che. Che would say that unity among all Latin Americans is our only hope of standing strong against our common foe. And he made it clear that Latin America’s worst enemy is the United States.

RT: What about Cuba? If Che were to see the situation and the quality of life in today’s Cuba, would he feel proud about it?

AG: He would realize that there are still many issues that need to be addressed, and many things that need to be improved. But my Father would always stand by the people of Cuba. He had this manner of voicing bare-knuckled criticism, and the people were always willing to listen. So if he were still with us today, he would be working just like everybody else, trying to make things better. I guess he wouldn’t hold back his criticism, either, but he would be committed to finding solutions. He would be very busy.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Death of a revolutionary – Enrique Oltuski

February 19, 2013


photo by Helen Yaffe

Enrique Oltuski Osacki (18 October 1930-16 December 2012)

Enrique Oltuski made an indelible contribution to the revolutionary struggle in 1950s Cuba, to the process of socialist transition and as member of government until his death, aged 83, on 16 December 2012. Oltuski led the urban wing of the Movement of the 26th July (M26J) in central Cuba in the final year before the Revolution toppled the Batista dictatorship in January 1959. The English publication of his memoirs, Vida Clandestina, was politically important in undermining the lie that Cuba’s urban population was not active in the revolutionary struggle.

Born in Cuba in 1930 to a family of Polish Jewish immigrants, his family lived in Santa Clara in central Cuba, where his parents’ business prospered. Oltuski wanted for nothing, bothered only by the grinding daily poverty around him: ‘I saw barefoot children my own age begging, elderly people dressed in rags. At night women with children in their arms slept in the doorways of public buildings and in parks…we concluded that this had to be changed.’*

Oltuski went to the US where he studied architectural engineering at the University of Miami before working for a couple of years as an architect in Florida, with the intention of setting up his own business in Cuba. He began to read Marx and to learn about the Bolshevik Revolution. Returning to the island on holiday following Batista’s coup in 1952, he was drawn into the revolutionary struggle against the US-backed dictatorship, joining first the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement and, when that was disbanded, the M26J in Havana. In 1955 he moved back to Cuba permanently to take an active role in the struggle. He was employed in the Technical Department at Shell Oil, joining the exclusive Rotary Club and cultivating an image as a promising young entrepreneur as a cover for his revolutionary activities. This activism was necessarily secret because of the brutal repression by the regime.

When Shell Oil sent him to Santa Clara as the technical head of Las Villas, he became responsible for leading the M26J in the province (from January 1958), under the nom de guerre ‘Sierra’. ‘It was an honour, but also your life was in greater danger than ever before,’ he explained.

‘We collected money to buy guns for the armed struggle in the mountains, published the underground press and distributed it to the population; we organised the student and workers movements and we carried out sabotage against the government. We blew up electrical installations, set fire to sugar cane fields that belonged to members of the Batista regime.

We ambushed and killed the Batista police who tortured and murdered our comrades. This was the struggle in the cities and we worked to convince the people through clandestine propaganda that the government were exploiters and that we had to create a government which represented the true interests of the people, that we had to have agrarian reform, educate people, build hospitals to care for the health of the population.’

Oltuski provided a vital link between Che Guevara, who arrived with the Rebel Army column in the Escambray Mountains in central Cuba in October 1958, and the urban movement. The battle for control of Santa Clara, headed by Guevara, was a decisive victory for the revolutionary forces against the Batista regime. Despite some initial disagreements about strategy, Oltuski went on to collaborate closely with Guevara.

Oltuski was one of only three representatives of the M26J to enter the Council of Ministers in the first government in January 1959 as Minister of Communications. In 1960, he joined the Department of Industrialisation to work with Guevara who had been given responsibility for the development and socialisation of Cuban industry. As Director of Organisation, Oltuski helped create the operational shell of the Budgetary Finance System (BFS), Guevara’s innovative system of economic management for the transition to socialism in the concrete conditions in 1960s Cuba.** They studied existing laws, created new laws, formulated the enterprises’ plan of production, decided how to control the factories within different sectors and determined relations between those sectors and the ministry, and between the ministry and the central government. Oltuski recalled: ‘This work took us months. The ideas were taken to the Management Council for debate and approved or adjusted.’ Through the BFS, Guevara attempted to take the structural and managerial efficiencies of the capitalist monopolies and apply them to a socialist framework. Oltuski was key in explaining how those management techniques and organisational structures worked. ‘I had mastered all of these things in my studies in the United States and I applied them in the structure of the enterprises we were creating…We discussed it, Che and I. We spoke about the common structures of both systems – capitalism and socialism.’

In 1961, when the new Ministry of Industries was opened, Oltuski transferred to work under Guevara’s instructions on the Council for Economic Planning (today the Ministry of the Economy and Planning) as vice minister. Later, and until his death, he worked as vice minister in the Ministry of Fishing.

In 2005 in Havana, Oltuski told me: ‘I was lucky to be part of the revolutionary government and to work to develop the ideas that we had since we were young about changing Cuba and building a society in the interests of all the people and not an exploiting minority. We still haven’t finished, there are many things to improve.’ This effort continues, he said, despite the blockade and threat of invasion, ‘because we are in the process of building a society which many people in the world understand should exist in their own counties.’

Helen Yaffe

* All quotes are from interviews by Helen Yaffe with Enrique Oltuski in Havana, 12 January 2005 and 15 February 2006.

** For details see Helen Yaffe, Che Guevara: the economics of revolution, Palgrave 2009.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February/March 2013,


August 25, 2012
Escrito por Estela McCollin   
Adriana Pérez, wife of Cuban Antiterrorist Gerardo Hernandez  

La Paz, Aug 25 (Prensa Latina) Adriana Pérez, wife of Cuban Antiterrorist Gerardo Hernandez honors today Cuban-Argentine guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara in La Higuera, Bolivia, where he was murdered October 1967.

  Perez began last Wednesday a five-day visit in Bolivia. She travelled Friday to Vallegrande to lay a wreath at the 30-year burial site until Che’s remains were ferried to Santa Clara, central Cuba.

Adriana -wife of Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Five Cuban prisoners in US jails- paid tribute to the mythic guerrilla and assured that an old dream has come true in visiting a place she always wished to visit.

She also met with the Cuban medical brigade working in the region, whom she updated on the Cuban Five situation. Perez related their actual living terms and that of his comrades, their incongruous legal process and the media slant praying on their case.

With the visit to La Higuera, Pérez ends her stay in Bolivia where she gave an interview to numerous media and government personalities, among them with President Evo Morales in Palacio Quemado.

Morales promised to write a letter to US President Barack Obama to plead for the Cuban Five release, and whose cause he has joined from assuming power in 2006.

Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez were arrested on September 1998 and submitted to unlawful processes that resulted in harsh verdicts, namely against Gerardo who was given two life sentences plus 15 years.

Rene Gonzalez already completed his sentence but must fulfill in US territory three-year supervised probation.

The Cuban five were monitoring terrorist organizations financed by the US and operating from south Florida to denounce their activities.

Their anonymous work helped frustrate numerous terrorist plans that ranged from infiltrating weaponry and large arsenals in Cuba to mid-flight blast of civilian planes and the assassination or the leaders of the Cuban Revolution.

Wife of One of Cuban 5 Visits Bolivia to Honor Che

August 22, 2012
 Ileana Ferrer Fonte   
Adriana Pérez 

 Adriana Pérez, spouse of Cuban antiterrorist fighter Gerardo Hernandez, arrived in Bolivia for a five-day visit that will include a tribute to Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara in La Higuera.

  After arriving from Lima, Perez thanked the invitation made by the Movement of Solidarity with Cuba in Bolivia, saying she is in this country with many expectations.

“It is a great expectation for any Cuban to visit Bolivia, but mainly for someone associated with the Five, as they are universally known, so what Che has represented for them,” Perez said.

“Gerardo had a photo of Che and one of Nelson Mandela in his cell,” said Perez, who stated that “as Gerardo’s wife, but also as a Cuban woman,” she will be in La Higuera, where Che was killed.

She also considered very fruitful her stay in Peru: “Issues such as the blockade, the Five, and a lasting action plan until the Five have returned to Cuba were also discussed there.”

According to her agenda, the visitor will participate in a forum about the Five, organized by the Movement of Solidarity with Cuba and the Communist Party of Bolivia, at the Law School of the University of San Andres, in which the Five Committee in the Andean nation will be also created.

Perez will participate in the same date in an activity at the Legislative Assembly headquarter, with the participation of senators and lawmakers. She will later meet with representatives of the Cuban medical and educational brigades working in this country.

On August 24, Perez will meet with intellectuals and media directors at the headquarters of the Plurinational State vice presidency.

Perez will also travel to La Higuera, where she will pay tribute on his name and that of her husband to Che. Che was murdered in October 1967.

Gerardo Hernandez was convicted in 2001 by a Florida court to double life sentences plus 15 years in prison and is still in prison, as well as the other three comrades-in-arms: Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, despite strong international pressure so the U.S. government frees them.

Another antiterrorist fighter, Rene Gonzalez, already completed his prison term, but he must remain in the United States to fulfill his supervised release.

The Five were detained in September 1998 while monitoring and warning their country from plans by terrorist organizations, funded by the United States and based in south Florida.

La Paz, Aug 22 (Prensa Latina)

Che Guevara continues to reveal his thoughts

June 15, 2012
The book Apuntes Filosóficos (Philosophical Notes) was presented at the International Press Center in Havana, containing annotations, so far unpublished, by the heroic guerrilla about Marxist theoretical thinking

By: Jose Alejandro Rodriguez –,

On the same day that Ernesto Guevara de la Serna would have been 84 years old, the book Philosophical Notes,  by the great revolutionary, which contains previously unpublished annotations of the Heroic Guerrilla’s thinking about Marxist theory, was presented at the International Press Center in Havana.

The volume, published by Ocean Press and Ocean Sur, in collaboration with the Che Guevara Studies Center, was presented in the presence of the outstanding fighter and collaborator of the Heroic Guerrilla, Victor Dreke, by Armando Hart Dávalos, and the companion the great revolutionary Aleida March.

The compiler of the volume, Maria del Carmen Ariet, highlighted in the presentation of the book the sustained work to systematize what the great revolutionary was revealing in his fighting career, characterized by the combination of praxis and theory.

The political scientist and national award winner for Social Sciences, Fernando Martínez Heredia, who wrote the prologue of the book, said that publication of the volume is an essential contribution to the literature of the revolutionary thought of Che, who was always a thinker and a philosopher in relation to the praxis of the Cuban, Latin American and universal revolution.

The Cuban theorist underlined the importance of this revolutionary revelation of Che, in the work of Marxist thought today to find an effective vaccine against dogmatism, and arm themselves with scientific thought.

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