This coming Sunday, June 14, is the 81st anniversary of Che Guevara’s birth and it is a good occasion to review various parts of his life and missions.
In late 1964, after making a speech before the UN General Assembly, Che Guevara embarked on a lengthy tour of Africa that began and ended in Algeria. He visited the Republic of China, Mali, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Ghana, Dahomey, Tanzania, the United Arab Republic, Ireland and Prague. He returned to Algiers to participate in the Second Economic Seminar of the Organization of Afro-Asian Solidarity. Below is a video snippet of one of the two speeches he gave there. Here, he clearly articulates the beast that is imperialism.
Later, in 1965, Che mysteriously disappeared from Cuba. Che was being very careful about his next mission: heading up a clandestine operation of Cuban soldiers to the Congo to help support the Lumumbistes who were fighting against the central government. The central government had just elected a new president, a man who was complicit in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and who had become the United States’ main man in the Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko. Unfortunately, Che’s mission in the Congo was fraught with many difficulties and never bore fruit; he would never see the continent again.
Though Guevara had returned to Cuba on March 14, 1965, his absence from public functions soon caused a stir not only within Cuba but internationally as well. Finally, on October 3, during the televised ceremony of the presentation of the newly established Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel, with Che’s wife and children in attendance, read the following letter from Che (further below) that had been delivered to Fidel back in April. Che left the timing of its disclosure up to Fidel. Fidel purposely delayed making it public out of concern for Che’s security and, for the same reason, could not divulge his present whereabouts.
As we know now, in 1966, Che entered Bolivia incognito and tried to breathe life back into a struggling guerilla movement by helping to return the country and its resources back to the rightful owners — the indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, this mission failed badly. On October 9, 1967, he was killed in the highlands of Bolivia in a CIA operation headed up by a man by the name of Felix Rodriguez.
Forty years after Che’s death and 500 years after the Spanish Conquest, Bolivia has a president who not only looks like the majority of the people of Bolivia, but more importantly, thinks like them. By nationalizing precious resources and redistributing land, the people of Bolivia are on the way to re-building their sovereignty. Unfortunately, while imperial forces are trying to carve up Bolivia into autonomous regions, the people of Bolivia continue to fight on valiantly. If Che was around today, he would be gratified. And, knowing that the struggle would be a long one, he would probably want to be there, shoulder-to-shoulder, fighting alongside the people.
After Che’s letter, you will find a video with a song written by beloved Cuban folksinger, Carlos Puebla, “Hasta Siempre, Comandante,” which is meant as a response to Che’s farewell letter. The video shows various pictures of Che and of people today who continue to honor his work.
Happy birthday, Che! We learn from your example.
HE’S FAREWELL LETTER TO FIDEL
At this moment I remember many things — when I met you in Marfa Antonia’s house, when you suggested my coming, all the tensions involved in the preparations.
One day they asked who should be notified in case of death, and the real possibility of that fact affected us all. Later we knew that it was true, that in revolution one wins or dies (if it is a real one). Many comrades fell along the way to victory.
Today everything is less dramatic, because we are more mature. But the fact is repeated. I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban Revolution in its territory, and I say good-bye to you, the comrades, your people, who are already mine.
I formally renounce my positions in the national leadership of the party, my post as minister, my rank of major, and my Cuban citizenship. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba. The only ties are of another nature — those which cannot be broken as appointments can.
Recalling my past life, I believe I have worked with sufficient honor and dedication to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only serious failing was not having confided more in you from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra, and not having understood quickly enough your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary.
I have lived magnificent days, and I felt at your side the pride of belonging to our people in the brilliant yet sad days of the Caribbean crisis.
Seldom has a statesman been more brilliant than you in those days. I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles. Other nations of the world call for my modest efforts. I can do that which is denied you because of your responsibility as the head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to part.
I want it known that I do it with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow: I leave here the purest of my hopes as a builder, and the dearest of those I love. And I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds me deeply. I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be. This comforts and heals the deepest wounds.
I state once more that I free Cuba from any responsibility, except that which stems from its example. If my final hour finds me under other skies, my last thought will be of this people and especially of you. I am thank- ful for your teaching, your example, and I will try to be faithful to the final consequences of my acts.
I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution, and I will continue to be. Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and as such I shall behave. I am not sorry that I leave my children and my wife nothing material. I am happy it is that way. I ask nothing for them, as I know the state will provide enough for their expenses and education.
I would like to say much to you and to our people, but I feel it is not necessary. Words cannot express what I would want them to, and I don’t think it’s worth while to banter phrases.
Hasta la victoria siempre. ¡Patria o Muerte!
I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervor.