jueves, 28 de agosto de 2008

Latin America in need of valuable role models.

Image: Celebration of the "unveiling" of the new Bronze Statue of "Che" Guevara, event that took place in Rosario his birthplace with more than 50,000 people attending.

Image: Picture of a Pre-paid Public Transportation Card in Rosario, depicting "Che" Guevara in memory of the 80th anniversay of his birth (card issued by the Municipal Transportation Authority)

"...I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: "Yank it off, boy, what does it matter." I did so and his possessions were now mine..."

  • Ernesto "Che" Guevara - Diary entry from Sierra Maestra on the execution of Eutimio Guerra as an anti-revolutionary spy (January 1957), quoted in Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson

"...Once more I was able to convince myself how criminal the capitalistic octopuses are. On a picture of our old and bewailed comrade Stalin, I swore not to rest before these capitalistic octopuses are destroyed..."

  • Ernesto "Che" Guevara - Letter to his aunt Beatriz (1953) quoted in Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson

I am a citizen of Rosario, the third largest city in Argentina, which also happens to be the place where "Che" Guevara was born, back in 1928.

Had he been alive, he would have turned 80 this year. And that was taken by both the City and the Province (Santa Fe Province) governments as a motive of celebration. Celebrations ran from June 12-15. Lots of wallpapers celebrating the "human virtues" of Ernesto Che Guevara were set, musical performances arranged and the city youth was invited to attend some officially organized meetings and get-togethers in remembrance of "Che". Even the public transportation system in some way supported this event by issuing cards depicting his face. (see picture above)

The city and th Province also held a public celebration for the would-be 80th birthday. It was led by no less than the top public officers: Miguel Lifschitz -Mayor of Rosario- and Dr. Hermes Binner -Governor of Santa Fe Province-. The main event had its peak point with the unveiling of a Bronze Che Guevara Statue in honor of the geuerrilla leader. (See the picture above) The statue was made out of bronze that was entirely donated by scrap metal parts from people. (BBC News - 'Statue of Che's 80th birthday')

In his official opening speech, Lifschitz said '...that man, however, was up to fight to extend out of the frontiers of that lovable caribbean island the revolutionary flame, knowing the difficulties and dangers of such an enterpise... Holding that flame and that unbreakable call he went to Africa and finally in Bolivia where that undying flame was tried to be extinguished by the bullets on Octuber the 9th of 1967...' '...but the were wrong, though. Next to his final grasp in a poor and dark room at Higueras, what would stand from that moment on... his indisputable coherence. The same coherence is recognized by those who do not share his ideals and even those who offend him, the same coherence that is shared all over the world by those who identify with his intense, vital and stubborn bet for a better world...' (Speech of Mayor Miguel Lifschitz at the official opening act - Municipality of Rosario webpage - in spanish)

All of this is a perfect example of how our youth is being misled by our leaders and the mass media. Che is shown as a revolutionary, as a dreamer and as a lover of freedom and justice. But the fact is that he was a ruthless executioner, was a supporter of an actual system of tyranny, and his revolutions had the practical result of reinforcing brutal militarism for many years. If we had to suffer from criminal, cruel and brutal military dictatorships in our continent, it is in part due to "Che" Guevara´s so-called idealism.

The mayor of my city -to my great dissapointment- talks about "Che" as being "coherent" but apparently doesn't notice how incoherent he is being saying that. He praises and talks wonders about the Cuban revolution, and he is a democratic leader- elected by free citizens! That is unthinkable in the Cuba that Che fought to build. Fidel Castro took power by violent means, remained in office with the support of violence outlasting no fewer than nine US presidents. I find it particularly ironic that a public official talks seeming to disregard the fact that Che -which is widely admired- was an esential tool on the engineering of our continent's only standing tyranny.

However, that same oxymoron is repeated constantly by almost every Latin American democratic leader. Maybe motivated on the attempt to gain simpathy from the crowds or because they actually believe in communism and totalitarianism, both options are terrifying.

Their contradictory action and thought is expressed by their decision-making: ruling a city that has very high poverty rates, they waste thousands of state money in a public event celebrating the figure of a guerrilla leader which has proven to be profoundly anti-democratic, violent and with no respect for others ideas or lives. Rosario has a lot of "villas miseria" (Shantytowns) but still they have considered that investing that money on publicly praising the revolutionary is a priority over public policy concerning the poor.

A lot of people apparnetly support Che because he is shown standing against the 'Imperialism' and 'Capitalism' and fighting to his ideals to death. But they forget -or simply do not know- what Che really did in his idealistic battle.

His so called heroic quest is nothing less than helping by violent means to overthrow governments which embraced a different set of ideals than his own. He couldn't bear somebody thinking in a different way that he did.

Inspired by his 'altruistic' belief that he had the truth, and the solution for the developing countries problems, he took action in the Cuban revolution helping Fidel Castro to take power. Then, from 1959 to 1961 he was president of the National Bank of Cuba, and then minister of industry. In this position, he travelled as an ambassador for Cuba., showing himself as a strong opponent of the United States. He guided the Castro regime towards alignment with the Soviet Union -one of the most brutal totalitarian regimes of the History-. When he thought his job was done in Cuba, he wanted to 'spread the revolution' to other countries. That is, to spread violence and death to otherwise peaceful countries. That is how he then trained rebel forces in guerrilla warfare in Africa -particularly in the Congo- and met his death in Bolivia while leading forces rebelling against the government of René Barrientos Ortuño...

During the Cuban revolotion he was particularly harsh on deserters, who were punished as traitors. Guevara was known to send execution squads to hunt down those seeking to escape. During the guerrilla campaign, Guevara was also responsible for the execution of a number of men accused of being informers, deserters or spies. Then he became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness. The best example of the brutality of his actions can be found in La Cabaña, a fortress that was captured by the rebels he hed and was used as headquarters for several months. During his five-month tenure in that post (January 2 through June 12 1959) Guevara oversaw the revolutionary tribunals and executions of suspected war criminals, traitors, chivatos, and former members of Batista's secret police. That is, he decided over the death of people without any respect of fair trail, procedural rights or human rights. Why people have such sympathy for Che? What is the responsibility of democratic public officers when they promote this kind of role models? Why our leaders choose to pick this kind of persons as examples?

I can hardly find an answer to that last question, and it terrifies me, especially considering that by today standards "Che" would have been considered a terrorist, and probably would be in the world "most wanted" list of criminals.

Of course we have had serious problems of inequality in our contient, and still do, but the violent way is never the path for solutions. And when "Che" had the choice, he took violence as a means to his 'altruistic' ends.

There is no doubt it is terrible mistake that South American leaders take Che as a hero, and spread that image. Those people are making a great damage to the youth, by giving them the idea, that the violent path is valid. I can understand the "Che" mania coming from an irresponsible teenager with a rebellious mindset, but I cannot understand how government officials and well educated people embrace that idea, and have him as a role model or hero. If a young teenager wears a "Che" T-Shirt, that can be explained because his or her lack of experience or because probably he or she didn't have the chance to know the facts or study about the crimes of that "revolution". But it is very dangerous that goverment officials -elected government officials- with a big share of responsibility in civic life, speak out in favor of a guerrilla leader with words of praise, taking him as an example and even making public demonstrations in honor of this guerrilla leader.

The result is a big confusion, the public, the common citizen ends up confused, embracing contradictory ideas. I find particularly ironic the fact that the same city that movilized on behalf of the right to property, protesting peacefully over the rise on export tariffs, also movilized in a period of no less than a month, in honor of the biggest icon of anti-capitalism, anti-property rights and anti-freedom. The same people supporting the farmers against the government also supported the engineer of the totalitarian state of communist Cuba.

I hope that our youth and our leaders will soon realize the kind of criminal 'Che' Guevara has been and focus on the atrocities that he had commited, and finally move on to a better kind of role models. I hope we can break the myth of the 'progressive icon' and unveil the real nature of che : a cold blooded mass murderer and killing machine.

Further reading:
The victims of Che: Documented victims.
Official webpage of the celebrations on Che's 80 birthday
Official webpage of the Socialist Mayor of Rosario.
Historic Figures: Che Guevara - BBC