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Che Guevara: Life of a Revolutionary

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Che Guevera
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« Reply #45 on: August 02, 2009, 01:39:44 am »

As the only other ranked Comandante besides Fidel Castro, Guevara was an extremely harsh disciplinarian. Deserters were punished as traitors, and Guevara was known to send execution squads to hunt down those seeking to go AWOL.[47] As a result, Guevara became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness.[48] During the guerrilla campaign, Guevara was also responsible for the execution of a number of men accused of being informers, deserters or spies.[49] Although he maintained a demanding and harsh disposition, Guevara also viewed his role of commander as one of a teacher, entertaining his men during breaks between engagements with readings from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Cervantes, and Spanish lyric poets.[50]

His commanding officer Fidel Castro has described Guevara as intelligent, daring, and an exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops."[51] Castro has further remarked that Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness".[52]
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« Reply #46 on: August 02, 2009, 01:40:02 am »

Guevara was instrumental in creating the clandestine radio station Radio Rebelde in February 1958, which broadcast news to the Cuban people with statements by the 26th of July movement, and provided radiotelephone communication between the growing number of rebel columns across the island. Guevara had apparently been inspired to create the station by observing the effectiveness of CIA supplied radio in Guatemala in ousting the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.[53]
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« Reply #47 on: August 02, 2009, 01:40:12 am »

In late July 1958, Guevara would play a critical role in the Battle of Las Mercedes by using his column to halt a force of 1,500 men called up by Batista's General Cantillo in a plan to encircle and destroy Castro's forces. Years later, Major Larry Bockman of the United States Marine Corps would analyze and describe Che's tactical appreciation of this battle as "brilliant."[54] As the war extended, Guevara led a new column of fighters dispatched westward for the final push towards Havana. In the closing days of December 1958, Guevara directed his "suicide squad" in the attack on Santa Clara, that became the final decisive military victory of the revolution.[55][56] In the six weeks leading up to the Battle of Santa Clara there were times when his men were completely surrounded, outgunned, and overrun. Che's eventual victory despite the formidable odds and being outnumbered 10:1, remains in the view of some observers a "remarkable tour de force in modern warfare."[57] Radio Rebelde broadcast the first reports that Guevara's column had taken Santa Clara on New Year's Eve 1958. This contradicted reports by the heavily controlled national news media, which had at one stage reported Guevara's death during the fighting. Batista, upon learning that his generals were negotiating a separate peace with the rebel leader, fled to the Dominican Republic the next day on January 1, 1959.
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« Reply #48 on: August 02, 2009, 01:40:47 am »



After the battle of Santa Clara, January 1, 1959
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« Reply #49 on: August 02, 2009, 01:41:13 am »

After the revolution

On January 8, 1959, Castro's army rolled victoriously into Havana. In February, the revolutionary government proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph.[58] When Hilda Gadea arrived in Cuba in late January, Guevara told her that he was involved with another woman, and the two agreed on a divorce,[59] which was finalized on May 22.[60] On June 2, 1959, he married Aleida March, a Cuban-born member of the 26th of July movement with whom he had been living since late 1958.[61]

During the rebellion against Batista's dictatorship, the general command of the rebel army, led by Fidel Castro, introduced into the liberated territories the 19th century penal law commonly known as the Ley de la Sierra.[62] This law included the death penalty for extremely serious crimes, whether perpetrated by the dictatorship or by supporters of the revolution. In 1959, the revolutionary government extended its application to the whole of the republic and to those it considered war criminals, captured and tried after the revolution. According to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, this latter extension was supported by the majority of the population, and followed the same procedure as those in the Nuremberg Trials held by the Allies after World War II.[63]
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« Reply #50 on: August 02, 2009, 01:41:25 am »

To implement this plan, Castro named Guevara commander of the La Cabaña Fortress prison, for a five-month tenure (January 2 through June 12, 1959).[64] Guevara was charged with purging the Batista army and consolidating victory by exacting "revolutionary justice" against those considered to be traitors, chivatos (informants) or war criminals.[65] Serving in the post as commander of La Cabaña, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted during the revolutionary tribunal process.[66] On some occasions the penalty delivered by the tribunal was death by firing squad.[67] Raúl Gómez Treto, senior legal advisor to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, has argued that removing restrictions on the death penalty were justified in order to prevent citizens themselves from taking justice into their own hands, as happened twenty years earlier in the anti-Machado rebellion.[68] With 20,000 Cubans estimated to have been killed at the hands of Batista's accomplices,[69] and a survey at the time showing 93% public approval for the tribunal process,[70] the newly empowered Cuban government along with Guevara concurred. Although the exact numbers differ, it is estimated that several hundred people were executed during this time.[71]
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« Reply #51 on: August 02, 2009, 01:41:57 am »



(right to left) Rebel leader Camilo Cienfuegos, Cuban President Manuel Urrutia, and Guevara (January 1959)
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« Reply #52 on: August 02, 2009, 01:42:21 am »

On June 12, 1959, as soon as Guevara returned to Havana, Castro sent him out on a three-month tour of 14 countries, most of them Bandung Pact members in Africa and Asia. Sending Guevara from Havana allowed Castro to appear to be distancing himself from Che and his Marxist sympathies, that troubled both the United States and some of Castro's 26th of July Movement members.[73] He spent 12 days in Japan (July 15–27), participating in negotiations aimed at expanding Cuba's trade relations with that nation. During this visit, Guevara secretly visited the city of Hiroshima, where the American military had detonated an atom-bomb 14 years earlier. Guevara was "really shocked" at what he witnessed and by his visit to a hospital where A-bomb survivors were being treated.[74]
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« Reply #53 on: August 02, 2009, 01:42:31 am »

Upon returning to Cuba in September 1959, it was evident that Castro now had more political power. The government had begun land seizures included in the agrarian reform law, but was hedging on compensation offers to landowners, instead offering low interest "bonds", which put the U.S. on alert. At this point the affected wealthy cattlemen of Camagüey mounted a campaign against the land redistributions, and enlisted the newly disaffected rebel leader Huber Matos, who along with the anti-Communist wing of the 26th of July Movement, joined them in denouncing the "Communist encroachment."[75] During this time Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was offering assistance to the "Anti-Communist Legion of the Caribbean" who was training in the Dominican Republic. This multi-national force comprised mostly of Spaniards and Cubans, but also of Croatians, Germans, Greeks, and right-wing mercenaries, were plotting to topple Castro.[75]

These developments prompted Castro to further clean house of "counter-revolutionaries", and appoint Guevara as Director of the Industrialization Department of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform on October 7, 1959 and as President of the National Bank of Cuba on November 26, 1959. This allowed him to retain his military rank.[76]
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« Reply #54 on: August 02, 2009, 01:43:01 am »



Meeting with French existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in March 1960. Guevara was fluent in French.[72]
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« Reply #55 on: August 02, 2009, 01:43:28 am »

On March 4, 1960, the French freighter La Coubre, carrying munitions from the port of Antwerp, exploded twice while being unloaded in Havana Harbor, killing well over 100 people.[77] Guevara provided first aid to victims. It was at the memorial service for the victims of this explosion the following day that Alberto Korda took the famous photograph now known as Guerrillero Heroico.

Guevara desired to see a diversification in Cuba's economy, as well as an elimination of material incentives in favor of moral ones. He viewed capitalism as a "contest among wolves" where "one can only win at the cost of others," and thus desired to see the creation of a "new man and woman".[78] An integral part of fostering a sense of "unity between the individual and the mass", Guevara believed, was volunteer work and will.
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« Reply #56 on: August 02, 2009, 01:43:39 am »

To display this, Guevara "led by example", working "endlessly at his ministry job, in construction, and even cutting sugar cane" on his day off.[79] He was known for working 36 hours at a stretch, calling meetings after midnight, and eating on the run.[80] Alongside his work schedule he wrote several publications advocating a replication of the Cuban revolutionary model, promoting small rural guerrilla groups (foco theory) as an alternative to massive armed insurrection. During this time his wife Aleida encouraged him to explore classical music, which he came to love, with Beethoven as his favorite.[81] Other luxuries which he afforded himself were maté, his favorite beverage, and Montecristo No. 4's, his cigar of choice.[81]

Guevara did not participate in the fighting of the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, having been ordered by Castro to a secretly prearranged command post in Cuba's western Pinar del Río province, where he fended off a decoy force.[82] During this deployment, he suffered a bullet grazing to the cheek when his pistol fell out of its holster and accidentally discharged.[83]
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« Reply #57 on: August 02, 2009, 01:43:51 am »

In August 1961, during an economic conference of the Organization of American States in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara sent a note of "gratitude" to U.S. President John F. Kennedy through Richard N. Goodwin, a young secretary of the White House. It read "Thanks for Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs). Before the invasion, the revolution was shaky. Now it's stronger than ever."[84] In response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon presenting the Alliance for Progress for ratification by the meeting, Guevara antagonistically attacked the United States claim of being a "democracy", stating that such a system was not compatible with "financial oligarchy, discrimination against blacks, and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan."[85] Guevara continued, speaking out against the "persecution" that in his view "drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, and sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world."[85]
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« Reply #58 on: August 02, 2009, 01:44:07 am »

Guevara, who was practically the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship,[86] played a key role in bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.[87] During an interview with the British Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a few weeks after the crisis, Guevara still fuming over the perceived Soviet betrayal, stated that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them off.[88] Sam Russell, the British correspondent who spoke to Guevara at the time came away with "mixed feelings", calling him "a warm character" and "clearly a man of great intelligence", but "crackers from the way he went on about the missiles."[88]
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« Reply #59 on: August 02, 2009, 01:44:45 am »



Guevara being received in China by Chairman Mao Zedong, at an official ceremony in the Government palace, November 1960
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