Che lives


By Pepe Escobar

It was forty years ago on October 8 when he was executed by a Bolivian Army subjected to CIA orders – sprinkled with Bolivian Rangers trained by US instructors imported from Laos. Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna might have been an austere, serious nemesis of the Western capitalist order. Or he might have been just a solitary idealist, a celestial wanderer. At 39, captured, wounded, exhausted, shackled, suffering with asthma, like a lion in a cage – the dingy room at a little adobe school in the tiny pueblo of La Higuera – he rose from a rickety chair to stand tall and face death.

His trembling executioner, soldier Mario Teran, later recalled his last words: “Be serene,” said Che, “and be on target. You are about to kill a man.” Teran saw “a big Che, enormous. His eyes were gleaming …When he stared at me, I felt dizzy …” At one in the afternoon, his hands shaking, Teran would unleash two bursts of machine-gun fire into Che’s chest (to make it look like he was shot in combat), just to plunge into an endless nightmare himself.

Then there was the striking smiling corpse, eyes wide open, brought as a war trophy by the Bolivian soldiers to the hospital laundry in colonial-era Vallegrande. Some compared it to Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson; it was rather the Lamentation over the Dead Christ in Renaissance master Mantegna’s 1490 AD masterpiece. The laundry today is a holy chapel – its walls covered by thousands of pilgrim’s inscriptions. The school at La Higuera is a museum where peasants sell pieces of earth impregnated with the blood of Che.

As much as Spartacus throughout history became the icon of all global wars fought by slaves against their masters, Che in only four decades is the undisputed global icon of all wars fought by rebellious peoples who believe in hope against injustice and who believe another, less cruel world is possible.

He’s not only “Che-sus” – more popular than Jesus in a way John Lennon himself wouldn’t dream of. He is revered by Bengalis in Kolkatta, Palestinians in Gaza, Egyptian lawyers, Uzbek dissidents, Afghan exiles, Kiwi backpackers, Russian soccer players, Syrian computer wizards, the Pumas (the Argentine rugby team), Cuban chess masters, Brazilian motorcycle gangs, Iraqi sharpshooters. In His name, everything is permitted. Last week Che’s daughters were invited by an Iranian university just for them to learn he was being hailed as an anti-communist religious leader. In Bolivia – where in 1967 he hoped to be spearheading guerrilla columns towards Peru and Argentina – he’s no less than Saint Che, or San Ernesto de La Higuera, and his story, via crucis, is transmitted by sacred oral tradition from peasant to peasant.

A recently declassified secret note of Paraguayan intelligence tells how Che, disguised as “Oscar Ferreira”, was crossing from Brazil to Paraguay in 1966. This proves how all US-supported dictatorships in the southern cone were in close synch at the time, all bowing to the dictates of US counterinsurgency. The problem is that at that very moment Che was fighting in the Congo.

Top of the pops
Che, single red-starred beret pulled casually over gorgeous long black hair, eyes flaming with purpose and staring into infinity, is the most iconic, recycled and ripped off image of the 20th – and so far, 21st – centuries. Alberto “Korda” Diaz, Fidel’s official photographer, has described Che in the legendary March 4, 1960 shot he defines as “Guerrillero Heroico” (Heroic Fighter), as “encabronado y dolente” (angry and sad).

But way beyond this angry and sad “die young, stay pretty” rock aesthetic, transcending all ideology, transcending all the perverse embraces of hyper-capitalism, Che came to personify the very essence of rebellion and resistance, anti-imperialist struggle with a romantic aura. From soccer god Maradona, with a tattooed Che on his shoulder, to Osama bin Laden, who could not resist posing for the Islamic masses as Sheikh Guevara. Serious students of Che’s life came to view him not only as a symbol of all things revolutionary, but of an almost Zen-like compassion and sacrifice for a worthy cause. He became much more of a cultural than a political hero. That explains his killer seduction of global youth’s collective unconscious.

As a representation of dreams and aspirations, he could not but belong to a pantheon of Virgins and saints. As the ultimate crossover saint, pop sainthood had to translate into pop art. Thus the prized Che-signed Cuban banknotes at Buenos Aires flea markets, the Che cigarettes in Peru, the Che bikinis in Brazil, the Che clocks in Kerala, Che on Thai trucks, Che wallets and lighters in China, and on the T-shirts worn by radical Hong Kong legislator Leung “Long Hair” Kwok-hung, Che alongside Sheikh Nasrallah in Lebanon, Che alongside Imam Hussein all over the Middle East.

On the road with Che
Doctor, serial reader, serial smoker, a lover of chess, rugby and motorcycles, amateur economist, one-time Minister of Industries and Minister of Finance in revolutionary Cuba, Fidel Castro’s favorite commander, the greatest Latin American since Bolivar, Che was above all a humanist. It’s all there in his many writings – stressing the crucial importance of every cultural process linked to economic transformation, an analysis which orthodox Marxism never addressed.

In a post-modern South American echo of Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus, which in the early 1960s was driving “further”, introducing the US to acid tests, a yellow La Preferida (The Prefered) bus set out from Buenos Aires on a 36-hour journey towards Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and then the holy sites of Vallegrande and La Higuera, carrying everything from young Argentine militants to Uruguayan union leaders, not to mention the coca leaf-chewing Bolivian drivers, everyone listening to Bolivian rock group Atayo. How’s that for South American integration?

They are all now mingling with rock musicians, Nobel Prize winners, Cubans who fought with Che in the National Liberation

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2 Responses to “Che lives”

  1. Paraguay » Blog Archives » South Africa 2010 Qualifiers kick off in South America Says:

    […] Che lives as Oscar Ferreira , was crossing from Brazil to Paraguay in 1966. This proves how all US-supported […]

  2. mario Says:


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