Was there a split between Che Guevara and Fidel Castro?
A rumor persists to this day that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Fidel Castro had some sort of falling out near the end of Che’s life that caused him to leave Cuba and prompted Fidel to withhold support for the guerrilla effort Che lead in Bolivia. But with a little investigation, we find that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this rumor, which, it should be noted, originated with Felix Rodriguez, a wealthy Cuban-born CIA assassin who ordered Che’s murder.
And what is the supposed source of major disagreement between Che and Fidel? Some have suggested that Che was critical of the USSR. A review of Fidel Castro’s speeches in the 1960’s, in which he criticized the USSR several times, easily dispels that myth. Still others have claimed that Che took the side of China while Fidel took the side of the USSR in the Sino-Soviet Split. This too, is easily disproven.
Che wrote that:
“When we analyze the lonely situation of the Vietnamese people, we are overcome by anguish at this illogical moment of humanity.
“U.S. imperialism is guilty of aggression — its crimes are enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that, gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course, the risks of a war on a global scale-but also forcing a decision upon imperialism. And the guilt also applies to those who maintain a war of abuse and snares — started quite some time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers of the socialist camp.”
While, around the same time Fidel wrote in a similar vein that:
“Without a doubt, the South Vietnamese people and the people of North Vietnam are suffering all this and suffering it in their own flesh, because there it is men and women who die, in the south and in the north, victims of the shrapnel and Yankee bombings. They do not have the slightest hesitancy in declaring that they intend to continue to carry all that out because not even the attacks against North Vietnam have resulted in overcoming the divisions in the bosom of the socialist family.
“And who can doubt that this division is encouraging the imperialists? Who can doubt that a united front against the imperialist enemy would have made them hesitate–would have made them think a little more carefully before launching their adventurist attacks and their increasingly more brazen intervention in that part of the world?”
For his part, Rodriguez claimed in his autobiography that upon capture, Che “was bitter over the Cuban dictator’s lack of support for the Bolivian incursion.” But only a fool would believe the words of Che’s enemy and murderer (who, incidentally, wears his watch to this day like a trophy). More reliable sources suggest that Che considered Rodriguez a traitor and refused to speak to him. But that hasn’t stopped the capitalist press from keeping the claim alive.
As Fidel put it in a June 1987 television interview with Italian journalist Gianni Mina:
“What could we have done? Sent a battalion, a company, a regular army? The laws of guerrilla warfare are different; everything depends on what the guerrilla unit itself does.”
Che’s plan to wage guerrilla war in Bolivia to initiate a socialist revolution to overthrow the dictatorship was fully supported by Cuba. Cuba provided training grounds, fighters, weapons, passports and more to the effort.
We need not pretend Che and Fidel agreed on every single question to know that there was no major disagreement that lead to abandonment or a suicidal departure.
According to the survivors of the guerrilla force he led and the pages of his personal diary, which has since been published, Che never once suggested that he felt betrayed or abandoned by Cuba or Fidel. In his farewell letter Che wrote to Fidel, “I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, of having identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles.”
1. Guevara, Ernesto, Che. “Message to the Tricontinental.”
2. Castro, Fidel. “Live speech from the steps of Havana University on the occasion of the anniversary of the attack on the Presidential Palace (13 March 1965).”
3. Mini, Gianni. “An Encounter With Fidel.”