Allow Me To Explain

Was there a split between Che Guevara and Fidel Castro?

Posted in Cuba, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Fidel Castro, History by amte on October 11, 2009

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.

Che and Fidel in Cuba.

Che and Fidel in Cuba.

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.”[1]

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?”[2]

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.”[3]

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.”

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Is Fidel Castro one of the richest men in the world?

Posted in Cuba, Fidel Castro by amte on October 3, 2009

In 2005, American business and financial magazine Forbes listed Castro among the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of $550 million. The estimates claimed that the Cuban leader’s personal wealth was nearly double that of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, despite evidence from diplomats and businessmen that the Cuban leader’s personal life was notably austere. Forbes later increased the estimates to $900 million, adding rumors of large cash stashes in Switzerland.  The magazine offered no proof at all of this information.

Of course it was all entirely bogus – the bunk methodology they used was based on the lie that Fidel Castro owns everything in the entire country of Cuba. Even in their article they admitted their “estimate” was “more art than science” — or in other words, bullshit.

Fidel’s response?

“PRESIDENT Fidel Castro has challenged and called on Bush, the CIA, the 33 U.S. intelligence agencies, the thousands of banks in the world and the ‘servants’ of Forbes magazine, which claims that Fidel has a fortune of $900 million, to prove that he has even one dollar in an overseas account.

“In exchange for just one shred of evidence, he said that he would offer them everything that they have tried and failed to do over almost half a century, during which time they have tried to destroy the Revolution and assassinate him via hundreds of conspiracies. ‘I’m giving you everything you’ve tried,’ he said, ‘and don’t come with your foolishness and wayside stories. Show me an account, of just one dollar,’ he emphasized.

“If they can prove that I have one single dollar, I will resign from all my responsibilities and the duties I am carrying out; they won’t need any more plans or transitions, if they can prove that I have one single dollar,” the revolutionary leader said emphatically.” – Granma newspaper

Later:

“Bush has not uttered a word and neither have the State Department, Congress or the CIA. Only the Nuevo Herald, a Miami newspaper, has tried to defend [the Forbes article] at the request of the Cuban-American mafia [the handful of rich white Cubans who left the country after the revolution because they didn’t want to be equal with the rest of the people]. This silence by the US Administration demonstrates the extent of its weakness.” – Radio Habana

Even the Miami Herald, a rightwing newspaper with ties to the Cuban-American mafia that is historically hostile to the Cuban Revolution admits that Fidel Castro lives in about the same conditions as everyone else in Cuba. The newspaper has previously printed articles in which it acknowledges that “The houses of Fidel and Raúl are large but simply appointed…. The living room of [Fidel’s] house is described by visitors as furnished with simple wood and leather sofas and chairs and Cuban handicrafts…. The only luxury visible to visitors is a big-screen television….”

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Cuban revolutionary Juan Almeida has died

Posted in Cuba, Obituaries by amte on September 15, 2009

Juan Almeida Bosque, a leader of the Cuban Revolution that toppled the bloody, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, has died at age 82.

Almeida, who was born in a poor neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, left school at age 11 to begin work in construction.

In 1952, he joined Fidel Castro and a group of young Cubans in an attack on the Moncada Military Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which was aimed at securing arms for a popular uprising against the Batista dictatorship.  Many of the participants in the failed incursion were tortured and murdered. Almeida, along with Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and others, were able to escape temporarily before being apprehended.

Juan Almedia with Fidel and Raul Castro during the revolutionary war.

Juan Almedia with Fidel and Raul Castro during the revolutionary war.

Almeida and the other captured rebels were imprisoned on the Isle of Pines. They were freed after nearly two years in prison as a result of popular pressure.

The rebels soon after went to Mexico where they formed a guerrilla nucleus and began training for a war to overthrow Batista.

In 1956, 82 rebels set out for Cuba on a rickety yacht. Their landing, delayed and disrupted, was a disaster. Not long after touching ground, all but 16 of the guerrillas had been killed by government forces.

Juan Almeida with Ernesto Che Guevara

Juan Almeida with Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Almeida led a small group that included Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary who joined the Cuban revolutionaries, out into the jungle during that bleak early period.

The guerrillas were eventually able to regroup. They begun to win battles, recruit new members and supporters, establish new ties and advance.

Almeida, a crack shot, quickly became a comandante, the highest rank in the rebel army. He led one of the few guerrilla fronts during the revolutionary war.

On January 1, 1959, “Batista the Butcher” fled Cuba, realizing his overthrow was imminent. Immediately afterward, the victory of the Cuban Revolution was secured by an island-wide general strike.

The Revolution opened the doorway to equality for Almeida and other Black Cubans who previously suffered under conditions of degradation and discrimination.

Almeida held a number of positions in the revolutionary government. He was a General in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, president of the Association of Combatants of the Revolution and Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State.

Juan Almeida.

Juan Almeida.

At the time of his death, Almeida was one of only three living Cubans holding the title Commander of the Revolution.

Almeida was also an artist and writer, having written more than 300 songs and several books on Cuban History.

Thousands of Cubans showed up at memorials across the country to bid farewell to Almeida. According to his wishes, his body is being interred at the Mausoleum of the Mario Muñoz Monroy Third Eastern Front, which he led.

Responding to slanders against Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution

Posted in Cuba, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Fidel Castro, History, revolution by amte on July 11, 2009

The following is a copy of a response I wrote to a recent email I received asking how I could support Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a “communist killer,” and the Cuban Revolution. It has been edited slightly for form.

Che was a indeed a revolutionary. That’s what enabled him to be such a great person. He fought for the liberation of humankind from exploitation and oppression.

Che didn’t kill “thousands” of people. Not even his enemies (at least those who are at all serious or have any idea what Che did during his life) claim that.

At most, he killed some people in the course of revolutionary wars. A revolution is not a tea party. It’s necessary to take up the gun to abolish the gun.

Che’s enemies also condemn him for overseeing the popular trials after the Cuban Revolution that brought the torturers, rapists and murderers of the dictatorship to justice. A revolution is not a bed of roses.

The Cuban Revolution was fought against the dictatorship of the Butcher Batista, a U.S.-sponsored monster who was responsible for the torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Cubans. It was a popular revolution that drew the support of the large majority of Cubans. After a hard fought war against the dictator’s army, Batista’s rule was finally brought down by a general strike of all workers across Cuba.

Thousands of Cubans greeting Rebel Army guerrillas as they ride victoriously into Havana.

Thousands of Cubans greeting Rebel Army guerrillas as they ride victoriously into Havana.

Here’s a video of Fidel’s arrival in Havana

Chinese Cubans celebrate the victory of the Cuban Revolution

Chinese Cubans celebrate the victory of the Cuban Revolution

Over 1 million Cubans turn out to hear Fidel Castro speak

Over 1 million Cubans turn out to hear Fidel Castro speak

You speak of Cuba as the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” but it was more commonly known as the “Whorehouse of the Caribbean.” Most of the country was owned by U.S. businesses. It was the playground of rich people from the U.S. and the Mafia. Many beaches were off limits to Black Cubans. Today they are open to all. Only 54% of the population could read (as compared to 100% now), life expectancy was only 55.8 years (as compared to 78 now), and infant mortality was 60 (as compared to 5.8 now, a number surpassing even the United States, the richest country in the world).

The Cuban Revolution ended the rule of Batista and the dominance of imperialism over Cuba. Farms and businesses owned by U.S. corporations were taken under the control of the Cubans who worked them, the houses of the rich were given to the servants that cleaned and maintained them, and everyone was given an equal opportunity to advance together.

Cuba has been harassed and attacked by the United States since the beginning of the Revolution. There have been over 600 attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. There was a military invasion of Cuba. There were threats, bombings that killed innocent people, sabotage, and more.

Even today, the U.S. continues its decades-long blockade of Cuba, despite the fact that the vast majority of the countries of the world have condemned it 17 times again in the United Nations (source).

Despite all this, the Cuban Revolution has eliminated illiteracy, homelessness and unemployment, and has brought quality education and healthcare to all.

It is because of this, and more, that the Cuban Revolution still has the support of the majority of Cubans (as can be seen in the following photos) and millions of others around the world.

Thousands of Cubans holding signs that read Long live Fidel!

Thousands of Cuban's holding signs that show their support for Fidel Castro

A picture of a banner hung by a Cuban that says Long live Fidel, 80 more years!

A picture of a banner hung by a Cuban that says "Long live Fidel, 80 more years!"

Where’s the picture of a banner that says “4 more years of Bush?” Where are the pictures of a million people coming to hear Bill Clinton speak? How about graffiti that says “Long live Lyndon Johnson?”

Those Cubans who attack the Cuban Revolution (and make up crazy stories about it like your “Che ran over a child for no reason,” “Fidel Castro eats babies,” or whatever other nonsense they can come up with) are the uninformed and the rich, mostly white Cubans who fled Cuba after the Revolution because they were afraid they’d have to work together with the rest of the population instead of continuing to live on the labor of others. The latter are commonly known in Cuba as  los gusanos (the worms).

The Cuban Revolution was by and for the toiling majority. It took the power out of the hands of the U.S. businesses and their Cubans assistants and put it in the hands of the masses.

Che fought in the Cuban Revolution and in revolutionary struggles in the Congo and Bolivia. He gave his life for the liberation of humanity. This is why he is hailed by millions upon millions of people around the world while the butcher Batista is scorned or forgotten.

If you’re really interested in the facts you should do some research. Relying on second-hand stories from people who are hostile to Che and the Cuban Revolution is no way to find out the truth.

Here is the real story of Che (it’s short and to the point).

Here is a site that shows how Cuba compares with the rest of the world in areas like poverty, literacy, healthcare, education, etc. You can see that Cuba surpasses them all.

I’d also recommend the DVD “Fidel: The Untold Story.”

Little courage in film portrayal of the Heroic Guerrilla

Posted in Cuba, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Film reviews, History by amte on July 9, 2009

Director Steven Soderbergh has produced a fairly straight-forward, if uninspired, film in “Che,” a two-part presentation of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s participation in revolutionary wars in Cuba and Bolivia.

The first part of the four-hour, 18-minute film depicts the Argentine-born Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s participation in the revolutionary war in Cuba, which ousted the bloody-dictatorship of the U.S.-government and mafia backed Fulgencio Batista. The film progresses with the rag tag group of guerrillas as they make their way across the island, gaining support, recruits and victories. Events from Che’s initial meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Mexico through his last battle before victory are accurately portrayed. Throughout the fighting, we are continually brought forward to Che’s historic speech at the United Nations in 1964, in which he exposed the U.S. government, which “is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.”

The second part of the film depicts the guerrilla war initiated by Che and a group of his comrades in Bolivia, aimed at toppling the military dictatorship that existed there and paving the way for the construction of socialism. Despite a drawn out introduction which aptly demonstrated Bolivia’s location in the heart of South America, those not familiar with Che’s ideas may not realize his continental strategy, which was to start in Bolivia with a group of internationalist guerrillas who would, upon gaining enough strength, branch out into the surrounding countries and initiate similar struggles. Using different cameras and filming styles from part one, Soderbergh and company do a good job of recreating the struggle. Most of the events that contributed to Che’s defeat – from the monumental betrayal by the leader the Communist Party of Bolivia Mario Monje (Lou Diamond Philipps), who refused to help the struggle as promised and instead actively worked against it, to the treachery of the Argentine artist Ciro Bustos (Gastón Pauls), who drew identifying pictures of all of the guerrillas after being captured by the Bolivian army – are covered. While most fight scenes are realistic, the portrayal of Che’s capture in battle is lacking.

While some will undoubtedly argue that film is too long, it could hardly have been otherwise. The historic episodes portrayed in the film deserve serious attention. A condensed biopic of the Che’s extensive revolutionary career could not have done it justice.

A better criticism would be to question the exact moments and events that Soderbergh decided to focus on. Noticeably absent from the film were any depictions of the general strike that sealed the Rebel Army’s victory and their victorious ride into Havana. Further, there was no mention of the U.S. government’s role in Che’s execution. While outside the scope of the film, brief overviews of Che’s life both before meeting Fidel Castro and during his time in the Cuban government would have been helpful.

Helpful too, both for audiences and the film team, would have been filming the first part of the film on location in Cuba. Of course the blockade that the U.S. government has maintained against Cuba for decades prevented that.

Benicio del Toro is fitting as Che, though he is unable to muster the energy or replicate the depth of the fallen revolutionary.

Demian Bichir does a fairly good job as Fidel Castro, but he lacks the charisma of the Cuban leader. Other actors do good jobs of portraying their respective characters, but Spanish speakers will notice differences in their accents. Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays the Cuban Aleida March (Che’s second wife), maintains the accent of her native Colombia throughout the film. Many others portraying Cuban revolutionaries carry the accents of their native Mexico.

As was the case in his previous film “The Good German,” Soderbergh fails to properly develop the characters in “Che” – an unforgivable mistake in a film based on well documented events and historical figures.

In the end, Soderbergh remains too far outside of the main character. Unlike Che, he fails to take any risks. While he doesn’t obscure the facts (and briefly allows revolutionary  theory and practice to be described from the perspective of revolutionaries themselves instead of the capitalist rulers and their mouthpieces – a rare feat in post-blacklist cinema), he also avoids taking up Che’s cause: the cause of humanity.

Thankfully, Soderbergh’s film didn’t reflect his belief that revolutionary war is “a type of war that can’t be fought anymore,” or star Benicio del Toro’s ridiculous assertion that today “revolutionaries can use elections and other nonviolent methods to promote change.”

Sorderbergh has stated that he “wanted to show day-to-day stuff – things that have meaning on a practical level and on an ideological level, but that, from a narrative standpoint, aren’t necessarily in support of some goal” to show “what it might have been like to be there.” In that he succeeded.

“Che” does a sufficient job of portraying Che and his participation in the Cuban Revolution and guerrilla war in Bolivia. But little courage was shown in making the film, which is very regretful. “Che” was sufficient, but it could have been much more.

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