“I am Che Guevara and I have failed”
They say Fidel Castro wanted to get rid of him -because he was more intelligent and capable than el comandante-so he sent him on an impossible mission: to spread the Cuban revolution throughout Latin-America starting in Bolivia without support and without clear knowledge of the realities on the field. Others say that Che Guevara himself was the one that insisted on going, with a bunch of Cuban and Bolivian guerrillas, preparing extensively and thinking that it was the right place to spread Castro’s gospel.
Whatever the reason, the campaign, lasting 11 months, ended in total failure with Che and his guerrilleros captured and executed under the direct orders of the Bolivian president and in the presence of the CIA’s chief Che-hunter, a man called Felix Rodríguez. The US was heavily involved in the hunt for Che because Washington feared that if he was successful, with a secure base in Bolivia he could organise new revolutions in Brazil and Argentina and possibly other countries in the region.
The picture of Ernesto “Che” Guevara lying dead was taken by the AFP (Agence France-Presse) photographer, Marc Hutten, who, with a few other correspondents, was invited to witness and record the end of one of the most famous revolutionaries of all times, otherwise known by the nickname Ramón.
The journalists were flown from La Paz to the Southern city of Vallegrande where, in the nearby town of La Higuera, Che and other guerrillas, including a Peruvian and a Cuban doctor, were captured.
“I saw the body of a bearded man with long hair and dressed only in olive-green trousers lying on a stretcher over a cement washing sink. A stink of formol floated over the body riddled with bullets and bled,” explained Hutten later.
The picture was authentic and the identity of the body confirmed by other means, but what about the message in the headline of Los Tiempos, the newspaper of the region? The statement of the commander of the Bolivian military that captured Guevara said he was wounded but not killed. He “confessed” his identity and his failure in front of the soldiers that captured him. But other sources said that he never gained consciousness after he was shot.
“I am Che Guevara and I failed” doesn’t seem to be the ultimate message of a seasoned revolutionary. It sounds more like a statement of propaganda from his rejoicing captors.
BREAKING NEWS Front pages through history
Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Bolivia