For decades a global symbol of revolution and liberation, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is to be honoured Monday with ceremonies in Cuba, where his myth was forged, and Bolivia, where he was executed 40 years ago attempting to spread socialist revolution.
The main ceremony in Cuba will be in Santa Clara, a town 300 kilometers east of Havana, where the Argentine-born doctor-turned-guerrilla leader fought a battle during the Cuban revolution in 1958 and his remains are buried. Che's Argentine widow Aleida March will be at the event, along with his children Aleida, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto. The ceremony will be headed by "a leader of the revolution," the daily Juventud Rebelde reported Sunday, without specifying if it will be convalescing leader Fidel Castro, 81, or his brother Raul, the country's interim president since Fidel underwent stomach surgery in July 2006.
In a commemorative article published in Argentina's Pagina 12, personal diary details for his final campaign months in the forests of Bolivia clearly reveal the disasters and deprivations of this final campaign.
There are obvious preoccupations: military setbacks, betrayal, rumours of political division amongst the leadership, lack of contact with either Cuba or Argentina all weigh heavily..
But not all concerns are political: lack of food (they were forced to catch small birds) and water (they went days without a drop of water and some were desperate enough to drink their own urine, with the inevitable consequences: vomits and cramps) but most of all Che's asthma was becoming more and more of a problem “my asthma bothered me and I was wide-awake all night” (30th July), “… my asthma tends to increase from yesterday; I now need to take three tablets a day” (13th August). He asks his men to massage his back to make his breathing easier. What does not help is the fact that his men remind him he himself has said that there is an enormous psychological component to the disease. And above all the surroundings do not help: humidity, the vegetation, the colds, the heats, the fatigue.
The Bolivian adventure was a disaster leading to ambush and death by CIA supported Bolivian forces.
Born in the Argentine city of Rosario, Guevara traveled across Latin America in 1952 and 1953 and was shocked to see the economic disparity in the region. His life changed dramatically when he met Castro in Mexico. Guevara was convinced that revolution was needed to overturn the unjust social order in Latin America. In 1959 he and Fidel Castro led the succesful revolution against the corrupt, US supported Battista regime. Later, after leading a group of Cuban revolutionaries fighting with Marxist guerrillas in the Congo, Che traveled to Bolivia, arriving in late 1966. Guevara led a small clutch of rebels in Bolivia for 11 months trying to spread revolution, but found little support. Paraguay's secret services knew of Guevara's visit, informing the CIA. The Bolivian army and two Cuban-American US Central Intelligence Agency agents captured Ernesto Guevara in the village of La Higuera, and executed him on October 9, 1967. He was 39.
It is said that Che took two volumes of Trotsky with him to Bolivia - a role model, but equally a revolutionary who also died after being hounded down and killed in a foreign country.