Guevara felt 'betrayed' by Castro
LA PAZ, Bolivia - Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara
spoke bitterly of comrade-in-arms Fidel Castro in his final hours,
according to a never-before-revealed account of the eve of his
execution. "Fidel betrayed me," he told his captors.
Guevara, caught and executed by Bolivian army troops in 1967 as he
tried to export Cuba's revolution, also surrendered a diary to Bolivian
officer Jaime Niño de Guzman in which he rendered a fiery communist
manifesto for all of South America.
"We make our voices heard for the first time," one entry in the
handwritten journal declared. "We have to reach all the corners of this
continent with the echo of our cry for rebellion.
"We rise today having exhausted all possibilities of a peaceful fight to
show through our example the road to follow."
Niño de Guzman, a retired air force general newly named Bolivia's
ambassador to Austria, spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday.
While he has talked publicly previously about his role in Guevara's last
days, the interview marked the first revelation of some of the
revolutionary's final words - and of an exchange of gifts between the
two men, captor and captive.
Three decades later, Guevara is revered as a revolutionary hero in
Cuba and remains a mythic figure across Latin America, where his
bearded likeness can be seen on everything from T-shirts to truck
Niño de Guzman met the Argentina-born Guevara on Oct. 9, 1967,
after the guerrilla leader had been injured and captured by Bolivian
troops at Quebrada Vado del Yeso, 435 miles southeast of La Paz.
Then a helicopter pilot, Niño de Guzman was sent to the village
Guevara and other survivors of the guerrilla band were being held.
He met the guerrilla in a small room, surrounded by Bolivian soldiers.
He lit Guevara's pipe for him, and the two struck up a conversation.
According to Niño de Guzman, Guevara told his captors he had
favored starting a guerrilla front in Peru instead of Bolivia - but came to
Bolivia on Castro's insistence.
Guevara also complained that support from Cuba and from the Bolivian
Communist Party broke down early in his ill-fated guerrilla campaign
More than once, the defeated revolutionary declared: "'Fidel betrayed
"Nearly all of Guevara's actions and words amounted to a wish to die,"
Niño de Guzman recalled. He quoted Guevara as telling him: "I'm worth
more dead than alive to you and Fidel."
A Cuban-born CIA agent also tried to talk to Guevara, Niño de
Guevara spat at the man, saying, "I don't talk to traitors."
Niño de Guzman said he gave Guevara some tobacco, and the
wounded guerrilla took a brown-covered booklet out of his boot and
gave it to him.
When Guevara's skeleton was exhumed last year from its unmarked
grave in Bolivia for a hero's burial in Cuba, with Castro presiding,
scraps of the tobacco were still in his jacket pocket.
The booklet was Guevara's proclamation to Latin Americans, and Niño
de Guzman disclosed its existence for the first time. He said he hadn't
wanted to release it until now.
After Guevara was shot by order of the army high command, Niño de
Guzman flew the body to its first burial site. He showed the AP photos
of the bloodied corpse, many of which had been published before.
In the diary, Guevara acknowledged the risk of his work: "Our lives will
be the witnesses of the seriousness of the struggle we have taken on
that will only end with victory or death."
"We declare ourselves anti-imperialist fighters," he wrote, and repeated:
"Victory or death."
By The Associated Press