Che felt betrayed by Castro, Bolivian officer claims
Web posted at: 21:45 ART, Buenos Aires time (00:45 GMT)
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- On the eve of his execution in Bolivia
three decades ago, Ernesto "Che" Guevara said he felt betrayed by
his colleague-in-revolution Fidel Castro, a retired Bolivian officer
Guevara, who fought alongside Castro in the Cuban revolution in
the late 1950s and later fomented rebellion in Bolivia, also said he
favored starting a rebel front in Peru but traveled to Bolivia on
While this is not the first time retired air force Gen. Nino de
Guzman has discussed Guevara publicly, he has never before
talked about his final moments with the doctor-turned-guerrilla
leader. The new revelations, which emerged in an interview with
The Associated Press on Thursday, include conversations between
the two and an exchange of gifts.
Guevara is revered as a revolutionary hero in Cuba and he remains
a mythic figure across Latin America, where his bearded likeness
can be found on everything from T-shirts to truck mudguards.
Nino de Guzman met Guevara on Oct. 9, 1967, after the guerrilla
leader had been injured and captured by Bolivian army troops. As
a helicopter pilot, the now-retired officer was sent to the village
where Guevara and other guerrilla survivors were being held.
After Guevara was executed, by Bolivian army soldiers on orders
from the military high command, Nino de Guzman took his body
by helicopter to Vallegrande, where it was buried near the airstrip.
"I was probably the last person to talk at length with Che before he
was executed," Nino de Guzman told the AP.
He said he met Guevara in a small room, surrounded by several
Bolivian soldiers, and that he struck up a conversation after lighting
`"Fidel betrayed me"', Nino de Guzman says Guevara repeated
several times. Guevara did not elaborate on the statement, he said.
During their meeting, he gave Guevara some tobacco, and the
wounded guerrilla took a brown-covered, hand-written booklet
out of his boot and handed it to Nino de Guzman. When Guevara's
skeleton was recovered last year in Vallegrande, pieces of the
tobacco were found in his jacket pocket.
The booklet was Guevara's first proclamation to Latin Americans
and Bolivians, and on Thursday, Nino de Guzman disclosed its
existence for the first time. He said he hadn't wanted to release the
booklet until now.
"We make our voices heard for the first time," Guevara wrote in
the booklet. "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."
The former Bolivian air force officer, who was not present for
Guevara's execution, on Thursday also displayed what he said
were never-before-published photos of the guerrilla leader's body
before it was cleaned up and shown to the world press. One
depicted Guevara's head turned sideways, his body covered with
blood and his hair rumpled. Another showed Guevara's body
strapped to a helicopter just before it was taken to Vallegrande.
Nino de Guzman said Thursday that Guevara, Cuba's second
most-powerful leader following the revolution, told him that
support from Cuba and the Bolivian Communist Party was already
in decline early on in his ill-fated guerrilla campaign in Bolivia.
Divisions within the party and the Bolivian labor movement were
part of the reason, Nino de Guzman said.
The guerrilla leader went on to say that Peruvian peasants would
have been more receptive to rebellion than the poor in Bolivia,
who already owned land thanks to agrarian reform, he said.
Guevara's efforts to rouse the Bolivian peasants and Indians were
fruitless, and his tiny band was wiped out, by U.S.-trained Bolivian