By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Dr. Maria Werlau is a meticulous researcher of the crimes committed by Latin American dictatorships. Cuba, her bleeding Homeland, is at the heart of her concern for 67 consecutive years of dictatorships, first Fulgencio Batista, followed by Fidel Castro and those who continued in his footsteps. Finding a book that glorified Che Guevara standing in plain sight in the entrance of a Barnes & Noble bookstore, in Coral Gables, Miami, touched a nerve.
Writing about what happened that fateful September 8th for digital newspaper 14ymedio:
“I walked straight up to the book “Che, revolutionary icon, New York: Charwell Books, 2018”. Page after page, there was a selective and glorified history about Guevara with headings such as “The legend is born”, “The messenger of love”, “A revolutionary adventurer”, “The price of glory”, “Che lives forever”. I couldn’t find headings such as “Killing machine”, “The butcher of La Cabana”, “terrorist”, “aristocratic racist” or other less praiseworthy terms that are also used to describe him. There were only a few brief lines about his command at the La Cabana prison and none of the human beings who were executed there on his orders were named; there weren’t even any photos of the “firing line”.
Archivo Cuba, an NGO run by our leading lady, archives 10,771 cases of crimes committed between 1952 up until the present day, from falling into oblivion. 7,437 of these bloody crimes were committed in the past 60 years. Hundreds of these deaths took place after the Castro-led revolution, at the La Cabana military fortress located at the entrance of Havana’s bay, under the direct command of Che Guevara.
Educated outside of Cuba within a democracy, the researcher continues with restraint:
“I asked to see the manager and when Andy came, I politely explained to him that there was a large Cuban-American community living in Miami who are particularly sensitive about the ill-informed cult surrounding the figure of Che. I told him that I wasn’t in favor of censorship, but that I personally knew children and siblings of men who were executed on Guevara’s orders, who were living in Miami. Plus, I explained that it would be as upsetting as finding a book glorifying Osama Bin Laden put up on show in a B&N bookstore in my city, New Jersey, which lost 10 people in the 9/11 attacks.”
According to her account, the offensive book was still out on the “reference” table the following day. They didn’t pay heed to her words, at least up until then. However, 14ymedio newspaper clarifies that “Maria Werlau, the director of the NGO “Archivo Cuba” dedicated to Cuban historic memory, has launched an online petition to denounce the glorification of Che Guevara.”
I went to this bookstore on September 11th, accompanied by former political prisoner Fernando Pruna Bertot, who rose up against Fidel Castro in 1959, and who tells us his close perspective of Che when he was locked away at La Cabana in his magnificent biography “Habana 505”.
We looked around for the reported book, we rummaged about shelves and didn’t find it. In the end, a Cuban couple had taken an interest in our quest, finding the only book about Ernesto Guevara on exhibit, it was “Los Ojos del Che”, written by fellow Cuban Marcos Gorban.
This isn’t the time to talk about this discovery, our mission looking for the book was accomplished: sensitivity won out in the end at Barnes&Noble, or maybe the manager Andy foresaw the rightful rage of the victims’ relatives which could cause problems for him. A later digital search at the customer service desk came up negative when we introduced the abovementioned book, both by the author’s name and the book title.
There’s one question that millions of the heroic guerrilla fighter’s admirers still ask: Was he really a killing machine?
Journalist Pedro Corzo leads the Institute of the Cuban people’s historic memory against totalitarianism. In his twenty years compiling testimonies about Cuba, he stresses:
“Guevara’s own writings prove his passion for random violence. In his books, we find phrases that are in keeping with many of his criminal acts like, for example, “The intransigent hatred for the enemy that takes one beyond the natural limitations of a human being and converts one into an effective, violent, selective, cold killing machine.”
The interviewee adds: “There are many books that can help us to know this Che, including the book by Humberto Fontova, “Exposing the real Che Guevara” and another one by Argentinian intellectual, Nicolas Marquez, “La Maquina de Matar”, which is an appropriate title for this man.”
I’d also like to add the book “Este Soy yo”, a self-portrait of the Argentinian-born Comandante, which was written by Pedro Corzo.
Che Guevara never hid his historic responsibility, appearing before old channel “6” cameras for Cuban TV in February 1959, when he admitted that: “All of the executions at La Cabana are carried out under my explicit orders.” Back then, he told Jose Pardo Llada, which appears in his book “Fidel y el Che”: “you don’t need a trial to send men to the firing line. These procedures are a detail of the old bourgeoisie. This is a revolution!”
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]