Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara
Jorge G. Castaneda
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By the time he was killed in the jungles of Bolivia, where his body was displayed like a deposed Christ, Ernesto "Che" Guevara had become a synonym for revolution everywhere from Cuba to the barricades of Paris. This extraordinary biography peels aside the veil of the Guevara legend to reveal the charismatic, restless man behind it.
Drawing on archival materials from three continents and on interviews with Guevara's family and associates, Castaneda follows Che from his childhood in the Argentine middle class through the years of pilgrimage that turned him into a committed revolutionary. He examines Guevara's complex relationship with Fidel Castro, and analyzes the flaws of character that compelled him to leave Cuba and expend his energies, and ultimately his life, in quixotic adventures in the Congo and Bolivia. A masterpiece of scholarship, Companero is the definitive portrait of a figure who continues to fascinate and inspire the world over.
finds incomprehensible the failure of the Belgians, South Africans, and anti-Castro Cubans to prevent Che from leaving the Congo. In his view, OPS/SUD ordered the Congolese battalions under its jurisdiction to let the Cubans get out alive. The two Belgian CIA pilots were confined to their hotel rooms. According to Gérard-Libois, the CIA station chief in Albertville confessed to two Belgian officers that he had received instructions to avoid any incident with the Cubans before December 1. The CIA
Debray adds: “I completed the report and gave it to Piñeiro. I did not speak with Che.” **2 It is still not clear to Debray whether his report was shelved for chronological reasons—by the time he finished it, Che was already on his way to Bolivia—or political reasons, due to Piñeiro’s and/or Castro’s reluctance to pass it on to Guevara. He was later told that his report would be used in opening a second and third front, in the Alto Beni and Cha-pare. Debray, interview. *15 Vázquez Viaña and
Adys Cupull and Froilán González, Entre nosotros (Havana: Ediciones Abril, 1992), p. 10. 4. Ernesto Che Guevara, “Proyecciones sociales del Ejército Rebelde,” January 27, 1959, Ernesto Che Guevara, Escritos y discursos, vol. 4 (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1977), p. 11. 5. Ibid., pp. 11, 15. 6. Ibid., p. 17. 7. José Pardo Llada, Fidely el “Che” (Barcelona: Plaza y Janés, 1989), p. 132. 8. Guevara, “Proyecciones,” p. 16. 9. Pardo Llada, p. 131. 10. Sergio Rodríguez, quoted in Che
Sierra Adentro, p. 113. 11. Enrique Oltuski, interview with Paco Ignacio Taibo II, granted to Taibo and the author, Havana, February 1995. 12. Ovidio Díaz Rodríguez, quoted in Cupull and Gonzáles, Entre nosotros, p. 71. 13. Ernesto Che Guevara, letter to Faure Chomón, November 7, 1958, quoted in “Pasajes,” p. 306. 14. Ibid., p. 200. 15. Ibid. 16. Oniria Gutiérrez, quoted in Che Sierra Adentro, p. 25. 17. Ibid., p. 19. 18. Enrique Oltuski, “Gente del llano,” Revista Casa de las Américas
opponents—a fatal mistake. A virtual semicolony of the United States, the largest island of the Antilles had benefited greatly from the U.S. boom of the fifties. The price of sugar—the only Caribbean crop since time immemorial—had been stable over the entire decade, allowing for modest but sustained per capita growth. The Cuban sugar harvest, stagnant between 1925 and 1940, had begun to grow again—a significant factor, given that half of Cuba’s arable land was given over to cane. The sugar