CubaBrief: Cuba Archive combats the Che Guevara cult in Miami, but the battle does not end there

Cuba Archive has taken on an important educational campaign. The Ernesto “Che” Guevara cult is not only offensive to the families of victims he murdered, but dangerous for free societies. Che Guevara’s writings were borrowed from Mao Zedong and were all about guerrilla warfare. This cult celebrates violence, killing and dehumanization. In 1967, as on many other occasions the Argentine spoke clearly celebrating brutality: “Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.”

Guevara was also an advocate of nuclear war if it meant destroying the imperialists declaring in November 1962: “What we affirm is that we must proceed along the path of liberation even if this costs millions of atomic victims.”

Many were not taken in by this call to mass murder. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. told his staff in 1968 to combat the “romantic illusion” of Che Guevara style guerilla warfare among young radicals concluding: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.

Critics of nonviolence like to point out that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968, but fail to mention that he succeeded in transforming the United States into a better country by successfully and nonviolently addressing historic injustices.

What did Reverend King accomplish? He led the successful Montgomery bus boycott that ended segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. He led the Birmingham campaign in 1963 that faced off with the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, who used high-pressure water jets and police attack dogs on children. The campaign ended with Connor losing his job and the city’s discriminatory laws were changed. Reverend King played an instrumental role in the August 28, 1963 march on Washington, D.C. with over 250,000 participants. It was done to pressure for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 in Alabama demonstrated African Americans desire to vote. The violence by local authorities, racists, and the Klu Klux Klan and the nonviolent resistance of the civil rights activists were key to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. These laws gave African Americans political power that had been denied them.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was executed in Bolivia in 1967. What did he accomplish? Installing a communist dictatorship that killed thousands, and left millions in misery. Inspired guerrilla wars and international terrorism across the world that in Latin America helped give rise to a new generation of military dictators to combat the guerrilla threat.

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Reverend King spent the last few hours of his life making the prophetic Mountaintop speech courageously predicting that he would not lead a long life and campaigning for the rights of poor people. What about Che? He was hunted down, while trying to overthrow the Bolivian government to impose a communist dictatorship and executed while trying to beg for his life.

Both the civil rights leader and the communist revolutionary died at the age of 39. However their legacies could not be more different.

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The Barnes and Noble bookstore should not be promoting this individual or his ideology. Worse yet the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided on June 18, 2013 to add “The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World Registrar in order to provide funds to preserve and disseminate Che Guevara’s papers.

This is literally spreading hate and fanaticism to new generations that will result in more bloodshed, and already has in the past. The Che Guevara cult needs to be fought with facts, historical context and when necessary economic boycotts and social ostracism.

What the world needs is less Che Guevara and more Martin Luther King Jr. In the Cuban context that would mean elevating the writings of martyred Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas, who advocated love and freedom not hatred and tyranny. It would also mean sharing the facts surrounding his untimely death and demanding justice. Not to mention more friends of freedom wearing Oswaldo Paya t-shirts.

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Cuba Archive, September 9, 2019

Regarding our take on the Che Guevara cult

By Maria C. Werlau

September 9, 2019 

The mailing we sent yesterday has stirred up quite a reaction. Many, a vast majority wrote in support, two friends wrote in disagreement, six requested with no comment to be unsubscribed from our mailing list (of many thousands) and the list also gained a few new subscribers.  Several people have called. In a few hours on a weekend, the online petition had hundreds of signatures (currently over 500). Some have copied us their messages to Barnes and Noble. A letter by Cuban Exiles United to Barnes and Noble has over 80 signatures. We are aware that Canada Free Press, 14ymedio, Diaro Las Américas, Diario de Cuba, CiberCuba and have covered the story and other journalists have called.

The interest on all things Che never ceases to surprise. So, clarifying a few things seems in order.

This organization, and I personally, do not favor or promote censorship. Mr. Enriquez, the author of Che, a revolutionary icon, has the right, which we strongly uphold, to produce his book, offer it however and to whoever he wishes, and share his fascination with Che Guevara freely and unrestricted. We also uphold the right of all entities, including businesses, to select his book for any type of distribution they prefer. That is the blessing of living in freedom, exercising rights that Che Guevara worked to deny and destroy.

We have not called for censorship but, rather, for Barnes and Noble to fairly apply the same standards for selection of the books they will sell on the subject of world tyrants/mass murderers or extreme/controversial views. (We infer these standards from an examination of their online and bookstore selections.) The book on Che Guevara in question lacks historical accuracy, deliberately distorts and omits essential facts, and promotes an ideology that has killed an estimated one hundred million persons. For this reason, we believe, its promotion offends Guevara’s direct and indirect victims and glorifies his tyrannical views and violent methods.

There are many other books on Che Guevara for sale at B&N that gloss over his crimes, most do! I have never called, personally or in the name of our organization, for these books to be removed. The one in question by Mr. Enriquez crosses the line, especially because it has been put in the face of the Cuban American community, in its “home base” of Miami, as  a “reference book.” To rub salt in the wound, the tyrannical Cuban regime that Che helped put in place is at this time carrying out yet another wave of arrests of peaceful opponents (Che strongly favored the suppression of dissent by all means necessary).

 We have not asked and will not ask B&N to carry other works on Che Guevara because, as a business (for-profit entity), it is they who decide what could be profitable (and appropriate), plus, authors and publishers are the ones who enter into that process.

Why push back on Che Guevara?

Our educational nonprofit organization advances human rights through information and our project on deaths and disappearances specifically fosters a culture of respect for life and the rule of law. The “activist” part of our mission is, however, selective because our resources are very limited for an enormous calling. Why, then, pick on Che Guevara? Because the pervasive Che cult is mired in historical distortion and used to advance methods that continue to cause great human suffering such as, in our own hemisphere, over 60 years of dictatorship in Cuba and an effective transfer of the Cuban system to Venezuela and Nicaragua. We also get many requests for information on Che Guevara by journalists, researchers, academics, etc.

We pick our battles. The resources expended on promoting the Che cult are enormous and Che has also become profitable merchandise. Practically speaking, we have no way to address that, however, we can select opportunities, especially when it involves reputable businesses or institutions helping build on a Che mythology that white-washes his crimes.

A personal issue

 This is personal because I feel a moral duty to the victims of Che Guevara and their loved ones, to my family, and to my native country, Cuba, which I left as an infant. As Executive Director of this organization, I believe my actions are in line with the mission of our project, however, they don’t always or necessarily reflect those of all our Board members, supporters, or followers. That is why I wrote yesterday and today in first person, which is not the case with our usual mailings and reports.

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Learn about MIguel Ares Polo, killed by Guevara.

 Example of the implications of the Che cult

Here is an “extreme” —some would say, “abhorrent”— view from a Che admirer who wrote to on our piece. He makes our point.

nino09/09/2019 a las 06:26

gatito, el che fusilò solo a aquellos que debìan ser fusilados. Fusilar a los batistianos y a los progringos no es delito. Es una obra buena.jajajajajajajaja

(“Kitty, Che executed only those who had to be executed. Executing Batista supporters and gringo supporters is not a crime. It’s a good deed. jajajajajajajaja”)

 Moral dilemmas and questions

How many people would have asked B&N to remove a glossy book titled “Osama Bin Laden, hero of the oppressed,” offered as a reference book in a prominent location at B&N bookstore near Ground Zero in Manhattan?

Would B&N sell titles such as these: Hitler, great lover of the arts; Mussolini, a brilliant leader; Pot Pot, lessons in meritocracy; Charles Manson, a Hollywood icon; Terrorists’ profiles in courage?

This issue poses an ethical dilemma that deserves a thoughtful conversation. We welcome and encourage debate, especially when it is respectful. We beg for your open mind and compassionate heart. To those who object with these views, we ask for your understanding and tolerance. To those who support our work or any of our positions, we urge respectful, sober, and educated actions to uphold all human rights.

Take action …or not!

 The petition to B&N is optional. If you support the petition and have not signed yet, please do and send it to your friends and ask them to consider it. If you don’t, do nothing, there is no pressure whatsoever (isn’t freedom wonderful?…)

See our publication Che Guevara’s Forgotten Victims.

An updated edition is coming soon.

Free Society Project, Inc., 2019. ©All rights reserved.