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Fidel's Executioner (Part II)

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  • Fidel's Executioner (Part II)

    Fidel's Executioner (Part II)
    By Humberto Fontova
    October 14, 2005

    As for the rest of Time's assertions, other than his competence at murdering
    bound, gagged and blindfolded men, Che Guevara failed spectacularly at
    everything he attempted in his life. First he failed as Argentine medical
    student. Though he's widely described as a medical doctor by his
    hagiographers (Castaneda, Anderson, Taibo, Kalfon) no record exists of
    Guevara's medical degree. When Cuban-American researcher Enrique Ros
    inquired of the Rector of the University of Buenos Aires and the head of its
    Office of Academic Affairs for copies or proof of said document, Ros was
    variously told that the records had been misplaced or perhaps stolen. [4]

    In 1960 Castro appointed Che as Cuba's "Minister of Economics." Within
    months the Cuban peso, a currency historically equal to the U.S. dollar and
    fully backed by Cuba's gold reserves, was practically worthless. The
    following year Castro appointed Che as Cuba's Minister of Industries. Within
    a year a nation that previously had higher per capita income than Austria
    and Japan, a huge influx of immigrants and the 3rd highest protein
    consumption in the hemisphere was rationing food, closing factories, and
    hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of it's most productive citizens from
    every sector of its society, all who were grateful to leave with only the
    clothes on their back.

    Most observers attribute this to "Communist mismanagement." Che himself
    confessed to his multiple economic errors and failings. Actually, given the
    goal of Cuba's ruler since January of 1959 -- i.e., absolute power -- the
    Cuban economy has been expertly managed. Castro inherited a vibrant free
    market economy in 1959 (something unique among communist rulers). All the
    others -- from Lenin to Mao to Ho to Ulbricht to Tito to Kim Il Sung --took
    over primitive and/or chaotic, war ravaged economies.

    A less megalomaniacal ruler would have considered that a golden goose had
    landed in his lap. But Castro wrung its neck. He deliberately and
    methodically wrecked Latin America's premier economy. A Cuban capitalist is
    a person that couldn't be controlled, Castro reasoned then, and continues to
    do so to this day. Despite a flood of tourism and foreign investment for
    over a decade, Cuba in 2005 is as essentially as poor (and Communist) as it
    was in 1965 or worse. The Castro brothers are vigilant in these matters.

    Che actually believed in the socialist fantasy. When he pronounced in May of
    1961 that under his tutelage the Cuban economy would boast an annual growth
    rate of 10% he seemed to believe it.

    Castro didn't care. He simply knew as a result he'd be running Cuba like his
    personal plantation, with the Cuban people as his cattle.

    This is where libertarian/free-market ideologues get it wrong. They insist
    that with the lifting of the embargo, capitalism will sneak in and
    eventually blindside Castro. All the proof is to the contrary. Capitalism
    didn't sweep Castro away or even co opt him. He blindsided it. He swept it
    away. He's not Deng or Gorbachev. In 1959 Castro could have easily left most
    of Cuba's economy in place, made it obedient to his whims, and been a Peron,
    a Franco, a Mussolini - the idol of his youth. He could have grabbed half
    and been a Tito. He could have demanded a piece of the action from all
    involved and been a Marcos, a Trujillo, a Mobutu, a Suharto. But this wasn't
    enough for him.

    Castro lusted for the power of a Stalin or a Mao. And he got it

    Che Guevara's most famous book is titled Guerrilla Warfare. His famous photo
    is captioned "Heroic Guerrilla." On the other hand his most resounding
    failure came precisely as a guerrilla, while there is no record of him
    prevailing in any bona-fide guerrilla battle. In fact, there are precious
    few accounts that he actually fought in anything properly described as a
    battle. The one that describes his most famous military exploit is referred
    to as "The Battle of Santa Clara," which took place in December 1958. The
    loss of this "battle" by the Batista forces is alleged to have caused
    Batista to lose hope and flee Cuba. To commemorate this historic military
    engagement, Castro has built a Che Guevara museum in Santa Clara.

    "One Thousand Killed in 5 days of Fierce Street Fighting," proclaimed a New
    York Times headline on Jan 4, 1959 about the battle. "Commander Che Guevara
    appealed to Batista troops for a truce to clear the streets of casualties"
    the articles continued. "Guevara turned the tide in this bloody battle and
    whipped a Batista force of 3,000 men."

    "Those of us who were there can only laugh at this stuff," say participants
    on both sides who live in exile today. [5] In fact, the Battle of Santa
    Clara--despite what those early versions of Jayson Blair reported -- was a
    puerile skirmish. Che Guevara's own diary mentions that his column suffered
    exactly one casualty (a soldier known as El Vaquerito) in this ferocious
    "battle." Other accounts put the grand total of rebel losses as from three
    to five men. Most of Batista's soldiers saw no reason to fight for a
    crooked, unpopular regime that was clearly doomed. So they didn't fire a
    shot, even those on the famous "armored train," that Guevara supposedly
    attacked and captured.

    Today that armored train is a major tourist attraction in Santa Clara. The
    train, loaded with 373 soldiers and $4M worth of munitions, was sent from
    Havana to Santa Clara in late December of 1958 by Batista's high command as
    a last ditch attempt to halt the rebels. Che's rebels in Santa Clara
    bulldozed the tracks and the train derailed just outside of town. Then a few
    rebels shot at it and a few soldiers fired back. No one was hurt. Soon some
    rebels approached brandishing a truce flag and one of the train's officers,
    Enrique Gomez, walked out to meet them. Gomez was brought to meet Comandante

    "What's going on here!' Che shouted. "This isn't what we agreed on!"

    Gomez was puzzled. "What agreement?" he asked.[6] It turned out, unbeknownst
    to the troops inside, Guevara had used funds the revolutionaries had raised
    from anti-Batista Cubans to buy the train and all its armaments had from its
    corrupt commander Colonel Florentino Rossell, who had already fled to Miami.
    The price was either $350,000 or $1,000,000, depending on the source. [7]

    Actually Che had every reason to be upset. Actual shots fired against his
    troops? Here's another eye-witness account regarding Che's famous "invasion"
    of las Villas Province shortly before the famous "battle" of Santa Clara.
    "Guevara's column shuffled right into the U.S. agricultural experimental
    station in Camaguey. Guevara asked manager Joe McGuire to have a man take a
    package to Batista's military commander in the city. The package contained
    $100,000 with a note. Guevara's men moved through the province almost within
    sight of uninterested Batista troops." [8]

    Francisco Rodriguez Tamayo was a Rebel captain who had been in on many of
    these transactions but he defected mere months after the Rebel victory. In
    an El Diario de Nueva York article dated June 25th 1959 he claimed that
    Castro still had $4,500,000 left in that "fund" at the time of the
    Revolutionary victory. "I don't know what might have happened to that
    money." Rodriguez Tamayo adds.

    Yet immediately after the Santa Clara bribe and skirmish, Che ordered 27
    Batista soldiers executed as "war criminals." Dr. Serafin Ruiz was a Castro
    operative in Santa Clara at the time, but apparently an essentially decent
    one. "But Comandante" he responded to Che's order. "Our revolution promises
    not to execute without trials, without proof. How can we just....?"

    "Look Serafin" Che snorted back. "If your bourgeois prejudices won't allow
    you to carry out my orders, fine. Go ahead and try them tomorrow
    morning--but execute them NOW!" [9] It was a Marxist version of the Red
    Queen's famous line to Alice in Wonderland: "Sentence first--verdict

    Che Guevara's own diary puts the grand total of his forces' losses during
    the entire two-year long "civil war" in Cuba at 20, about equal to the
    average number dead during Rio de Janeiro's carnival every year. To put it
    briefly, Batista's army barely fought.

    Officials in Cuba's U.S. embassy at the time became a little skeptical about
    all the battlefield bloodshed and heroics reported in the New York Times and
    investigated. They ran down every reliable lead and eyewitness account of
    what the New York Times kept reporting as bloody civil war with thousands
    dead in single battles.

    They found that in the entire Cuban countryside, in those two years of
    "ferocious" battles between rebel forces and Batista troops, the total
    casualties on both sides actually amounted to 182. [10] New Orleans has an
    annual murder rate double that.

    Typically, Che Guevara doesn't even merit credit for the perfectly sensible
    scheme of bribing rather than fighting Batista's army. The funds for these
    bribes derived mostly from Fidel's snookering of Batista's wealthy political
    opponents, convincing them that he was a "patriotic Cuban, a democrat," and
    that they should join, or at least help fund, his 26th of July Movement in
    order to bring democracy and prosperity to Cuba.

    In late 1957 Castro signed an agreement called "The Miami Pact" with several
    anti-Batista Cuban politicians and ex-ministers in exile at the time. Most
    of these were quite wealthy. Indeed if the term, "rich, white Miami Cuban
    exiles," that liberals scornfully use against current Cuban-Americans ever
    fit -- it was for the mulatto Batista's liberal opponents, for Fidel
    Castro's early backers. Among these was former president Carlos Prio who
    Batista had ousted in his (bloodless) coup in 1952, along with many of
    Prio's ministers and business cronies.

    In fact, Guevara went ballistic over the Miami Pact, when he first learned
    of it, over this shameful deal with "bourgeois" elements. "I refuse to lend
    my historic name to that crime!" he wrote. "We rebels have proffered our
    asses in the most despicable act of buggery that Cuban history is likely to
    recall!" [11]

    It was despicable buggery for sure. But Che had the buggerers and the
    buggerees reversed. Lenin coined the term "Useful Idiots," but to this day
    Castro remains history's virtuoso at snaring and employing them.

    That a "guerrilla war" with "peasant and worker backing" overthrew Batista
    is among the century's most widespread and persistent academic fables. No
    Cuban Castroites who participated actually believe this. The Associated
    Press dispatches about Castro and Che's "war" were actually concocted and
    written by Castro's own agent in New York, Mario Llerena, who admits as much
    in his book, The Unsuspected Revolution. Llerena was also the contact with
    Castro's most famous publicity agent, the New York Times, Herbert Matthews.
    National Review's famous 1960 cartoon showing a beaming Castro, "I got my
    job through the New York Times!" nailed it.

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