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Forty-three years ago this week, Ernesto “Che” Guevara got a major dose of his own medicine. Without trial, he was declared a murderer, stood up against a wall and shot. Historically speaking, justice has rarely been better served. There was never an occasion better suited to the expression: “What goes around comes around.”
“When you saw the beaming look on Che’s face as the victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad,” said former Cuban political prisoner Roberto Martin-Perez, “you saw there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara.” As commander of the La Cabana execution yard, Che often shattered the skull of the condemned man (or boy) by firing the coup de grace himself. When other duties tore him away from his beloved execution yard, he consoled himself by viewing the slaughter from afar. Che’s second-story office in Havana’s La Cabana prison had a section of wall torn out so he could watch his darling firing-squads at work.
Even as a youth, Ernesto Guevara’s writings revealed a serious mental illness. “My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any vencido that falls in my hands!” This passage is from Ernesto Guevara’s famous Motorcycle Diaries, though Robert Redford somehow overlooked it while directing his heart-warming film on Guevara.
The Spanish word vencido, by the way, translates into “defeated” or “surrendered.” And indeed, the “acrid odor of gunpowder and blood” very rarely reached Guevara’s nostrils from anything other than captured prisoners — often defenseless men and boys at close-range. Carlos Machado was 15 years old in 1963 when the bullets from the firing squad shattered his body. His twin brother and father collapsed beside him from the same volley. All had resisted Castro and Che’s theft of their humble family farm; all refused blindfolds and all died sneering at their Communist murderers like thousands of their valiant countrymen. Viva Cuba Libre! Viva Cristo Rey! Abajo Comunismo! “The defiant yells would make the walls of La Cabana prison tremble,” wrote eyewitness to the slaughter, Armando Valladares.
As history shows, the one genuine accomplishment in Che Guevara’s life was the mass-murder of defenseless men and boys. Under his own gun, dozens died. Under his orders, thousands were slaughtered. Murder was Che’s one true talent. At everything else, he failed abysmally.
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