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The “austere idealist,” Che, hadn’t done too badly for himself in this real estate transaction, known in non-“revolutionary” societies as armed robbery.
Llano Montes wrote the above in exile. In February 1959 he didn’t go quite into such detail in his article which appeared in the Cuban magazine Carteles. He simply wrote that, “Comandante Che Guevara has fixed his residence in one of the most luxurious houses on Tarara beach.”
Two days after his article ran, while lunching at Havana’s El Carmelo restaurant, Llano Montes looked up from his plate to see three heavily armed soldiers instructing him to accompany them. Shortly the journalist found himself in Che Guevara’s La Cabana office, seated a few feet in front of the Stalinist hangman’s desk, which was piled with papers.
It took half an hour but Che finally made his grand entrance, “reeking horribly, as was his custom” recalls Llano Montes. “Without looking at me. He started grabbing papers on his desk and brusquely signing them with ‘Che.’ His assistant came in and Che spoke to him over his shoulder. ‘I’m signing these 50 executions so we can take care of this tonight.’
“Then he got up and walked out. Half an hour later he walks back in and starts signing more execution [“murder,” actually — “execution” implies some form of judicial process] warrants. Finished signing, he picks up a book and starts reading — never once looking at me. Another half hour goes by and he finally puts the book down. ‘So you’re Llano Montes,’ he finally sneers, ‘who says I appropriated a luxurious house.'”
“I simply wrote that you had moved into a luxurious house, which is the truth,” replied Llano Montes.
“We’re not going to allow all the press foolishness [freedom] that Batista allowed. I can have you executed this very night. How about that?!”
“You’ll need proof that I’ve broken some law,” responded Montes.
Montes continued to recount: “‘We don’t need proof. We manufacture the proof,’ Che said while stroking his long hair, a habit of his. One of his prosecutors, a man nicknamed ‘Puddle-of-blood’ then walked in and started talking. ‘Don’t let the stupid jabbering of those defense lawyers delay the executions!’ Che yelled at him. ‘Threaten them with execution. Accuse them of being accomplices of the Batistianos.’ Then Che jerked another handful of execution warrants from Mr. Puddle and started signing them.
“This type of thing went on from noon until 6:30 PM when Che finally turned to his aides and said. ’Get this man out of here. I don’t want him in my presence.'”
This was Che’s habitual manner of dealing with defenseless men. Against armed men on an equal footing his behavior was markedly different, particularly upon his capture in Bolivia. “Don’t shoot!” he whimpered. “I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”
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