Page 1 of 2 THE ROVING EYE
By Pepe Escobar
It was forty years ago on October 8 when he was executed by a Bolivian Army
subjected to CIA orders - sprinkled with Bolivian Rangers trained by US
instructors imported from Laos. Ernesto "Che" Guevara de la Serna might have
been an austere, serious nemesis of the Western capitalist order. Or he might
have been just a solitary idealist, a celestial wanderer. At 39, captured,
wounded, exhausted, shackled, suffering with asthma, like a lion in a cage -
the dingy room at a little adobe school in the tiny
pueblo of La Higuera - he rose from a rickety chair to stand tall and face
His trembling executioner, soldier Mario Teran, later recalled his last words:
"Be serene," said Che, "and be on target. You are about to kill a man." Teran
saw "a big Che, enormous. His eyes were gleaming …When he stared at me, I felt
dizzy ..." At one in the afternoon, his hands shaking, Teran would unleash two
bursts of machine-gun fire into Che's chest (to make it look like he was shot
in combat), just to plunge into an endless nightmare himself.
Then there was the striking smiling corpse, eyes wide open, brought as a war
trophy by the Bolivian soldiers to the hospital laundry in colonial-era
Vallegrande. Some compared it to Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson; it was
rather the Lamentation over the Dead Christ in Renaissance master
Mantegna's 1490 AD masterpiece. The laundry today is a holy chapel - its walls
covered by thousands of pilgrim's inscriptions. The school at La Higuera is a
museum where peasants sell pieces of earth impregnated with the blood of Che.
As much as Spartacus throughout history became the icon of all global wars
fought by slaves against their masters, Che in only four decades is the
undisputed global icon of all wars fought by rebellious peoples who believe in
hope against injustice and who believe another, less cruel world is possible.
He's not only "Che-sus" - more popular than Jesus in a way John Lennon himself
wouldn't dream of. He is revered by Bengalis in Kolkatta, Palestinians in Gaza,
Egyptian lawyers, Uzbek dissidents, Afghan exiles, Kiwi backpackers, Russian
soccer players, Syrian computer wizards, the Pumas (the Argentine rugby team),
Cuban chess masters, Brazilian motorcycle gangs, Iraqi sharpshooters. In His
name, everything is permitted. Last week Che's daughters were invited by an
Iranian university just for them to learn he was being hailed as an
anti-communist religious leader. In Bolivia - where in 1967 he hoped to be
spearheading guerrilla columns towards Peru and Argentina - he's no less than
Saint Che, or San Ernesto de La Higuera, and his story, via crucis, is
transmitted by sacred oral tradition from peasant to peasant.
A recently declassified secret note of Paraguayan intelligence tells how Che,
disguised as "Oscar Ferreira", was crossing from Brazil to Paraguay in 1966.
This proves how all US-supported dictatorships in the southern cone were in
close synch at the time, all bowing to the dictates of US counterinsurgency.
The problem is that at that very moment Che was fighting in the Congo.
Top of the pops
Che, single red-starred beret pulled casually over gorgeous long black hair,
eyes flaming with purpose and staring into infinity, is the most iconic,
recycled and ripped off image of the 20th - and so far, 21st - centuries.
Alberto "Korda" Diaz, Fidel's official photographer, has described Che in the
legendary March 4, 1960 shot he defines as "Guerrillero Heroico" (Heroic
Fighter), as "encabronado y dolente" (angry and sad).
But way beyond this angry and sad "die young, stay pretty" rock aesthetic,
transcending all ideology, transcending all the perverse embraces of
hyper-capitalism, Che came to personify the very essence of rebellion and
resistance, anti-imperialist struggle with a romantic aura. From soccer god
Maradona, with a tattooed Che on his shoulder, to Osama bin Laden, who could
not resist posing for the Islamic masses as Sheikh Guevara. Serious students of
Che's life came to view him not only as a symbol of all things revolutionary,
but of an almost Zen-like compassion and sacrifice for a worthy cause. He
became much more of a cultural than a political hero. That explains his killer
seduction of global youth's collective unconscious.
As a representation of dreams and aspirations, he could not but belong to a
pantheon of Virgins and saints. As the ultimate crossover saint, pop sainthood
had to translate into pop art. Thus the prized Che-signed Cuban banknotes at
Buenos Aires flea markets, the Che cigarettes in Peru, the Che bikinis in
Brazil, the Che clocks in Kerala, Che on Thai trucks, Che wallets and lighters
in China, and on the T-shirts worn by radical Hong Kong legislator Leung "Long
Hair" Kwok-hung, Che alongside Sheikh Nasrallah in Lebanon, Che alongside Imam
Hussein all over the Middle East.
On the road with Che
Doctor, serial reader, serial smoker, a lover of chess, rugby and motorcycles,
amateur economist, one-time Minister of Industries and Minister of Finance in
revolutionary Cuba, Fidel Castro's favorite commander, the greatest Latin
American since Bolivar, Che was above all a humanist. It's all there in his
many writings - stressing the crucial importance of every cultural process
linked to economic transformation, an analysis which orthodox Marxism never
In a post-modern South American echo of Ken Kesey's Magic Bus, which in the
early 1960s was driving "further", introducing the US to acid tests, a yellow
La Preferida (The Prefered) bus set out from Buenos Aires on a 36-hour journey
towards Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and then the holy sites of Vallegrande and La
Higuera, carrying everything from young Argentine militants to Uruguayan union
leaders, not to mention the coca leaf-chewing Bolivian drivers, everyone
listening to Bolivian rock group Atayo. How's that for South American
They are all now mingling with rock musicians, Nobel Prize winners, Cubans who
fought with Che in the National Liberation