Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Italian Documentary on Che Guevara

FL131539 Havana Television Service in Spanish 0030 GMT 8 Oct 87

[Documentary: "When I Think of Che," made on the occasion of the 20th
anniversary of Che Guevara's death, and based on an interview granted by
Fidel Castro to Italian journalist Gianni Mina on 28 June--place not given]

[Text] [Video begins showing numerous stills of Che Guevara alone and with
Fidel Castro while music and Castro's voice is heard in the background] It
was hard for me to accept the idea that Che was dead.  I have dreamt many
times--I have told people about the things that I have dreamt--that I am
talking with him, that he is alive.  I have the impression of a permanent
presence of Che because of what he stood for, because of his personality,
his behavior, his principles.  He had a large number of really exceptional
qualities. [caption reads: "Here you are gentlemen, present"] [Video shows
Castro seated, speaking to someone off camera]

[Castro The extraordinary thing about Che is that he was not Cuban, he was
Argentine.  When we met in Mexico, he had been working as a doctor in
Guatemala.  He was very enthused with Guatemala's political process, with
the agrarian reform; he witnessed the U.S. intervention, he suffered very
much over all that. it was something he had inside. [Video shows shots of
Mexican independence monument, Chapultepec park and lake, and more stills
of Guevara] He joined us right away.  He said he joined us the first time
we held a conversation.

[Video shows old film clip of Castro reading in front of microphones from
letter written by Che Guevara:] Fidel, at this time I remember many things.
I remember when I met you at Maria Antonia's house, when you suggested I
come here; I remember all the tension in getting ready.  One day I was
asked who should be notified in case of death.  The real possibility of
that happening hit us all.  We later learned that it was true, that in a
true revolution, one triumphs or dies.

[Video again shows Castro sitting speaking to someone off camera] He tried
to climb the Popocatepetl almost every week.  He never reached the top, but
he attempted it every week. [Still of Popocatepetl volcano shown] He
suffered from asthma; he had that limitation.  He made a heroic effort to
climb that volcano.  Although he could never reach the top, he never
stopped trying to climb it once more.  That also shows what kind of
character he had.

He was our doctor.  He went as a doctor because he had those limitations.
No one imagined him as a soldier because he was such an intellectual.  He
was a great soldier. [Old footage and photographs continue to be
interspersed showing Guevara with former Cuban guerrilla fighters on Sierra
Madre while Castro continues speaking] He was very imputsive, very
courageous, very daring, and sometimes reckless.  Che was always the first
to volunteer for any mission.  He also volunteered for the most difficult
actions, he suggested it in the middle of combat.  He was extremely
unselfish and attruistic.  This was not his fatherland.  He joined us and
every day he was willing to give his life for the revolution.

[Old video clip shows Guevara speaking into a hand-held microphone]
[Guevara] Every month--we have been on the Sierra Maestra for 16 months
already--journalists from all over the world have come and they have been
interested in, say, the anecdotes of this guerrilla war.  Today, I take the
opportunity a Cuban journalist's visit gives me to send, to the Cuban
people, the first greetings I am able to send.  I have chosen to defend the
Cuban people, even though I have only gotten to know them through the deeds
and thoughts of our chief, Fidel Castro.

[Castro] They had two different personalities even though they loved and
respected each other very much.  Camilo liked to joke a lot.  He was always
smiling.  He was very daring, very intelligent--he was less of an
intellectual than Che, but he was also an excellent chief who did not give
the enemy a chance.  He was very courageous but was not reckless as Che
was.  Che looked like a man who sought death.  Camilo defied death, he was
not afraid of death, but he was not reckless.  Those are two differences
between them.  They loved each other very much.

I would use the cadres according to the importance of the mission.  When a
cadre acquired more skills, more experience, then I would take new cadres
so that they would learn and develop. In a war you cannot constantly take
cadres into dangerous missions because you lose the cadre at one time or
another.  We had to protect cadres very much, preserve them.  They wanted
to do things and we took the task of preserving them as much as possible
and using them in the most important missions.  I rotated the men a lot in
those kinds of tasks and truly believe that without that policy Che would
not have lasted through the war.  He wanted to go to South America.  It was
an old idea of his.  When he joined us in Mexico he did so unconditionally.
However, he did ask for one thing.  He said: All I ask is that if I should
decide to go to Argentina-his country-to fight after the revolution
triumphs, that I be allowed to go.  That no reasons of state will hinder my
decision.  And I promised him this.  There was still a long way to go.
First we had to win the war and then we would have to see who survived the
war.  His chances of surviving were not good because of his recklessness;
however, this was all he asked.  Once in a while he would remind us of our
promise.  He reminded us of our promise while we were in the Sierra
Maestra.  We planned ahead for this.

After he acquired all his experience on the Sierra Maestra, his enthusiasm
for making a revolution in South America, and in his own country, grew.
After experiencing very difficult times with us-we had to rebuild our army
in order to carry out our struggle--he developed a great faith in the
possibilities of a revolutionary movement in South America.  When I speak
of South America I am actually talking of the southern areas of South
America.  We had promised to respect his decision and I always told him
that he should not worry because we would keep our word. [Several video
clippings of Guevara riding in a car and speaking from a podium]

[Castro] When the revolution triumphed there were many tasks to carry out
and all sorts of problems to resolve.  We had political problems, problems
with the uniting of our forces, state and economic problems.  We had to
confront all the tasks of a victorious revolution where nothing of the
former state had remained. [Still of Fidel and Raul Castro when they were

[Video of Che speaking from a podium] [Guevara] There is still much to be
done here.  There is still much to be done all over the country.  However,
we must do all this with our daily work.  In order to do this, we have many
tasks ahead.  However, there are two very important tasks.  We must make
sure that we work and produce every day.  We must also work in other areas
that do not directly involve production. it is just as important to work
with a machine and produce as much as we can as it is to take good care of
the citizen who visits any of our stores, or restaurants, or for a doctor
to attend, with love and much interest, all those patients placed in his
care.  The idea of working must be on our daily agenda.

[Castro] Che was appointed to the Ministry of Industry.  He was a very
methodical worker.  He also held several other posts.  Every time we needed
a serious man to hold an important office, Che would offer to do it.  He
was appointed National Bank director during the days when those
technicians, who were specialized in banking but not politically
consistent, abandoned the country.  It was then that he was appointed
president of the National Bank.  Jokes and anecdotes followed this
appointment.  People would say that we had asked for an economist and Che
had volunteered and when I asked him if he was an economist he said: No, I
am a communist.

We were just starting our struggle inside the country and the rightist
sectors accused Che of being a communist and other things.  However, Che
always bad great authority; he brilliantly carried out every assignment he
received.  He worked hard and got his first experience with the
nationalization of the industry.  He worked hard at organizing production,
implementing production control measures, and he was one of the pioneers in
the area of voluntary work.  He participated in almost every activity, and
he was very good in all he did.  He was an example in all that he did.
[Video of Fidel Castro working in a factory, riding a tractor, and talking
to workers]

[Video of Che speaking] [Guevara] Voluntary work is the real expression of
a communist attitude in face of work in a society where the main means of
production are social property. It is the example of the men who love the
proletarian cause and who do their voluntary work during their hours of
recreation and rest, men who unselfishly fulfill the tasks of the
revolution.  Voluntary work is a school that creates awareness, it is the
effort made within a society, for the society. it is the contribution of
each man, or group, toward the creation of an awareness that allows us to
speed up the process of transition toward communism. [Video of Che speaking
at a factory, carrying sugarcane in the fields, handing out diplomas, and
speaking from a podium]

[Castro] That is the way he spent the first years following the triumph of
the revolution.  He later began to feel a certain impatience to fulfill his
old plans and ideas.  I think that time influenced much in this.  He
realized that special physical conditions were necessary for all this.  He
felt he was capable of doing it, and he was truly at the peak of his mental
and physical conditions.  He had many ideas based on the experience he had
acquired in our country.  He had ideas on what should be done.

[Video of Guevara speaking from a podium] Today there is a new spirit in
the country.  A new happiness for all the Cuban people has been regained.
The Cuban people have also achieved a new sense of being and they
experience this on a daily basis.  They have forged their own freedom and
they treat this freedom as something that belongs to them, as something
that they conquered, as something they won with their blood and sweat, a
freedom won with uninterrupted struggle.  The Cuban people have the growing
satisfaction of knowing that Cuba's name is being repeated throughout the
Latin American countryside, and throughout other countries of the world
that are struggling for their freedom.  Cuba's name always represents the
same thing.  It is the image of what can be achieved by means of a
revolutionary struggle, the hopes for a better world; and the fact that it
is worthwhile to risk one's life, make the sacrifice of death on the
battlefields of all the continents of the world, in order to achieve this.

[Castro speaking to someone off the camera] From our own experience I had
learned that the early phase of a process, like the one Che was bent on,
was not easy.  I felt that what he was planning called for perfect timing.
Therefore, we told him that he should not become impatient, that he still
needed some time.  He wanted to go out from the very first day and do it

[Stills of Che Guevara] [Guevara] The statue in honor of Lumumba-today
destroyed, but tomorrow rebuilt--also reminds us of the tragic history of
that martyr of the world's revolution.  It reminds us that we cannot trust
imperialism, not even a little bit, absolutely nothing.

[Still of a map of Africa] [Castro] By that time intervention in the Congo,
today known as Zaire, had taken place.  Lumumba had died and an armed
movement had developed in Zaire.  The revolutionary movement asked us for
help.  They asked us to send instructors on an internationalist mission.
[Stills of Che Guevara in Africa] Since Che was still waiting for the right
time to leave, I suggested that he further develop his experience and I
appointed him to lead the group of men who were being sent to help the
revolutionaries in Zaire.  Approximately 100 men were sent to Zaire and
they remained there for several months.

Our idea was not to go there and make war.  Our idea was to send men to
teach and help the Africans.  However, that movement was just beginning.
It had no strength or unity.  Che then suggested that our personnel be
withdrawn.  We agreed with his views and we withdrew our personnel from
Zaire.  The conditions were not adequate for the development of that

Che had planned his stay in Africa to be a temporary one.  He was waiting
for the right time to go to South America but the situation had become
pretty embarrassing for us.  Che had already said goodbye.  He had written
the letter before he left and he left the country quietly, we could even
say that it was a clandestine departure.  We kept the letter and this
unleashed many rumors, and at times slanderous statements were made.  Some
people even said that Che had disappeared, that he had died, that there
were differences between us.  We took that downpour of rumors and intrigue
in silence.  We did this in order to protect the mission that he wanted to
fulfill, and to protect those who were going with him.

After leaving Zaire Che went to Tanzania and then to a socialist country in
Europe.  He was marking time.  He did not want to return to Cuba.  He was
embarrassed. [Stills of Che Guevara].  The moment came when we had to
publish the letter he had written.  It was unavoidable.  The campaign,
throughout which we had remained silent, was beginning to hurt us.  We had
no other alternative but to publish the letter.

[Video shows clip of Castro reading another passage of Che Guevara's
letter] Other lands of the world are demanding my humble efforts.  I can do
what you cannot do because of your responsibility for Cuba.  The time has
come for us to say goodbye.  Rest assured that I do this with a mixture of
happiness and sorrow.  Here I have left my purest hopes to build and what I
have loved the most among all my loved ones.  I am also leaving a people
who took me in as a son.  This severs part of my spirit.

I will go to new battlefields carrying the faith you gave me, the
revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling that I am fulfilling the
most sacred of all duties: To struggle against imperialism wherever it may
be.  This comforts me and eases all my pains.

[Castro sitting and talking to someone off camera] After the letter was
made public--politically, this was an unavoidable decision--because of his
very special nature, Che felt very awkward about returning to Cuba after
having said goodbye.  I persuaded him to return to Cuba. it was the most
convenient move in view of what he wanted to do.  So he came back.  Once
again, he returned in a clandestine manner.  He went into the mountains. a
very difficult mountainous area, to train. [Video shows Che Guevara in the

He asked for the help of some of his old comrades; some old guerrilia
fighters, and some new fighters.  He asked for their support and he chose
his own group.  He talked to them and selected from among them and we
authorized a group of experienced comrades to accompany him.  Che's work
ahead needed the help of these experienced comrades, of volunteers, who
went with him.  Che trained with them for months while the ground work was
being done to transfer him, and his group, to Bolivia.

The day Che left I played a joke on some comrades.  The day Che left for
good I invited several comrades, our closest comrades from the party
directorate, to attend a dinner I was hosting for a guest.  Che was my
guest.  He was already disguised.  No one recognized him in his disguise.
[Still of man wearing glasses and with streaked hair] The day before he
left, Che had lunch with other comrades here in Havana, and no one
recognized him in his disguise. [Castro laughs] The comrades did not
recognize him; I had to tell them that the man was Che [Video shows a
passport with the picture of a man].  As you can see, when he left the
country he was really prepared; no one could recognize him.

Che chose the territory and he drafted his own struggle plan.  He was very
much interested in Argentina.  He wanted to make a revolution in Argentina.
However, back then we had no diplomatic relations with any of those
countries.  All those countries had joined the United States in its
struggle against Cuba.

In the early days he had recruited a group of Argentines.  One of them was
an Argentine reporter, Masetti, who had been with us in Sierra Maestra.
Masetti later founded Prensa Latina.  Che recruited Masetti when he had
planned his struggle in Argentina.  Masetti, following Che's ideas, tried
to organize a front in northern Argentina, in the Salia area.  Masetti died
on that mission.  Che was a very sensitive man; he was committed to his
comrades and the fact that he had planned this struggle and that some
comrades had lost their lives in this attempt, strongly influenced his
impatience to carry out his ideas.

Che had already studied the area and he liked it because it was near the
Argentine border.  He had studied the Bolivian peasant and he knew that the
Bolivian peasant was a very quiet, discreet, and distrustful man.  He knew
that the Bolivian peasant was very different to the Cuban peasant.  After
Che graduated from school, he visited the area on motorcycle.  He even went
to the Amazon area and many other places and got to know the people.  He
knew of the problems the Indians were experiencing and he considered these
problems his own.  More than once he talked to me about these people and
what had to be done to help them.  He knew that it would not be an easy

But Che had already learned from our experience, from our almost
unbelievable experience after our early setbacks.  He saw how a small group
was able to reorganize and carry out a struggle under very difficult
conditions.  He had much faith in this type of struggle and in the
possibilities of this type of a struggle especially after learning so much
from our experience.  So Che chose the place where the struggle should be
based. In essence, I would add that no mistakes were made.  Che tried to
win over the support of organized forces, organized political forces.  He
was even counting on the support of the Bolivian Communist Party and of
other forces.  Back then the Bolivian Communist Party had been experiencing
some division.  The leftist movement, the Communist Party, had several
leaders.  He had already met with Secretary General Monje [Mario Monje
Molina] and explained his plan.  However, there were other leaders within
the movement and this brought on some problems with Monje.  Problems
between Che and Monje developed because of Monje's attitude.  I think that
Monje wanted to give the orders and Che refused to accept this.  Even
though Monje was secretary general of the party and his country had been
chosen for this struggle, there was no better man to lead the movement than
Che.  Other movements, and some Latin American movements, gave their
support to Che's struggle.  That was when the movement was actually
discovered.  For one reason, or another, the detachment was located when
they were still organizing. [Stills of men with guns and radios] Monje was
to blame to a certain degree; however, historically, it would not be fair
to blame the whole Communist Party for this.  Many communists joined Che;
the (Peredos)--excellent people who were proving to be very good
cadres--joined and supported Che.  They were really of great help to Che.
The Communist Party directorate, even though they did have their
differences, also tried to help Che.  So if we are going to blame someone,
we must blame Monje.

The army began to notice that something was going on.  But other things
were happening at the same time.  Che planned a trip with a large group of
men.  He wanted to explore the area.  Only the less experienced members of
the group, the new members of the group, were left behind in the camp.
However, that trip lasted many weeks. it was really an odyssey and in his
diary, Che gave a detailed description of this trip.  He described how they
found themselves facing very high hills, rough terrain, and floods.  They
even had some casualties during that trip, some men drowned--one or two
casualties were reported.

When the tired troops returned to camp after several weeks of being out,
Che found that there were some problems involving discipline at the camp.
But the worst part was that the tired troops--some of them were sick--never
had a chance to rest up because the first army raids and clashes took place
only days after they returned to camp.  During those first clashes they did
not report casualties; there was no reason for casualties because these
were experienced men.  They set ambushes and with a few men they were able
to recover weapons and deal heavy blows on the army.  But I would say that
all this began happening too soon.

After those first incidents another trip to explore the area was planned.
They left the camp and they separated into two groups.  Those two groups
never again saw each other.  Che did not take his medicine with him.  The
same thing that had happened on the Granma was repeating itself.  He did
not have his medicine with him and for him, being without his medicine was
not easy.  For months they evaded and fought against the army.

Che trusted the idea of unconventional warfare.  He knew about
unconventional warfare.  When you are waging an unconventional war, the
rebels can only depend on each other.  They cannot expect, or receive, help
from the outside.  It is practically impossible to get help from the
outside and the network that provided clandestine help had already been
destroyed.  Therefore, they were depending strictly on each other.  Che
knew that even though he only had 20 men he still had a chance of survival
if he could only get to the place where (Inti) and (Coco Peredo) were very
well known.  He knew this and he was heading in that direction.  However,
the description of what happened, not only from Che's diary, but also as
described by the Bolivian Army, is unbelievable.  The clashes waged against
the army and all that they did during those days is truly epic.

I think that Che was deeply affected when he learned of the death of the
other group.  We learned about the death of the other group from the
foreign news agencies.  Because of our previous experiences I knew that the
news was true and accurate.  They explained how Tamara, Joaquin, and the
rest of the group had died.  However, Che refused to believe this
information.  In his diary we can see that a long time went by before he
admitted to himself that they had died.  He thought that it was another
army lie.  They had already issued too many false reports. [Still of a
newspaper clipping] When he finally convinced himself that they were
dead--after they had searched for them up and down--he began his journey in
search of a social base.  By this time he already had several good Bolivian
cadres.  His move was the right move, he still had a good chance of

But I still think that the death of the comrades strongly influenced his
state of mind. [Video of handwriting on a piece of paper] I think that he
acted with a certain degree of recklessness.  He would be walking along a
path, stop suddenly and say: The grapevine [radio bemba] is announcing that
we are coming.  He meant that all the people were waiting for him.  I knew
him well and I think that, because of his nature, he was acting with a
certain degree of recklessness.

He continued to advance and they came to a village in broad daylight.  The
village was empty.  Finding an empty village is a sign that something is
happening.  The people can sense that there is going to be fighting.  All
the army, an army, had to do was wait along the path.  And in broad
daylight, the vanguard troops began their march up those bare hills.  They
were acting as if the army did not exist.

The vanguard troops fell into an ambush in broad daylight.  Several men
were killed.  It was a serious blow.  The group was also carrying some sick
men.  They were even carrying the sick doctor.  Che insisted on carrying
them even though he knew that this was holding them up.  We did this on
several occasions.  We would look for a place where we could leave our sick
men when we felt that they could not handle the journey.  He must have been
looking for a safe place to leave them.  However, he lost his vanguard
troops in the ambush; he knew that he had been spotted; he was in an open
field, and some of his good Bolivian men had been killed.  I think one of
the two Bolivian brothers who had become excellent cadres had been killed.
Che's situation was a very difficult one.  For months he had evaded the
army troops; for months he had carried out epic actions fighting against
the army troops; however, he now found himself facing a very difficult
situation.  He had been spotted, attacked, and wounded.  His rifle was
destroyed and he was taken prisoner.

Something must have affected him strongly.  This disregard for death that
he began to feel.  There were times when he challenged death.  In view of
their situation they should have advanced with more caution.  He should not
have used the roads, he should have looked for other places, march at
night.  Had they been ambushed at night, they would not have suffered so
many casualties.  They would have been able to spot the enemy; they would
have seen a light, something.  I think that something in his nature had
much to do at that moment.  I would even add that when they were marching
along that path, when he still had 20 men and his Bolivian cadres, they
still had a chance of surviving and of developing the guerrilia movement.
[Video of people in the streets, men in uniform are seen firing and waving
their weapons while voice-over praises centuries of struggle waged by
liberation movements]

[Castro] We believed in what he was doing and we felt that he could achieve
his goal.  I have always said that success or failure do not determine
whether the path followed was correct or mistaken.  We could all have died
in our struggle, we were near death many times.  Had we died, many people
would have said that we died because we chose the wrong path.  I do not
think that dying would have meant that we had chosen the wrong path.  I
believe that the path was the correct one, but there are many factors that
influence the outcome of a situation, even luck.  We survived the early
days of our struggle almost by a miracle.  However, this would be another
long story for me to tell.  But under those circumstances we cannot say
that success is the yardstick for measuring whether one was right or wrong.
Other factors also can also influence the results.  I do not question the
rightness of Che's methods.  What I am trying to say is that I would have
liked it better if he would have stayed out of the early stages of the
struggle. It is a very risky phase of the struggle.  I would have liked to
see him join the struggle as a political and military leader, as a
strategist in a movement that had surpassed that phase.

Che and I had excellent relations.  We were friends and we trusted each
other.  Che paid much attention to my ideas.  We were friends, and we
trusted each other, until the very end.  But he had his goals and it was
not up to us to stop him.  This would have gone against the type of
relations we had.  We could not stop him for reasons of state, nor could we
impose our ideas on him.  What we did was help him.  We helped him in
something that we felt was possible; we would not have been able to help
him had his goal been impossible or had we not believe in what he was
doing.  Had this been the case, it would have been our duty to tell him
that what he wanted to do was impossible and that we could not sacrifice
comrades in this task.  But he did what he did, and I believe in what he

We still do not know what they did with Che's body.  We do not know where
Che's remains are.  Many of his personal belongings have been found; we
know, from both sides, all that happened, but no one knows where Che is
buried.  They wanted Che to disappear; furthermore, the yankees wanted Che
to disappear.  Despite all this, Che became a very big symbol for the whole
world.  He is the perfect example of the revolutionary, exemplary, and
brave man.  I would add that Che became a unique example of the fighting
and revolutionary man of the third world, perhaps even of the
industrialized world.

[Video of an old video of a young Castro speaking from a podium] [Castro]
If we could choose how we would like our revolutionary fighters, our
militants, our men, to be, then without hesitation we should say: We want
them to be like Che.  If we were to choose how we would like the our future
generations to be, then we should say: We want them to be like Che.  If
were to say how we want our children educated, then without hesitation we
should say: We want them to be educated within the spirit of Che.  If we
want to follow the example of a man, of a man who did not belong to these
times--an example of the man of the future, I wholeheartedly say that this
man, without a single stain on his conduct, attitude, and actions, that
example of man, is Che.  If we could choose how we would like our children
to be, then, we must wholeheartedly, and with revolutionary spirit. say
that we want them to be like Che. [Stills of Clic Guevara]