Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Why Che Was a Monster pt 6 Cuban Government
On February 7, 1959, the government proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph of the revolutionary forces. Shortly thereafter, he initiated divorce proceedings to put a formal end to his marriage with Gadea, from whom he had been separated since before leaving Mexico on the Granma. On June 2, 1959, he married Aleida March, a Cuban-born member of the 26th of July movement with whom he had been living since late 1958.
He was appointed commander of the La Cabaña Fortress prison, and during his five-month tenure in that post (January 2 through June 12, 1959), he oversaw the trial and execution of many people, among whom were former Batista regime officials and members of the "Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities" (BRAC), a unit of the secret police known by its Spanish acronym. José Vilasuso, an attorney who worked under Guevara at La Cabaña preparing indictments, said that these were lawless proceedings where "the facts were judged without any consideration to general juridical principles" and the findings were pre-determined by Guevara. It is estimated that between 156 and 550 people were executed on Guevara's extra-judicial orders during this time.
Later, Guevara became an official at the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, and President of the National Bank of Cuba. He signed all Cuban banknotes issued during his fourteen-month presidency with his nickname, "Che". Throughout his time in the Cuban government, Guevara refused his due salaries of office, insisting on drawing only his meager wages as army commandante in order to set a "revolutionary example".
During this time his fondness for chess was rekindled, and he attended and participated in most national and international tournaments held in Cuba. He was particularly eager to encourage young Cubans to take up the game, and organized various activities designed to stimulate their interest in it.
Even as early as 1959, Guevara helped organize revolutionary expeditions overseas, all of which failed. The first attempt was made in Panama; another in the Dominican Republic (led by Henry Fuerte, also known as "El Argelino", and Enrique Jiménez Moya) took place on 14 June of that same year.
In 1960 Guevara provided first aid to victims when the freighter La Coubre, a French vessel carrying munitions from the port of Antwerp, exploded while it was being unloaded in Havana harbor. A rescue operation immediately ensued but went awry when a second explosion occurred, resulting in well over a hundred dead. It was at the memorial service for the victims of this explosion that Alberto Korda took the most famous photograph of him.
Guevara later served as Minister of Industries, in which post he helped formulate Cuban socialism, and became one of the country's most prominent figures. In his book Guerrilla Warfare, he advocated replicating the Cuban model of revolution initiated by a small group (foco) of guerrillas without the need for broad organizations to precede armed insurrection. His essay El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba (1965) (Man and Socialism in Cuba) advocates the need to shape a "new man" (hombre nuevo) in conjunction with a socialist state. Some saw Guevara as the simultaneously glamorous and austere model of that "new man."
During the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, Guevara did not participate in the fighting, having been ordered by Castro to a command post in Cuba's westernmost Pinar del Río province where he was involved in fending off a decoy force. He did, however, suffer a bullet wound to the face during this deployment, which he said had been caused by the accidental discharge of his own gun.
Guevara played a key role in bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. During an interview with the British newspaper Daily Worker some weeks later, he stated that, if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them against major U.S. cities.