"I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man."
Ghe Guevara is the iconic Marxist revolutionary and freedom fighter whose life was cut short at the age of 39. His travels throughout Latin America as a young medical student convinced him that the continent's inequalities of wealth and opportunity were the inevitable result of capitalism and neocolonialism. To his mind the only remedy was world revolution. This belief was fortified by the CIA-assisted overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, with whose social reforms Guevara had become involved.
Later, after meeting Fidel Castro, he was one of the revolutionaries who in 1956 invaded Cuba under Castro's leadership and eventually overthrew the USA-backed Cuban dictator Batista. Playing a key role in Castro's government, both as a minister and as a world diplomat, and writing manuals on guerrilla warfare techniques, he eventually left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution first in Africa (Congo) and then in Bolivia. His plans in Bolivia failed, in part because short-wave radios supplied by Cuba did not function correctly and in part because he was unaware that the Bolivian security forces were backed and assisted by the USA. He was finally arrested on 7 October 1967 by the Bolivian armed forces abetted by the CIA.
Two days later Bolivian President Barrientos gave the order that Guevara be killed; a sergeant in the Bolivian army named Mario Terán volunteered to do the job. Moments before the murder, when asked if he was thinking about his own immortality, Guevara replied that he was thinking about "the immortality of the revolution". Terán had been instructed to make things look as though Guevara had been killed in action, but Guevara told him: "I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man." After a moment's hesitation, Terán opened fire. Guevara received nine shots, including five in the legs, one in the right shoulder and arm, one in the chest and a final one in the throat.
In 2006, Mario Terán was treated for cataracts by doctors in the Cuban "Operation Miracle" program, restoring his sight. In 2007 Granma (the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba) wrote: "Four decades after Mario Terán tried to destroy a dream and an idea, Che returns to win yet another battle...Now an old man, he [Terán] can once again appreciate the colours of the sky and the forest, and enjoy the smiles of his grandchildren."
Che Guevara (1928-1967) Argentine doctor, author, politician, Marxist revolutionary, military theorist and guerrilla leader
coward (noun): a person without courage
iconic (adjective): graphically representative and symbolic
capitalism (noun): a system where a country's trade and industry are controlled by private people for profit
neocolonialism (noun): the use of economic and other pressures by one country to control another country, often a former colony or dependency
remedy (noun): solution; answer
fortify (verb): make stronger
dictator (noun): a ruler with absolute power over a country
guerilla (noun): independent fighter, typically fighting larger government forces
foment (verb): cause, create; stir up; instigate
abet (verb): assist (someone) to do something (especially a crime)
immortality (noun): eternal life; living forever
cataracts (noun): a disease of the eye
decade (noun): a period of 10 years
Contributor: Josef Essberger