Comandante Che Guevara (1959)
After Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Che Guevara was instrumental in setting up forced-labor camps for dissidents, gays, and devout Catholics. He was put in charge of La Cabaña Fortress prison for five months. There are varying accounts of how many people were executed under his command during that time, and how many deaths are attributed directly to Che as opposed to the regime overall, but some sources say that more than 100 journalists, businessmen, and followers of the previous regime faced death by firing squad at La Cabaña, under Che’s jurisdiction. His short time there earned him the nickname, “The Butcher”.
Violence was at the core of Che’s philosophy. Shortly before his death at the hands of Bolivian troops in 1967, he wrote “Message to the Tricontinental.” In this essay he advocated the effective use of violent hatred:
Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.
A decade earlier, when he murdered Eutimio Guerra, he recorded in his diary: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain. . . . His belongings were now mine.”
Nor was Che’s violence directed only against Cubans. Author Humberto Fontova points to evidence that Guevara, the chief instigator of Castro’s revolutionary efforts overseas, was involved in a November 1962 terrorist plot to use 1,200 pounds of TNT to blow up Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdale’s, and Grand Central Station on the day after Thanksgiving in New York City, the busiest shopping day of the year. Such an act could have rivaled 9/11 in its destruction.