Tag: che guevara

Nat Hentoff’s Interview with Che Guevara

Cato Senior Fellow Nat Hentoff once had the opportunity to interview Fidel Castro’s henchman, Che Guevara.  As Nat relates in this video clip, Che’s gatekeeper messed up–just assuming that since Nat wrote for the Village Voice, he would be another fawning lefty journalist.  Wrong!

In 2003, Nat wrote: “Having interviewed Cubans who survived Castro’s gulags, I have never understood or respected the parade of American entertainers, politicians and intellectuals who travel to Cuba to be entranced by this ruthless dictator who, for me, has all the charisma of a preening thug.”

And here’s Richard Cohen in today’s Washington Post: “Fidel Castro was a killer. He came to power in a revolution and so violence was probably inescapable. But he followed it with mass executions — the guilty, the innocent, it hardly mattered. He imposed a totalitarian system on Cuba even harsher and more homicidal than the one that preceded it. He persecuted homosexuals, dissidents, critical writers and journalists. He would not tolerate a free press, and his own political party was the only one permitted. In the end, he ruined his country’s economy while at the same time exporting terrorism.”  Read the whole thing.

Could Che Guevara Inspire Peaceful Revolutionaries in Burma?

In a profile of Myat Thu, a Burmese dissident forced to flee the country after “the 1988 nationwide protests that were brutally crushed by the Burmese military,” who now runs a cafe across the border in Thailand, NPR blandly notes that he has portraits on his walls of Aung San Suu Kyi – and Che Guevara.

Does Myat Thu know that Che was a brutal murderer who helped establish a Stalinist, military-backed dictatorship in Cuba that has lasted longer than the junta in Burma? Maybe he doesn’t. But surely Jason Beaubien of NPR does.

When Che Guevara Met Nat Hentoff

In the new video below, renowned civil libertarian and Cato senior fellow Nat Hentoff talks about his meeting with Che Guevara when Hentoff wrote for the Village Voice. (See it also here with Spanish subtitles.) El Che is romanticized by college kids and those on the left as a champion of the oppressed, but he was in fact a main architect of Cuban totalitarianism, a cold-blooded murderer whose defining characteristic was sheer intolerance of those with differing views. The best essay on Che, “The Killing Machine,” was written by Alvaro Vargas Llosa for the New Republic some years ago. 

It is hard to imagine a symbol in popular culture in which the represented ideal is more far apart from the historical reality than in the case with Che. Surely that gap helps explain Che’s appeal among people all over the world with little knowledge of Latin America. Four years ago on a visit to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council I saw pro-democracy activist and Council member Leung Kwok-hung, a.k.a. “Long Hair,” wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt on the floor of the chamber. (Hong Kong is not yet a democracy and its Legislative Council is quite limited in its powers; in practice, the city is ruled by the communists in Beijing, which has ironically upheld the city’s free-market model and rule of law tradition inherited from the British.) Does Long Hair not know that Che despised democracy?

In his classic book, The Latin Americans, the late Venezuelan intellectual Carlos Rangel explained how outsiders, especially Europeans, have since their earliest contact with Latin America idealized the place, projecting their fantasies and frustrations, and promoting ideas there that they themselves would not find acceptable on their own turf. Thus the early inhabitants of the region were “noble savages” despoiled and degraded by the Europeans; the noble savages later evolved into the good revolutionaries, those authentic Latin Americans who fight for everything that is good and reject the imposition of all forms of oppression. Simplistic and wrong, but effective. So it is even in Latin America, where, as Rangel explains, that storyline has served political leaders well as they justify the imposition of any number of restrictions on freedom, from tariffs to censorship. Che’s image still abounds in the region. (For an excellent and eminently relevant video in Spanish of Rangel speaking in Caracas in 1980 about the central problems with Venezuela, see here.) 

Incidentally, another Cato scholar had close ties to Che. The rebel was a cousin to well-known Argentine libertarian and adjunct scholar Alberto Benegas Lynch (Che’s complete last name was Guevara Lynch). In this article in Spanish, Alberto discusses his cousin Che.

Release the OBL Photo

A lot of people are asking whether the White House will release photographic proof of Osama bin Laden’s death. It should. The operation to get OBL has been very successful thus far, including the decisions to conduct a raid instead of a standoff bombing and the burial at sea. The latter avoided a repeat of the race to dig up Che Guevara.

The Obama administration should release photos to confirm that we have ended bin Laden’s life. We do not need a decade of OBL sightings and conspiracy theories to undermine the positive steps taken in the last two days. Obama’s birth certificate has been vindicated, and Osama’s revoked. End of story.

And in case you’re wondering, it appears that no informant will qualify for the $25 million OBL award.

Have $795 to Spare? Want a Fancy Jacket Celebrating a Communist Murderer?

Want to look cool, authentic and rugged? Want to celebrate the work of a famous communist murderer? J.Crew has something for you: The Beltstaff® Che Guevara replica jacket for only $795. Credit cards only.

Update: It looks like J. Crew got some heat for the reference to Che Guevara, and renamed the jacket. However, my colleague Chris Moody found a screen shot of the page when it still mentioned the name of the bloody Latin American revolutionary.