More on the mass murderer nicknamed Che
Caracas Chronicles Blog, which posts only quarterly, has posted the full article that Alvaro Vargas Llosa published in that arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy, The New Republic. The article is aptly titled The Killing Machine:
How many people were killed at La Cabaña? Pedro Corzo offers a figure of some two hundred, similar to that given by Armando Lago, a retired economics professor who has compiled a list of 179 names as part of an eight-year study on executions in Cuba. Vilasuso told me that four hundred people were executed between January and the end of June in 1959 (at which point Che ceased to be in charge of La Cabaña). Secret cables sent by the American Embassy in Havana to the State Department in Washington spoke of “over 500.” According to Jorge Castañeda, one of Guevara’s biographers, a Basque Catholic sympathetic to the revolution, the late Father Iñaki de Aspiazú, spoke of seven hundred victims.
AVL describes Che’s start-up: the concentration camp system,
‘Counterrevolutionary” is the term that was applied to anyone who departed from dogma. It was the communist synonym for “heretic.” Concentration camps were one form in which dogmatic power was employed to suppress dissent. History attributes to the Spanish general Valeriano Weyler, the captain-general of Cuba at the end of the nineteenth century, the first use of the word “concentration” to describe the policy of surrounding masses of potential opponents–in his case, supporters of the Cuban independence movement–with barbed wire and fences. How fitting that Cuba’s revolutionaries more than half a century later were to take up this indigenous tradition. In the beginning, the revolution mobilized volunteers to build schools and to work in ports, plantations, and factories–all exquisite photo-ops for Che the stevedore, Che the cane-cutter, Che the clothmaker. It was not long before volunteer work became a little less voluntary: the first forced labor camp, Guanahacabibes, was set up in western Cuba at the end of 1960. This is how Che explained the function performed by this method of confinement: “[We] only send to Guanahacabibes those doubtful cases where we are not sure people should go to jail … people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals, to a lesser or greater degree…. It is hard labor, not brute labor, rather the working conditions there are hard.”
This camp was the precursor to the eventual systematic confinement, starting in 1965 in the province of Camagüey, of dissidents, homosexuals, AIDS victims, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Afro-Cuban priests, and other such scum, under the banner of Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción, or Military Units to Help Production. Herded into buses and trucks, the “unfit” would be transported at gunpoint into concentration camps organized on the Guanahacabibes mold. Some would never return; others would be raped, beaten, or mutilated; and most would be traumatized for life, as Néstor Almendros’s wrenching documentary Improper Conduct showed the world a couple of decades ago.