I kid you not: opening this weekend in Buenos Aires,
“The play seeks to rescue Che’s image from the banal,” says the director.
Because it’s never enough to idolize a mass murderer son of a bitch. You must also set him to song and dance.
In today’s podcast at 11AM Eastern: While the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Ox and business leaders meet in Davos at the World Economic Forum, Latin American leaders attend the World Social Forum in Benem, Brazil. What are they talking about? How does it affect US policy?
Here are some of the headlines:
Brazil holds ‘alternative Davos’
And of course, no World Social Forum would be complete without Chavez, Correa and Che’s daughter singing a song to Che Guevara:
Brave Benicio ran away.
Bravely ran away, away.
When danger rears it’s ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes Brave Benicio turned about
He gallantly chickened out.
The screenplay was based on Che Guevara’s diaries which were published by Cuba’s propaganda ministry with the forward written by Fidel Castro himself. The film includes several Communist Cuban actors and the other Latin American actors spent months in Cuba being prepped for their roles by members of Cuba’s “Che Guevara Institute.”
A proclamation from Castro’s own press dated 12/7/08 actually boasts of their role: “Actor Benicio del Toro presented the film (at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater) as he thanked the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) for its assistance during the shooting of the film, which was the result of a seven-year research work in Cuba.” The Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) is an arm of Stalinist Cuba’s propaganda ministry.
Last month Benicio went on TV and was interviewed by young & sweet Marlen González of channel 41 Miami, who burst Benicio’s propaganda piñata like a bunch of third graders at a birthday party (interview in Spanish). Babalu Blog comments:
[She] asked him point blank why the “real che” was not shown. Del Toro simply could not answer and became visibly agitated, squirming and asking for a quote to be repeated. She came right out and asked him if che was an assassin. Del Burro did not miss a beat and said “No.” Other gems- he doesn’t think that all Cubans feel the same way about che, his answer to a comparison of Hitler with che was that he did not have concentration camps like Hitler but he did believe in the death penalty. El tartamudo said that the people che killed were terrorists of the Batista government and when Marlen said that 90% of those people were actually prisoners of conscience who opposed castro’s regime, he said he did not know that and asked her where she got that information. She said it was historically documented and in Argentina, too. Later, she handed him a copy of “Guevara, Misionero de la Violencia” by Pedro Corzo!
After THAT kind of reality check, Benicio has now become “brave”, and walked out of an interview when Sonny Bunch asked him uncomfortable questions about Che while snacking on guacamole:
“I’m getting uncomfortable,” Benicio del Toro said after fielding a question about his new movie’s portrayal of the Bolivian and Cuban revolutions. “I’m done. I’m done, I hope you write whatever you want. I don’t give a damn.”
With that, the Oscar-winning actor walked away, abruptly terminating an interview conducted late last week to discuss director Steven Soderbergh’s “Che.”
But before walking off on Sonny and the guacamole Benicio defined capital punishment,
“They didn’t do it blindly; they had trials,” Mr. del Toro said. “They found them guilty, and they executed them – that’s capital punishment.”
Which of course is OK… as long as it’s Che & the Cuban Communists doing it. Too bad Benicio didn’t have time to read Che’s own words.
If, having made this movie Del Toro, Soderbergh, and everyone involved in this film can’t face the facts about Che, they have earned our scorn. Let them run.
If you have a chance,
Listen to what Humberto Fontova had to say about Che in my podcast three weeks ago.
ROME — Former Cuban guerrilla Daniel Alarcon Ramirez accused the communist island’s leader, Fidel Castro, of “betraying” Ernesto “Che” Guevara on the orders of Moscow, which considered him “a very dangerous personality for their imperialist strategies.”
Alarcon Ramirez, known as “Benigno,” told Corriere della Sera that Che’s death “was due to a machination for which Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union are responsible.”
Benigno is one of the three guerrillas in Che’s band who after their leader’s execution on Oct. 8, 1967, in Bolivia managed to elude pursuit by Bolivian troops and escape to Chile.
“The Soviets considered Che to be a very dangerous personality for their imperialist strategies and Fidel yielded for reasons of state, given that Cuba’s survival depended on the help of Moscow. And he eliminated a comrade … Che was the leader most loved by the people,” he said.
Benigno said that Che and his outfit of guerrillas wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to other nations, but they were abandoned in the Bolivian jungle.
“Che went to meet his death knowing that he had been betrayed,” Benigno said.
My latest post, Cuba: A Photograph as Metaphor is up at Real Clear World Blog. Please read it and leave a comment.
Today’s must-read by Humberto Fontova: Cuban Stalinism at 50–and the Media Lies Continue
“Cuban mothers let me assure you that I will solve all Cuba’s problems without spilling a drop of blood.” Upon entering Havana on January 7, 1959, Cuba’s new leader Fidel Castro broadcast that promise into a phalanx of microphones. As the jubilant crowd erupted with joy, Castro continued. “Cuban mothers let me assure you that because of me you will never have to cry.”
The following day, just below San Juan Hill in eastern Cuba, a bulldozer rumbled to a start, clanked into position, and started pushing dirt into a huge pit with blood pooling at the bottom from the still-twitching bodies of more than a hundred men and boys who’d been machine-gunned without trial on the Castro brothers’ orders. Their wives and mothers wept hysterically from a nearby road.
Read every word.
Humberto was my podcast guest last November. You can listen to the podcast here.
National Book Award winner Carlos Eire, who I had the honor of having as my podcast guest has an op-ed in Spanish in El Diario La Presa, La nostalgia del Che (also posted at Babalu), and I posted it in English at Real Clear World Blog:
Unmasking Che the Idol
The real Che was a hypocrite who lived very comfortably in a mansion while he preached revolution and imprisoned, tortured, and murdered thousands of my fellow countrymen. Some of his victims were my relatives. This Che dismissed human rights as “archaic bourgeois details.” He also herded tens of thousands of Cubans into concentration camps. To top it all off, he didn’t really help the poor and oppressed: instead he impoverished everyone, and set himself up as lord of all.
Che the idol is a totally different man: a noble crusader for justice, a sensitive idealist, even a martyr and saint. Ironically, Che the idol generates lots of cash for capitalists who imprint his image on all sorts of merchandise or make films about him.
Go read the whole thing.
While you read Carlos’s article bear in mind, please, that Carlos speaks from experience. When he was a child living in Cuba, Che Guevara appropriated for himself and lived in a mansion a few houses down from Carlos’s family home (which they lost thanks to the “revolución”).
So as you sit in the darkened theater, listening to Soderbergh’s Che murmur dreamily that the true revolutionary is guided by “love,” you might want to consider how that love was manifested in a man who used to lay on his side on top of a wall, chomping a cigar even as he urged on the firing squads he commanded.
Or you might consider Che in his own words.
Here is Che, for example, recounting the execution of Eutimio Guerra for betraying the Cuban revolution: “I fired a .32 caliber bullet into the right hemisphere of his brain which came out through his left temple. He moaned for a few moments, then died.”
And here’s Che philosophizing on the rule of law: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.”
Oh, and here’s Che lamenting the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis: “If the missiles had remained, we would have used them against the very heart of America including New York. We must never establish peaceful coexistence. In this struggle to the death between two systems we must gain the ultimate victory. We must walk the path of liberation even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”
Finally, here’s Che on his commitment to his cause: “In fact, if Christ himself stood in my way, I, like Nietzsche, would not hesitate to squish him like a worm.”
Unrelated to Che,
I mentioned in this morning’s podcast that I was going to post at RCW on Sarko’s visit to Brazil. That post will be at RCW, probably tomorrow morning.
Thank you for your patience.
Chat’s open by 10:45AM and the call in number is 646 652-2639. Join us!
UPDATE, Sunday 21 December
Betty Jo’s review, Guerilla Handbook:
Che is more a curiosity than a must-see movie.
Go read it all.
This week’s big news: Ecuador defaults on its foreign debt, basically because it doesn’t want to pay up:
And while developing world economies have taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent months, Ecuador is ceasing payments not because the oil-rich country cannot afford to pay but because it has made a political decision not to.
The default is Ecuador’s second in a decade and seventh in its 178-year history. More links and posts below. Update: Felix Salmon (via Maggie) explains why this default is stupid:
In the annals of idiotic political decisions, today’s default by Ecuador has to rank pretty high. The country failed to pay a $30.6 million interest payment on its 2012 global bonds, despite the fact that it has $5.65 billion in cash reserves and debt service accounts for less than 1% of Ecuador’s GDP.
As a result, Ecuador’s economy will suffer greatly. The country is a major exporter, not only of oil, but also of such things as shrimp, bananas, and cut flowers; trying to get trade finance for any of that will now be all but impossible.
But those aren’t even the biggest reasons this default is so stupid.
This debt has already been restructured twice, and there’s zero chance that bondholders will agree to it being restructured a third time. They know that Ecuador has the ability to pay, and they don’t like being bullied.
Most importantly, they have leverage. Yesterday, Judge Thomas Griesa, of the Southern District Court in Manhattan, ordered the attachment of Argentine pension fund assets held in New York, on behalf of defaulted Argentine bondholders. It’s the latest move in a long legal game being played out between Argentina and its creditors, and the creditors are scoring a few minor victories these days.
They face, however a formidable adversary: Argentina was careful to repatriate all its attachable assets before it defaulted, and the only reason the pension funds got attached is that they weren’t nationalized at the time. Argentina also has seriously heavyweight legal representation, in the form of Cleary Gottlieb — which used to represent Ecuador, too, until Ecuador fired them earlier this year and denounced them as criminals.
Ecuador’s bonds are all issued under New York law, and the country needs a good New York law firm to defend itself. Unfortunately, it’s having to make do with Foley Hoag in Boston instead.
Even with Cleary, Ecuador would have had a hard time defending itself against well-funded antagonists such as Elliott Associates and Greylock Capital, who are expert at navigating the legal system. With Foley Hoag, it has no chance, for one big reason: Ecuador has dollarized. The dollar is the legal currency of Ecuador; there is no other. As a result, all of Ecuador’s assets, ultimately, are US assets.
The only hope for Ecuador now — and it’s a slim one indeed — is that this whole thing has been engineered by people holding Ecuador’s credit default swaps, and that once they’ve been paid out, the government will quickly act to cure the default. (Incidentally, the single biggest writer of default protection on Ecuador is… Venezuela. You can be quite sure that the leftist solidarity between Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez is no longer.)
If this default isn’t cured in a matter of days, Ecuador is going to lose billions of dollars it can ill afford to see go. Surely Correa knows this — and surely he knows, too, that whenever Latin American presidents announce a debt default, they rarely last long in office. Which makes this decision even more inexplicable. But there’s Ecuador for you: always bet against the country taking the logical and sensible course of action, and you’re likely to make a lot of money.
InkaCola News has more on that, but what doesn’t cease to amaze me is that Correa is an economist.
A stupid one, but an economist all the same.
The Real Latin-American Left: One We Can Work With
A heroic pooch
Reputed one-time Colombian cocaine kingpin Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez is in Florida after being extradited from his South American homeland, U.S. officials say.
Known as “Don Diego,” Montoya Sanchez allegedly once commanded the North Valley cartel, a narco-trafficking empire that exported at least 1.2 million pounds of cocaine to the United States. But Friday he was sitting in a tiny federal jail cell in Miami, The Miami Herald reported.
U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the Colombian’s extradition marked a historic point in efforts by the United States to smash the vast cartel, saying Montoya Sanchez’s arrest was the most significant since the convictions of brothers Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, the 1980s leaders of Colombia’s Cali cartel.
Buques rusos atracarán en Cuba por primera vez desde caída de URSS Russian ships landing in Cuba for the first time since the fall of the USSR. Russian navy: Russian warships to visit Cuba
The return of the 1980s?
More backyard fun
Urgent prayer request
Who let the big cat out of the bag? Puerto Rico searches for panther prowling suburbs
Wildlife officials patrolled streets and undeveloped lots in a sort of suburban safari Sunday, searching for a nocturnal predator that has mauled a sheep, ripped apart chickens and dominated newspaper headlines in the tropical U.S. territory since last week.
I didn’t know there were any sheep or chickens in Rio Piedras, either.
Miguel Octavio was part of a Round Table discussion at the White House on Human Rights Day
Via Brazilian Neocon, Jaime Bayly on Chavez’s Alo Presidente’s diarrhea program, part 1 (in Spanish)
Texas Hispanics upset with Democrats