Execution in Bolivia

Execution in Bolivia

Che abandoned his under-cover life in Tanzania and travelled to Bolivia in disguise. He landed in La Paz on November 3, 1966 and passed through customs and immigration with a false identity.

Che-Guevara-in-BoliviaHis camp in which he expected to use his foco theory of revolution to foment a rural communist uprising was in the remote Nanchuazú valley.  He managed to enlist some 50 fighters into the National Liberation Army of Bolivia. The guerillas launched several successful raids against the Bolivian government troops but in late summer 1967 the tide turned against the Liberation army as American advisors began to train the Bolivian soldiers in jungle warfare. Che had serious misgivings about the motives and efficiency of the Bolivian Communist Party. It did not support his insurrection. Unable to contact Cuba because his shortwave radio was defective, Che’s group could not be resupplied nor could it recruit reinforcements in Cuba. On top of this Che failed to receive the kind of support he expected from the Bolivian peasants.

An informant revealed the location of Che’s camp to the Bolivian Special Forces. 1,800 Bolivian soldiers surrounded the camp in a firefight on October 8, 1967, Che was wounded and taken prisoner with most of his guerillas.

Che was tied up and hauled off to be interrogated at the village of La Higuera. He refused to cooperate with his captors. On October 9, the Bolivian President, René Barrientos ordered the execution of Che.

While the Americans made it known that they wanted Che to be kept alive and tried, the Bolivian’s wanted to execute Che immediately. For them it prevented what his escape might do to their reputation as committed anti-revolutionaries and it would prevent Che becoming a heroic figure in a public trial. The Bolivian commander ordered that the soldier executing Che not fire at his head but rather riddle the body with wounds so that, when his body was exhibited it would appear that Che had died in battle. Nine shots were fired by the executioner.

Che-Guevara-After-Being-ExecutedChe’s body was put in a helicopter and taken to the nearby town of Vallegrande. His corpse was laid out in the laundry room of a hospital and many photographs were taken.  His identity was confirmed by a British journalist who was the only one present who had ever seen Che alive. Che’s hands were amputated and sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for confirmation of his identity through fingerprint comparison. His body was thrown into a pit near Vallegrande airstrip. Che’s diary and other writings were sent to the La Paz and preserved in the National Archives.

The days in camp before the tragic end of the heroic life of Che Guevara were described by a fellow communist, the French writer Régis Debray. Debray who was captured with Che, said that the guerillas were in very poor physical condition. They had little equipment, food and water. He said that Che was, in spite of the desperate situation in camp, optimistic about the future of the Bolivian revolt. The two talked about death and Che, according to Debray, was “resigned to die” and that he thought of death as a rebirth and a renewal. This was to prove true in the remarkable life after death of Che Guevara.


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