Our America. Che’s last fight in Bolivia / by Pedro Rioseco

Photo: Francis Fernández

Originally published in Granma on October 7, 2022

"The decision (...) to assassinate Che, the Peruvian Juan Pablo Chang and the Bolivians Simeón Cubas and Aniceto Reinaga was adopted in Washington and imposed on (President) General René Barrientos"

In the narrow Quebrada del Yuro you can still feel the smell of gunpowder. There, behind a rock that keeps the marks of many shots, Commander Ernesto Che Guevara fought his last combat in Bolivia and the first of the Heroic Guerrilla Fighter in his immortal example.
It was October 8, 1967 when 17 Cuban, Bolivian and Peruvian combatants, -remaining from the National Liberation Army that had started, since November of the previous year, the fight for the true emancipation of the Bolivian people-, defended the strategy conceived by Che in his political project for Latin America, and they were looking to reorganize themselves, after the heavy casualties they had suffered.

They moved without guides through the arid mountains near La Higuera, with the purpose of looking for more favorable areas, starting a recovery period, establishing contact with the city, in which the urban apparatus had also suffered severe blows, incorporating new members to the guerrilla and continue the fight. But the Quebrada would become a trap, as it became very difficult to get out of it, due to the abruptness of the place, without vegetation or water, to which was added the physical state of the guerrillas, due to lack of food, diseases and fatigue. of the long walks, trying to evade the enemy that was chasing them.

The guerrillas were unaware that 3,000 Bolivian army troops had taken the high positions and were practically surrounded. When the encounter with the first army patrols occurs, the unequal combat begins, and Che orders to withdraw fighting, and go to the agreed meeting point for an eventuality.

According to the survivors, Che then decides to divide the group into three flanks: right, center and left. In one, the men with the most experience, to cover the area with the greatest chances of leaving; the other, in a side cannon with the same purposes, but with less intensity in the enemy fire; and the center, headed by Che, with the aim of covering sick combatants, so that they could leave the encirclement and advance to safe places, which exalts the humanism that has always characterized it.

The trust placed by Che in the most experienced was right, because they were the ones who managed to break the siege and become the only survivors of the guerrilla. The group of patients was able to evade the soldiers and escape from the Quebrada, and were savagely murdered later, when they were hidden, waiting for the right moment to go to a safer place.
In a nearby position were Cubans Orlando Pantoja Tamayo (Olo), René Martínez Tamayo and Alberto Fernández Montes de Oca, who fell under heavy fire from the army. Che, wounded in the leg, faces the enemy outpost to protect the retreat of his companions.

He sends the Bolivian Aniceto Reinaga to review other positions, and he is captured. The Bolivian Willy (Simón Cubas) tries to get Che out of the Quebrada, already surrounded, with his rifle disabled by a bullet and with a leg wound. But he is captured along with the Peruvian Juan Pablo Chang (El Chino), and the three are taken to the little school of boards in La Higuera, where they were cowardly murdered the next day.

"The decision (...) to assassinate Che, the Peruvian Juan Pablo Chang and the Bolivians Simeón Cubas and Aniceto Reinaga was adopted in Washington, and imposed on (President) General René Barrientos," explain researchers Froilán González and Adys Cupull.
González recalled that radio stations broadcast the news of the death of Commander Guevara on the morning of October 9, when in reality the crime was perpetrated at 1:10 p.m. that day, by a sergeant who had to get drunk to fire a burst at him, from the chest down, as ordered by his superiors. The wounded guerrilla got up from his chair and ordered Shoot, there's a man here!

The once unknown hamlet is now visited all the time by people from different parts of the world, who climb these mountains to pay homage to the Heroic Guerrilla Fighter and his companions, and the local people put flowers to whom they call San Ernesto de La Higuera.

Resumen Latinamericano, October 8, 2022, https://www.resumenlatinoamericano.org/