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Agrarian Reform


John Dolva

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Agrarian Reform

Following the Civil War, the Radical Republicans attempted to put a land reform through Congress, promising "forty acres and a mule" to newly-freed blacks in the South, which was ultimately rejected by moderate elements as "socialistic". This failure left blacks without an economic base, and was one of the key contributing factors to the development of sharecropping* and segregation.

*sharecropping can be seen as creating the economic relationships where Emmett Till was murdered sparking the Civil Rights struggles of the 50's. His murderers were dependent on the sharecropping system for their income, and the 'uppity' northener Emmett threatens their livelyhood.

1959 Cuban revolution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_reform#Latin_America

Land reform was among the chief planks of the revolutionary platform of 1959. Almost all large holdings were seized by the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA), which dealt with all areas of agricultural policy. A ceiling of 166 acres (67 hectares) was established, and tenants were given full ownership rights.

1961 The FSLN was founded by José Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga, Tomás Borge Martínez and others as The National Liberation Front (FLN). The term "Sandinista" was added two years later, by establishing continuity with Sandino’s movement.

1962 Migration of Cuban dispossessed to other Latin American countries, including Costa Rica mentioned by Fidel Castro.

José Carlos Fonseca Amador was in Cuba during the October 1962 “missile” crisis

1967 Che murdered

1969 the jailed Sandinista leader José Carlos Fonseca Amador rescued from his prison in Costa Rica. José Carlos Fonseca Amador was re-captured shortly after, but after a plane carrying executives from the United Fruit Company was hijacked by the FSLN, he was freed and allowed to travel to Cuba.

early 1970s, the FSLN had gained enough support from peasants and students groups to launch limited military initiatives.

1972, a powerful earthquake levelled the capital city, Managua. Anastasio Somoza Debayle's National Guard embezzled much of the international aid that flowed into the country to assist in reconstruction, and several parts of downtown Managua were never rebuilt. The president's ability to take advantage of the people's suffering proved enormous. By some estimates, his personal wealth soared to US$400 million in 1974. This overt corruption caused even people who had previously supported the regime, such as business leaders, to turn against Somoza and call for his overthrow.

1974 a guerrilla group seizes government hostages at a private Managua party, among them several leading Nicaraguan officials and Somoza relatives. The guerrillas received US$1 million ransom, had an official communiqué read over the radio and printed in the newspaper La Prensa, and succeeded in getting fourteen Sandinista prisoners released from jail and flown to Cuba along with the kidnappers. One of the released prisioners was Daniel Ortega Saavedra, who would later become the president of Nicaragua (1985-1990). The Somoza government responded with further censorship, intimidation, torture, and murder.

Bruce Jones establishes his base in Costa Rica

1975 Anastasio Somoza Debayle imposed a state of siege, censoring the press, and threatening all opponents with detention and torture. Somoza's National Guard increased its violence against individuals and communities suspected of collaborating with the Sandinistas.

1975 FSLN leader and founder José Carlos Fonseca Amador had returned to Nicaragua in from his exile in Cuba.

1976 José Carlos Fonseca Amador's group were betrayed by a peasant who informed the National Guard that they were in the area. The guerrilla group was ambushed and José Carlos Fonseca Amador was wounded. The next morning José Carlos Fonseca Amador was shot. (just like Che)

1977 "El Grupo de los Doce", known as the "Twelve", a group of prominent Nicaraguan professionals, business leaders, and clergymen allied to the Terceristas, was formed in Costa Rica. The main idea was to organize a provisional government from Costa Rica.

1979 FSLN triumph

Immediately after the Sandinistas gained power they began implementing agrarian reforms. Initial measures involved appropriating all Somoza owned land (apx. 20% of the arable land in Nicaragua) [this is possible staging posts for drug running that are now taken out of the drug network]

1981 there was a shift in agrarian policy. In August of 1981 the government discarded its credit programs. A few months prior, in March, 1981 the “Law of Forced Rents” was instituted. It required that all idle land be rented at legally established low rent rates. This was a response to the increase in demand for land by providing greater access to good quality low rent land.

1982 The Counter revolution (Contras) kicks into overdrive.

http://www.themilitant.com/2005/6913/691363.html

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  • 4 years later...

Belated thank you Tom.

--------

If one looks at Castros Moncada speech (Great Orators and Speeches topic) one can see there the emphasis on agrarian reform. It strikes me that a vitally pivotal point in many events is when an agrarian reform is proposed.

It strikes at the heart of systems that may otherwise be slow to respond. Like whoever said ''property is theft''. Communal Anarcho Syndicalism is the antithesis of a hierarchic system. It also is the point at which fascism appeals to the masses in the guise of the revolutionary left. There is, however, a general pointer to the Fascist : some form of racism.

I think a lot of things about the Kennedy years can be easier understood in the light of current events.

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Land Reform is one area in which The Alliance For Progress changed after LBJ chose former ambassador to Mexico Thomas Mann to head the organization founded by JFK. One of the places where we see the difference is in Brazil. At this time the states in the North of Brazil were where the greatest poverty was. There were a variety of different organizations there pressing land reform. Some of them were affiliated with the Catholic Church, and one of these was not explicitly rightist in orientation. Others were not religious, but Marxist organizations did not have an easy time of it.

As in Cuba, JFK thought that land reform and political liberalization was possible, even in this social structure without a big middle class. He saw some degree of land reform as part of the campaign against communism.

Most writers on the topic agree that the Alliance For Progress did not meet with much success in the North of Brazil. However, even before the assassination the CIA had begun making some policies with the Governors of Brazil, behind the back of President Goulart. Many key players here were affiliated with Nelson Rockefeller, either from his days as head of the CIAA during WWII, or from later academic affiliations with The Rockefeller Foundation.

After the Assassination, Thomas Mann took a very different attitude towards land reform. He supported the Coup d'etat in Brazil of 1964, which was aided by the CIA. This coup involved playing some of the cards the CIA had developed in Brazil behind the back of Presidents Goulart and Kennedy. Thomas Mann's policies involved closer relations with the Governors of Brazil and the development of Western Brazil for massive mining and cattle raising projects. The economic nationalism that had still characterized the Goulart government was now completely gone. The new Military government of Brazil had a much more open attitude to direct US investment. Land reform of any kind was seen as almost inherently communist.

Land reform in Brazil is one more area of the world where the policy changes between the JFK's administration and that of LBJ were significant. IMO the differences between JFK and LBJ were the most significant of any other pair of US administrations other than those between the administrations of Hoover and FDR.

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Castro himself acknowledges that at the time Kennedys AFP was the only real threat to the fledgling sovereignty of Cuba.

Interestingly when Chancellor Erhardt viswited LBJ in late Dec 63 ( with Ewald Peters ... ) LBJ by contemporary accounts practically ordered the West Germans to focus more on Latin/South America so that the US could committ further into Indo China. I've always thought the Germans, the French and the US of the times were not necessarily automatically beholden to each other so the Chancelors apparent obeisance to this somewhat rudely put demand could be indicative of something. There was friction between the Germans and the French and the US went from funding the French to unleashing its own war there. . Now if the Germans did follow through on this where can one find evidence of it? Argentina? Bolivia?...?

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Castro himself acknowledges that at the time Kennedys AFP was the only real threat to the fledgling sovereignty of Cuba.

Interestingly when Chancellor Erhardt viswited LBJ in late Dec 63 ( with Ewald Peters ... ) LBJ by contemporary accounts practically ordered the West Germans to focus more on Latin/South America so that the US could committ further into Indo China. I've always thought the Germans, the French and the US of the times were not necessarily automatically beholden to each other so the Chancelors apparent obeisance to this somewhat rudely put demand could be indicative of something. There was friction between the Germans and the French and the US went from funding the French to unleashing its own war there. . Now if the Germans did follow through on this where can one find evidence of it? Argentina? Bolivia?...?

And yet!

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was sufficiently ignorant of exactly how much effect agrarian reform played in his total failure in Bolivia.

To chose a country in which reform had taken place as a good target for a revolution of the people, is not in keeping with the concepts fostered in Cuba.

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Castro himself acknowledges that at the time Kennedys AFP was the only real threat to the fledgling sovereignty of Cuba.

Interestingly when Chancellor Erhardt viswited LBJ in late Dec 63 ( with Ewald Peters ... ) LBJ by contemporary accounts practically ordered the West Germans to focus more on Latin/South America so that the US could committ further into Indo China. I've always thought the Germans, the French and the US of the times were not necessarily automatically beholden to each other so the Chancelors apparent obeisance to this somewhat rudely put demand could be indicative of something. There was friction between the Germans and the French and the US went from funding the French to unleashing its own war there. . Now if the Germans did follow through on this where can one find evidence of it? Argentina? Bolivia?...?

And yet!

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was sufficiently ignorant of exactly how much effect agrarian reform played in his total failure in Bolivia.

To chose a country in which reform had taken place as a good target for a revolution of the people, is not in keeping with the concepts fostered in Cuba.

Tom, I wonder. The campesinos were wary of associating with Che's forces for a number of reasons, though not all of them. Partly the miners who struck and were massacred. A number sought him out. The US implemented a program to succeed where they failed in the Congo (where Che' also saw failure) of training and supervising and gathering intelligence to locate him. He was heading away from the Miners and towards what may have led him back to Argentina. For Che, failure was not ultimately defined by death but by no one picking up his rifle when he fell.

That did not happen.

What did happen was that he was extra-judicially murdered and his body and that of his comrades disppeared.

This was to ensure he could not mount a defence in the eyes of the world and this would not have happened if the situation for the dictatorships had not been so precarious.

In parts of Bolivia and latin south america he's today even treated as a saint, and he is a symbol to freedom fighters the world over so one cannot say that he failed at all. He died at the hands of cowards under orders by forces that certainly had no interests in the welfare of the Bolivian people. Whatever reform there may have been must have been token and in place simply to lessen support for the Idea of Cuba, a sovereign nation not under the yoke of yankee imperialism. In fact the events further bolsters the premise of this thread that agrarian reform implementation is a crucial point in the battle between capitalism and socialism.

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http://www.pambazuka.org/en/

South African food sovereignty campaigners move to occupy land

Ronald Wesso (2011-08-18)

Ronald Wesso reports on the Food Sovereignty Campaign in South Africa, which is taking steps towards agrarian reform and food sovereignty through land occupations.

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Castro himself acknowledges that at the time Kennedys AFP was the only real threat to the fledgling sovereignty of Cuba.

Interestingly when Chancellor Erhardt viswited LBJ in late Dec 63 ( with Ewald Peters ... ) LBJ by contemporary accounts practically ordered the West Germans to focus more on Latin/South America so that the US could committ further into Indo China. I've always thought the Germans, the French and the US of the times were not necessarily automatically beholden to each other so the Chancelors apparent obeisance to this somewhat rudely put demand could be indicative of something. There was friction between the Germans and the French and the US went from funding the French to unleashing its own war there. . Now if the Germans did follow through on this where can one find evidence of it? Argentina? Bolivia?...?

And yet!

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was sufficiently ignorant of exactly how much effect agrarian reform played in his total failure in Bolivia.

To chose a country in which reform had taken place as a good target for a revolution of the people, is not in keeping with the concepts fostered in Cuba.

Tom, I wonder. The campesinos were wary of associating with Che's forces for a number of reasons, though not all of them. Partly the miners who struck and were massacred. A number sought him out. The US implemented a program to succeed where they failed in the Congo (where Che' also saw failure) of training and supervising and gathering intelligence to locate him. He was heading away from the Miners and towards what may have led him back to Argentina. For Che, failure was not ultimately defined by death but by no one picking up his rifle when he fell.

That did not happen.

What did happen was that he was extra-judicially murdered and his body and that of his comrades disppeared.

This was to ensure he could not mount a defence in the eyes of the world and this would not have happened if the situation for the dictatorships had not been so precarious.

In parts of Bolivia and latin south america he's today even treated as a saint, and he is a symbol to freedom fighters the world over so one cannot say that he failed at all. He died at the hands of cowards under orders by forces that certainly had no interests in the welfare of the Bolivian people. Whatever reform there may have been must have been token and in place simply to lessen support for the Idea of Cuba, a sovereign nation not under the yoke of yankee imperialism. In fact the events further bolsters the premise of this thread that agrarian reform implementation is a crucial point in the battle between capitalism and socialism.

In the "Bolivian Campaign", Che was a complete failure.

He apparantly learned little from Castro, and in fact, in Bolivia, for the most part only managed to recruit criminals; thieves; etc.

And, as a principal failure, he failed to enduce the communists elements to support his activities in any way.

Che sought the limelight and allowed a variety of persons into his camp, who photographed and reported the identity of most of his force, as well as continually reporting his whereabouts.

Add to this the fact that his asthma had afflicted him so badly that he often had to ride a mule. (in direct contradiction to his own published doctrine regarding the reguirements for health on the part of a guerrilla fighter.

Factually, a good grouping of today's boy scouts could have chased him down and done him in as a result of all of his own failure to follow the published doctrine which he was famous for.

The Bolivian Ranger Unit which ultimately tracked him down was of course an "Elite" unit of the Bolivian Army.

However, factually, it was not that elite.

The termination of Che and subsequent clandestine burial location was little more (if not the same) as that received by Bin Laden, and was meant to avoid the inherent "Martyr" following.

If Che was such a great fighter for the "people", one has to wonder exactly why it was that the "people" were among those who were constantly reporting his location(s)

to government authorities.

Che was a complete "idealist" and could not bring himself around to accepting the realities of the human species and therefore maintained little control over his own supposed fighting forces.

This "idealism" is why Castro sent him off (away from Cuba) to begin with.

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Factually, a good grouping of today's boy scouts could have chased him down and done him in as a result of all of his own failure to follow the published doctrine which he was famous for.

The Bolivian Ranger Unit which ultimately tracked him down was of course an "Elite" unit of the Bolivian Army. However, factually, it was not that elite.

From http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB5/#declass

U.S. Army, Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Activation, Organization and Training of the 2d Battalion - Bolivian Army, April 28, 1967: This memorandum of understanding, written by the head of the U.S. MILGP (Military Group) in Bolivia and signed by the commander of the Bolivian armed forces, created the Second Ranger Battalion to pursue Che Guevara's guerrilla band. The agreement specifies the mission of a sixteen-member Green Beret team of U.S. special forces, drawn from the 8th Special Forces division of the U.S. Army Forces at Southcom in Panama, to "produce a rapid reaction force capable of counterinsurgency operations and skilled to the degree that four months of intensive training can be absorbed by the personnel presented by the Bolivian Armed Forces." In October, the 2nd Battalion, aided by U.S. military and CIA personnel, did engage and capture Che Guevara's small band of rebels.

In a related story:

Last week a Florida judge ordered Cuba to pay $2.8 billion to Gustavo Villoldo, a former CIA agent who helped hunt down revolutionary leader Che Guevara, an award lawyers called the biggest ever in a civil suit against the communist government.

Here is Villoldo's story as reported by Miami New Times in 2009: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2009-08-06/news/the-cia-s-gustavo-villoldo-buried-che-guevara/

According to the New Times, Villoldo was the head of security for Brigade 2506. It's a long article, largely sympathetic to the exile cause. ("By April 15, 1961, the planned first day of the offensive on Cuba, the fighters began to realize President Kennedy had lost his nerve. But they went ahead anyway.") Here are a few excerpts:

He declines to discuss much of his undercover work. He claims he successfully infiltrated Cuba between 30 and 40 times for the CIA — an account his former station chief, who recently died, confirmed to a Miami Herald reporter in 1997. Gustavo says he played a "significant role" in the Iran Contra scandal. "I'm lucky I never got called to testify to Congress," he says.

_________________

Two years later, Che flew to Bolivia to try to inspire a peasant revolt. Gustavo followed, traveling from Miami to La Paz in August 1967. He was accompanied by Félix Rodríguez, another Bay of Pigs vet working for the CIA.

Rodríguez is often painted as the leader of the CIA's efforts in Bolivia. In Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, author Jon Lee Anderson writes that the CIA summoned Rodríguez to Washington to spearhead its effort in Bolivia, and notes Gustavo was already in La Paz.

But Gustavo maintains he ran the operation. Rodríguez was just a "radio operator," he says. Their feud is legendary among older exiles — and in a way typical of the internecine squabbling that eventually divided the brigade. "If you talk to Félix Rodríguez for this story," Gustavo says, "you are not authorized to use my interview."

Rodríguez, who lives in Miami, declined to comment. Declassified CIA documents also confirm both men worked with the Army Rangers-trained Bolivian team hunting Che's band of rebels.

_________________

By 1971, Gustavo was back in Hialeah, living with Elia and his six kids. As winter turned to spring, an old CIA contact in Washington called Gustavo in for a meeting. (He declined to name any of these contacts.) The Vietnam War was winding down. Soviet interest in Cuba was waning. The embattled Nixon administration needed a victory against Communism. To both Gustavo and the agent, it seemed an opportune time for a plan they had been hatching for years: an armed invasion of Cuba. The aim would be to take over a small town as a trial run for a larger attack and as a propaganda coup against Castro.

"Remember that mission you've always wanted to make happen?" Gustavo remembers the contact asking. "Consider this the famous green light to go ahead."

The then-35-year-old exile wasted little time. Within three months, he'd raised $350,000, recruited 50 men for the mission, and chosen a target: Boca de Sama, a tiny fishing village in eastern Cuba. Only one road ran into the jumble of wooden shacks, which housed just a few dozen people. It figured to be an easy target.

On October 12, 1971, Gustavo led the men out of a Key Biscayne harbor on two fast boats and a 177-foot frigate the crew nicknamed El Melón for the way it rolled side to side in the slightest chop.

As Gustavo organized the operation on the boat's deck, a 20-commando team raided the village. They killed at least two men: a 32-year-old local official and a 24-year-old militiaman. According to a Cuban radio report, the team also wounded two other men, and two teenage girls were hurt in the crossfire.

About 75 minutes after they landed, the Miami exiles hauled out of town and back to sea. None was killed.
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Anyway the notion that Agrarian Reform is really the one to refute, not Che' per se.

Tom, I disagree with much of your analysis on Che'. It's a bit simplistic. I think Michels contribution supports that contention.

Also you are misrepresenting events to fit a particular pov.

(though his life is certainly an interesting puzzle to put together. These allegorical boy scouts (which is an interesting notion in itself considering lbjs' connection to them, even through Baden Powell to Cecil Rhodes and on to masonry and supremacy and racism considering in particular that among the CIA assets in the Congo were Nazi uniformed mercenaries. re those interested in Che', there are a number of writings by him, he appeared to be a continuous recorder of events, a bit like Trotsky really, like the hard to get manual on guerilla warfare to his musings on 'the new man' and his many diaries, speeches and interviews) were part of a system that massacred striking miners at the same time. Do you really think that these foreign led and staffed hunting squads would balk at bending the action of the long ground down campesinos? this is really a subtext to this topic to another convo we had on this some time ago.

I think in the end all Che' could really do was to leave an example that might take decades to be realised. He certainly captured the hearts of generations. Kordas photo of him is the most reproduced image ever. There's their story and our story just like for Che' there is their America and Ours.

btw I haven't spoken with Fidel as of late. Could you ask him about this sending Che' off because he was too idealistic?)

edittypo

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Anyway the notion that Agrarian Reform is really the one to refute, not Che' per se.

Tom, I disagree with much of your analysis on Che'. It's a bit simplistic. I think Michels contribution supports that contention.

Also you are misrepresenting events to fit a particular pov.

(though his life is certainly an interesting puzzle to put together. These allegorical boy scouts (which is an interesting notion in itself considering lbjs' connection to them, even through Baden Powell to Cecil Rhodes and on to masonry and supremacy and racism considering in particular that among the CIA assets in the Congo were Nazi uniformed mercenaries. re those interested in Che', there are a number of writings by him, he appeared to be a continuous recorder of events, a bit like Trotsky really, like the hard to get manual on guerilla warfare to his musings on 'the new man' and his many diaries, speeches and interviews) were part of a system that massacred striking miners at the same time. Do you really think that these foreign led and staffed hunting squads would balk at bending the action of the long ground down campesinos? this is really a subtext to this topic to another convo we had on this some time ago.

I think in the end all Che' could really do was to leave an example that might take decades to be realised. He certainly captured the hearts of generations. Kordas photo of him is the most reproduced image ever. There's their story and our story just like for Che' there is their America and Ours.

btw I haven't spoken with Fidel as of late. Could you ask him about this sending Che' off because he was too idealistic?)

edittypo

Could you ask him about this sending Che' off because he was too idealistic?

Don't have to! The research paper which I long ago did on Che, entitled "The Bolivian Campaign" is a matter of recorded history.

Along with all of the references; interviews;etc.

As one who once served in Panama, to include attendance at the Jungle Survival School as operated by the 8th Special Forces Group, availabity to those who had "been there done that" was not a restriction to a Special Forces Officer who was conduting research into a failed gurrilla operation.

Tom

P.S. Since I do not personally know Fidel, would it suffice if I spoke with his cousin "Cecilia Cruz de Castro", who was once (long ago) a personal friend and acquaintance?

By all standards of guerilla warfare, Che Guevara was virtually a complete failure.

Fully granted that he had "great" ideals, for which he should be remembered.

And, had he been able to compromise some of those ideals for the reality of what actually was, then he just may have managed to achieve something other than getting himself and a lot of others killed.

One could go on and on about the failures of Che.

But,since that research paper was written long ago, with the assistance of some personal diaries and memories, it is neither my intention or desire to debate the factually proven issues of his failure as a guerilla leader.

If, and when, the JFK Special Warfare Center declassifies much of the information relative to Che's "Bolivian Campaign", then those who have an interest in factually correct history may change, or at least correct some of the incorrect information which many have been lead to believe regarding his purported ability as a guerilla leader.

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Ok, that's cool, Tom. I think we reached an impasse last time re Che'. I'm certainly interested in learning more. Another day.

-----------

Just to refocus on Agrarian Reform.

One event that may be relevant as an indicator of future events is Venezuelas new approach re its gold and the steps it has taken and what it recommends. A large part of it is a matter of seizing land through nationalisation. No doubt this will have some impact in some way on some matters. There is I suppose also the historic events in playing out in Chile where there is a call for the re-nationalising of the copper mines.

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  • 2 months later...

Ok, that's cool, Tom. I think we reached an impasse last time re Che'. I'm certainly interested in learning more. Another day.

-----------

Just to refocus on Agrarian Reform.

One event that may be relevant as an indicator of future events is Venezuelas new approach re its gold and the steps it has taken and what it recommends. A large part of it is a matter of seizing land through nationalisation. No doubt this will have some impact in some way on some matters. There is I suppose also the historic events in playing out in Chile where there is a call for the re-nationalising of the copper mines.

logo.gif

Vol. 75/No. 43 November 28, 2011

Miners were pillar of support

for Che's guerrilla in Bolivia

(Books of the Month column)

Below is an excerpt from Fertile Ground: Che Guevara and Bolivia by Rodolfo SALDAÑA, one of Pathfinder's Books of the Month for November. SALDAÑA (1932-2000) was a Bolivian revolutionary who in 1966-67 helped recruit fighters and provided logistical support to the ultimately unsuccessful guerrilla campaign organized in Bolivia by Ernesto Che Guevara, a leader of the Cuban Revolution. Guevara's campaign sought to forge a revolutionary movement of workers, peasants and youth to overthrow the military dictatorship in Bolivia and open the road to socialist revolution in South America. He was eventually captured and murdered by the Bolivian army in a CIA-organized operation.

SALDAÑA was interviewed in April 1997 by Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder, and Michael Taber. Copyright © 1997 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

QUESTION: What was the popular response within Bolivia on learning of Che's guerrilla?

SALDAÑA: After the first clash between the army and Che's forces occurred on March 23, I drafted a manifesto, and we distributed it in the cities. We did not yet have a name, so we were posed with the decision of what name the organization should use to address the people. We knew the decision rested with Che and the guerrilla group. That was where our command was. But we needed to say something to the people in some way, to explain somehow what was happening.

This was the document we used to begin to work in the mines, with which we began to work in the city, explaining more or less what the guerrilla struggle meant.

QUESTION: Without mentioning Che?

SALDAÑA: Correct. Under those conditions, we had to do our work without mentioning Che. The enemy already knew there were guerrillas, and it had to have known that groups were working to support the guerrillas. We were telling them nothing they didn't know. There were individuals among the people, among the workers, however, seeking ways to make contact with the guerrillas, seeking that possibility. These were the reasons for what we did, and the conditions under which we did it.

QUESTION: What was happening among the tin miners?

SALDAÑA: The support received from the miners is one of the things that gives the lie to charges that the Bolivian workers and peasants were indifferent to the struggle Che initiated.

I had been a miner at Siglo XX [tin mine]. I built the Communist Party there in the 1950s. So I knew the party members, many of whom I had recruited.

I went to Siglo XX, it must have been in February 1967. I spoke with Rosendo García Maismán, who in those days was general secretary of the union, of the miners of Siglo XX, and a leader of the party there. He was an intelligent comrade, a very capable and courageous comrade. Without entering into details, I informed him that a decision had to be made soon. Later, after the first battle, he and I met on a number of occasions. By then he was already one of us, and he began to form two groups. One of these groups was to join the guerrilla column, and the other was to carry out support tasks.

As to the miners' commitment to the struggle, we have the testimony of Rosendo García's widow… . The miners registered their support to the guerrillas at general assemblies. They decided that each worker would donate one day's pay to help the guerrillas. Their commitment shows us that there was generalized support among the workers. It's possible, of course, that there were some who were not in agreement. But the miners unanimously made this decision at their assembly… . This was at the end of May or at the beginning of June.

On June 24 there was supposed to be an expanded meeting of the miners federation, that is, union leaders from all the country's mines were coming to Siglo XX. Representatives of the teachers and university students were also coming. In addition, this meeting at Siglo XX was to serve as a vehicle to discuss some general questions dealing with the workers' demands, and certainly it would have taken up support to the guerrillas.

During the night of June 23 into the dawn hours on June 24, the army entered the mining camp shooting, throwing grenades at the homes of the miners while they slept. This is why many women and children were among those killed. That was the Noche de San Juan massacre. The only place the troops encountered armed resistance was at the union hall, where Rosendo García was, together with the few who were able to respond to the call of the mine's siren. The union's siren would be sounded in the mornings so the workers would get to work; it's like an alarm clock. But the siren was also used to summon people to assemblies and as a warning about some danger. That night the siren was sounded.

Immediately the workers knew—since it wasn't time to go to work it had to be something else, some emergency, or an assembly. Something was happening.

With a few rifles, they confronted the army. A number of people were killed there at the union hall, including Rosendo García Maismán, the central leader of the workers at Siglo XX. Many others died in their homes from machine-gun fire.

The delegates who had arrived for the meeting hid out in the mines, and later in different ways they secretly left the area, which was occupied by the army.

This was the highest expression of support the guerrillas received, but this doesn't mean it was the only one. There were other demonstrations of support, although none reached this level… .

This is in response to those who say there was no support among the Bolivian people, that Che was isolated. That is not true. The guerrilla events after March 23 stirred the people as a whole, the population as a whole, in all their different social layers.

Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home

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