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Analyzing the Actions of Ernesto Guevara: Justified or Unjustified?

Jun 23, 2023 | 0 comments

Jun 23, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

To what extent were the actions of Ernesto Guevara justified?

Use quotes later “The beliefs and political Ideologies that fuelled Guevara’s revolutionary action before the Cuban Revolution were based on an intense dislike for the US. For some, his motives seem justified and understandable, even honorable.”[1]

To many Cuban citizens, Ernesto Guevara was considered a saint. However, despite his desire to free Cuba of its dictatorship, his methods of reaching his goal were questionable. Many have tried to defend Guevara stating that his motives were justified, whilst others have tried to discredit his legacy, comparing him to the likes of figures such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Guevara’s actions that contributed to the Cuban Revolution was justifiable to a large extent.


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Ernesto Guevara was born on the 14th of June, 1928, to Ernesto Guevara Lynch and his wife, Celia de la Serna y Llosa. He was raised in a family who had a belief in leftist ideology, despite being Affluent. “His father, a staunch supporter of Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.”[2] This led to Guevara developing empathy for those less fortunate than him. In 1948, Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine, however, his urge to travel the world would lead to two journeys which would ultimately lead to the way he not only saw himself but the world as well. These two journeys would later be known as motorcycle journeys. His first journey would have him travel across most of South America, whilst his second trip would see him helping the leper colony in Peru. “In Chile, Guevara found himself enraged by the working conditions of the miners in Anaconda’s Chuquicamata copper mine and moved by his overnight encounter in the Atacama Desert with a persecuted communist couple who did not even own a blanket, describing them as “the shivering flesh-and-blood victims of capitalist exploitation.”[3] On the 7th of July 1953, Guevara set out on another journey, this time to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. During his time on this trip, Guevara sent a letter to his Aunt detailing how terrible the United Fruit Company, something he discovered whilst traveling through their land. After a month, Guevara had arrived in Guatemala where he had decided that he would become a Marxist. He would then settle down in Guatemala so “as to “perfect himself and accomplish whatever may be necessary to become a true revolutionary.”[4]In 1954, Guevara would meet the Castro brothers in Mexico, Fidel, and Raul, both of whom he met through Cuban exiles. The two were able to hit it off splendidly and Guevara joined Castro’s revolution. During the first step of Castro’s revolution, Guevara would drop “…his medical supplies and picked up a box of ammunition dropped by a fleeing comrade, proving to be a symbolic moment in Che’s life.”[5]

Rise to power, what was his agenda, justification of actions

Guevara played a large role in Castro’s army and managed to convince Castro of this with tolerance, proficiency, and diplomacy.

Results of his actions

Guevara’s actions led to the decommissioning of Batista and the freedom of Cuba from oppression and corruption. However, 5000 deaths were caused by the Cuban revolution, a number which resonates through the course of the war. The revolution caused Castro to lead Cuba, and Guevara’s death became a symbol of the Cuban revolution. Many people such as Nelson Mandela, have noted him as an inspiration to them going as far as referring to him as “An inspiration for every human being who loves freedom”[6]. He was also feared by the CIA, with Phillip Agee, CIA agent stating,
“There was no person more feared by the company (CIA) than Che Guevara because he had the capacity and charisma necessary to direct the struggle against the political repression of the traditional hierarchies in power in the countries of Latin America.”[7]

However, skeptics do not believe that Guevara’s actions were indeed justified. Guevara was Castro’s Chief Executioner, meaning that Guevara was in charge of the executions. Whilst many conventional executions involving firearms have only one gun that shoots the bullets whilst the rest shoot blanks, Guevara ensured that each gun was fully loaded with ammunition. “As soon as [Castro and Guevara] seized power, they began to conduct mass executions inside the two main prisons, La Cabaña and Santa Clara…”[8] Guevara even admitted to ordering thousands of executions at La Cabaña in the first year of his position.

Make a connection of executioners in Serbia being put on trial for war crimes; Guevara would be arrested for what he did in today’s society.
As second in command, Guevara was a harsh disciplinarian who sometimes shot defectors. Deserters were punished as traitors, and Guevara was known to send squads to track those seeking to go AWOL.[72] As a result, Guevara became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness.[73] During the guerrilla campaign, Guevara was also responsible for the sometimes summary execution of several men accused of being informers, deserters, or spies.[74] In his diaries, Guevara described the first such execution of Eutimio Guerra, a peasant army guide who admitted treason when it was discovered he accepted the promise of ten thousand pesos for repeatedly giving away the rebel’s position for attack by the Cuban air force.[75] Such information also allowed Batista’s army to burn the homes of rebel-friendly peasants.[75] Upon Guerra’s request that they “end his life quickly”,[75] Che stepped forward and shot him in the head, writing “The situation was uncomfortable for the people and Eutimio so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe].”[76] His scientific notations and matter-of-fact description suggested to one biographer a “remarkable detachment to violence” by that point in the war.[76] Later, Guevara published a literary account of the incident, titled “Death of a Traitor”, where he transfigured Eutimio’s betrayal and pre-execution request that the revolution “take care of his children”, into a “revolutionary parable about redemption through sacrifice”.[76]

  1. Cliojournal.wikispaces.com, (2015). CLIO History Journal – The Politics of Che Guevara. [online] Available at https://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/The+Politics+of+Che+Guevara [Accessed 9 Jun. 2015].
  2. Anderson, Jon Lee (1997). Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press.
  3. Anderson, Jon Lee (1997). Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press.
  4. Guevara Lynch, Ernesto (2000). Aquí va un soldado de América. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés Editores, S.A.
  5. Anderson, Jon Lee (1997). Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press.
  6. Guevara, Ernesto (2009). Che: The Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara. Ocean Press.
  7. Guevara, Ernesto (2009). Che: The Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara. Ocean Press.
  8. Courtois, S., and Kramer, M. (1999). The black book of communism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
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