Photograph by Alberto Korda
October 9th, 1967, the man who killed Ernesto Guevara created, unwittingly, a myth. In two blasts. The CIA planned it, Barrientos commanded it, Félix Rodriguez supervised it and Mario Terán executed it. Quick, easy and effective: the Revolution, in one fell swoop, had lost a fighter and gained a martyr.
La Higuera, October 9th, 1967, 1:10 pm: Mario Terán Salazar, Bolivian Army sergeant, followed the instructions of Félix Ismael Rodríguez Mendigutía, anti-Castroist and former CIA officer, who had been ordered by René Barrientos, Bolivia's president at the time, and, with two blasts from a machinegun, put an end to the life of guerrilla leader Ernesto Guevara, "Che", who had been wounded and captured the day before, following a combat in the Quebrada del Yuro ravine, at the side of his guerrilla.
The living myth had become a martyr of the Revolution that he loved, had dedicated his entire life to and died for.
Che's body was taken to Vallegrande where it was exposed to the crowds and journalists. At that time, Richard Gott, a journalist for The Guardian, before Guevara's mutilated body, prophetically remarked: "Ernesto Che Guevara will forever remain in History as the greatest continental figure since Bolivar. He was, perhaps, the only person able to lead radical forces all over the world in a campaign against the United States. Now he's dead, but it's hard to imagine that his ideas will die with him"
In 1997 his remains were found in a mass grave, in Vallegrande, about 50 km away from the place where he was executed. His hands had been removed to act as a trophy, right after his death. His remains were finally transfered to Cuba where, on October 17th of the same year, they were burried with full state honours. This would be the end of the existence of this doctor by training, orthodox Marxist and revolutionary by conviction, guerrilla and internationalist by option, who left his mark on the revolutionary history of the 20th century.
Although there's also the consistent theory of the "Cuban betrayal", that is still hovering over the areopagus of the "eternal plausible doubts that will never by enlightened", the destinies of the other participants will also go down in history. Nearly all of Guevara's companions were killed in combat or executed and the guerrilla suffered a great setback, at the time. Barrientos, the dictator and Klaus Barbie's protector, died in April, 1969 in a strange helicopter accident, but was still able to watch the scandle of the disappearence of his friend and Minister of Interior, Antonio Arguedas, who, apart form admitting he was an undercover Marxist agent and had smuggled Guevara's famous diary to Havana, also publicly denounced Barrientos and many of his aides as being on the CIA payroll.
Rodriguez is still alive and, after many years getting his hands dirty at the service of the Phoenix Program, embraced an unsuccessful political career, which is still active, although his connections with the Bush clan are widely known.
Mario Terán, as fate would have it, was successfully treated for cataracts by Cuban physicians in the Cuba-Venezuela "Operación Milagro", but lives fearing for his life, as he revealed recently in an interview to the "Piauí" magazine, where he tells, in detail, the happenings at La Higuera and all his wretched personal story from that point on.
Bolivia is today a more democratic State, whose president Evo Morales tries to fight the advances of large capital and the political forces that support it. Meanwhile, Bolivian peasants continue to work in the same way and with same profits and rights as in the past. The CIA remains unstoppable, unpunishedly planting the seeds of winds and storms all over the world.
The Revolution survives and goes on. Albeit pale, shy and hesitating. But let there be no mistake, it does go on!