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Review: The Bolivian Diary

The Bolivian Diary (Authorized Edition)
By Erenesto Che Guevara
Introduction by Fidel Castro
Preface by Camilo Guevara
Published by Ocean Press, 2008

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2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s fateful campaign to launch a revolution in Bolivia, and overthrow U.S. imposed dictator; General Rene Barrientos.
Ernesto Guevara De La Serna, affectionately known to billions as Che (an informal Spanish term for friend), was born on June 14th 1928 in Rosario, Argentina. Trained as a doctor, Che embarked upon his now legendary motorcycle trip around Latin America at the age of 23; observing first hand, the unbearable conditions forced upon the impoverished working class: Conditions systematically exacerbated by an unholy alliance between U.S.-Rothschild imperialism and a handful of home-grown collaborators.

In 1954, Che witnessed the coup d’etait in Guatemala; in which the country’s democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, was deposed by the CIA. Che’s first hand encounter with U.S. aggression, was the wake up call that led him to define imperialism as “…a carnivorous animal that feeds upon the unarmed peoples of the world”. But it was on Che’s second trip in 1955 (recounted in his highly underrated book; ‘Back on the Road’), where he met Fidel Castro, with whom he would join forces to liberate Cuba; by deposing U.S. puppet Fulgencio Batisita in 1959. After an energetic, but unsuccessful, attempt to mobilise anti-colonial resistance in The Congo, Che delivered one of the best speeches of all time at the UN General Assembly in 1964, resigned his post as Cuban finance minister and embarked upon his last mission.

‘The Bolivian Diary’ is an excellent account of grass-roots guerilla warfare; the tumultuous origins of the Bolivian struggle and how a lack of political consciousness amongst the people, would go onto undermine / implode the entire operation.

Paris-Sete.com: World Heritage 1967

Che’s entries provide a unique insight into the mind of a great man; be it the functional, often mundane, routine of setting up outposts / defences etc:

“December 18th

It Rained all day, but we still worked on the cave…”
“January 9th

It rained; everything is wet. The flooded river is impassable, so we were unable to relive the sentries at the old camp. No other news today”.

The machinations and intrigue of revolutionary politics:

“January 19

…he asked about The Brazilian. Loro was told not to get too friendly with the Vallegrandino and Algaranaz, who are probably the spies and the ones who tipped them off.”

This edition also includes some incredibly helpful annotations, which prove invaluable to the reader by telling us who’s who and how they figure into the campaign:

“January 20

I inspected the positions and gave orders to carry out the defence plan…the situation at the old camp is compromised and now a Gringo 11. has appeared, shooting rounds with an M-2; he is Algaranaz’s ‘friend’ and we will spend a 10 day vacation at his place.”

11. The Gringo was Christian Reese, a Bolivian of German descent who lived in Lagunillas.”

Che also makes some observations about his comrades, and wryly critiques intra-party politics:

“January 26

Loyola made a very good impression on me; she is very young and softly spoken, but one can tell she is very determined. She is about to be expelled from the Communist Party youth group, but they are trying to get her to resign first”.

‘The Bolivian Diary’ is, in some respects, a balance sheet of a mission gone awry but its also about the message behind that mission; and how despite everything that transpired on the ground circa 1966-67, the cri de coeur of the struggle was heard loud and clear: The mere fact that a man who’d won the battle in Cuba, felt it necessary to go out of his way to remind the masses that the war against injustice was far from over; was enough to make every decent human being, sit up and listen.

The Bolivian campaign also accentuated the fact that Che Guevara and Fidel Castro were ideally suited to one another; the perfect combination of passion and pragmatism. Without a partner of Castro’s maturity to temper and channel Che’s revolutionary zeal, the Argentine was prone to the classic error of believing that everyone could be bought up to his level immediately: He twice overlooked the fact that some of the people he sought to help were often unwilling to help themselves. Some were understandably apprehensive about demanding their basic rights from powerful tyrants; others were political illiterates who hadn’t even grasped the fact that their corrupt rulers had condemned them to a life of eternal serfdom.

Fidel Castro one said that: “History will absolve us”, and nowhere is that more self-evident than in Bolivia itself; where the blood of fallen revolutionaries soaked the Earth to give life to new ideas; a blossoming sense of self-awareness and self-determination: The country that once collaborated with the CIA to kill Che, now salutes him as a legend and martyr: People can make a pilgrimage of sorts along El Ruta del Che (The Che Guevara Trail) and stop-over at allied towns in the Chaco region before going to Vallegrande and visiting The Che Guevara Museum.

The spirit of Simon Bolivar, the 18th century revolutionary after whom Bolivia is named, lives on in the legacy of the late/ great Venezuelan leader; Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). This union encapsulates and fulfils Che’s dream for a united Latin America; for ALBA has bought a lot of countries together; From El Salvador, to Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and others; the momentum and will for socio-economic emancipation from U.S. control, is there for all to see; ingrained in the people’s psyche, spirit and soul; For Latin America’s greatest victory over U.S dominance wasn’t won in the jungles or some other war-zone, but on the battlefield of ideas and principals.

This Authorized edition, published by Ocean Press in 2008, also features an informative preface by Camilo Guevara March (Che’s son), which accurately extrapolates the upbeat sentiments of Che’s last diary entry, as an indication of the positive changes that would occur in the decades that followed the Bolivian campaign:

“On the last page of a red diary, confiscated by the Bolivian military, is an entry dated October 7th  1967 it is barely possible to decipher the author’s difficult handwriting:

(Che writes): “The 11 month anniversary of our establishment as a guerilla force passed in bucolic mood, with no complications…”

These words in no way read as an epilogue to the heroic saga as there is not the slightest note of discouragement, pessimism or defeatism; on the contrary these words appear to be a preface.”

Camilo Guevara March, Che Guevara Studies Centre, July 2005.”

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