Sunday, December 10, 2006


Speculation on Guevara's whereabouts continued throughout 1966 and into 1967. Representatives of the Mozambican independence movement FRELIMO reported meeting with Guevara in late 1966 or early 1967 in Dar es Salaam, at which point they rejected his offer of aid in their revolutionary project. In a speech at the 1967 May Day rally in Havana, the Acting Minister of the armed forces, Major Juan Almeida, announced that Guevara was "serving the revolution somewhere in Latin America". The persistent reports that he was leading the guerrillas in Bolivia were eventually shown to be true.

At Castro's behest, a 3,700 acre parcel of jungle land in the remote Ñancahuazú region had been purchased by native Bolivian Communists for Guevara to use as a training area and base camp Camp. The evidence suggests that the training at this camp in the Ñancahuazú valley was more hazardous than combat to Guevara and the Cubans accompanying him. Little was accomplished in the way of building a guerrilla army. Former Stasi operative Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, better known by her nom de guerre "Tania", who had been installed as his primary agent in La Paz, was reportedly also working for the KGB and is widely inferred to have unwittingly served Soviet interests by leading Bolivian authorities to Guevara's trail. The numerous photographs taken by and of Guevara and other members of his guerrilla group that they left behind at their base camp after the initial clash with the Bolivian army in March 1967 provided President René Barrientos with the first proof of his presence in Bolivia; after viewing them, Barrientos allegedly stated that he wanted Guevara's head displayed on a pike in downtown La Paz. He thereupon ordered the Bolivian Army to hunt Guevara and his followers down.

Guevara's guerrilla force, numbering about 50 and operating as the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia; English: "National Liberation Army of Bolivia"), was well equipped and scored a number of early successes against Bolivian regulars in the difficult terrain of the mountainous Camiri region. In September, however, the Army managed to eliminate two guerrilla groups, reportedly killing one of the leaders.

Despite the violent nature of the conflict, Guevara gave medical attention to all of the wounded Bolivian soldiers whom the guerrillas took prisoner, and subsequently released them. Even after his last battle at the Quebrada del Yuro, in which he had been wounded, when he was taken to a temporary holding location and saw there a number of Bolivian soldiers who had also been wounded in the fighting, he offered to give them medical care. (His offer was turned down by the Bolivian officer in charge.)

Guevara's plan for fomenting revolution in Bolivia appears to have been based upon a number of misconceptions:

He had expected to deal only with the country's military government and its poorly trained and equipped army. However, after the U.S. government learned of his location, CIA and other operatives were sent into Bolivia to aid the anti-insurrection effort. The Bolivian Army was being trained and supplied by U.S. Army Special ForcesUSMilitary advisors, including a recently organized elite battalion of Rangers trained in jungle warfare that set up camp in La Esperanza, a small settlement close to the guerrillas' zone of operations.
Guevara had expected assistance and cooperation from the local dissidents. He did not receive it; and Bolivia's Communist Party, under the leadership of Mario Monje, was oriented towards Moscow rather than Havana and did not aid him, despite having promised to do so. (Some members of the Bolivian Communist Party did join/support him, such as Coco and Inti Peredo, Rodolfo Saldaňa, Serapio Aquino Tudela, and Antonio Jiménez Tardio, against the Party leadership's wishes.)
He had expected to remain in radio contact with Havana. However, the two shortwave transmitters provided to him by Cuba were faulty, so that the guerrillas were unable to communicate with Havana. (In this, and in many other respects, Manuel Piñeiro, the man to whom Castro had assigned the task of coordinating support for Guevara's operations in Bolivia, performed abysmally.) To further complicate matters, some months into the campaign, the tape recorder that the guerrillas used to record and decipher the one-time pad-encoded radio messages sent to them from Havana was lost while crossing a river, making de-coding such messages more difficult.Message
In addition, his penchant for confrontation rather than compromise appears to have contributed to his inability to develop successful working relationships with local leaders in Bolivia, just as it had in the Congo. This tendency had surfaced during his guerrilla warfare campaign in Cuba as well, but had been kept in check there by the timely interventions and guidance of Castro.