In 1958, Cuba had a higher per capita income than Austria or Japan. Cuban industrial workers had the eighth-highest wages in the world. In the 1950s, Cuban stevedores earned more per hour than their counterparts in New Orleans and San Francisco.
Thousands of these took up arms against Che Guevara. The MRP (Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo) was among these Cuban resistance groups of mostly laborers. But don’t take it from me. Here’s how the FBI and CIA described them (emphasis added):
Heavily weighted labor membership, with socialistic leanings. Aimed for Castro overthrow from within; advocated nationalization of economy, agrarian reform, utopian social reforms.
In a TV speech on June 26, 1961, when Che Guevara was Cuba’s “Minister of Industries,” he proclaimed: “Cuban workers must get used to live in a collectivist regimen, and by no means can they go on strike!”
Che Guevara also denounced those who “choose their own path” (as in growing long hair and listening to “Yankee-Imperialist” rock & roll). These were vilified as worthless “roqueros,” “lumpen,” and “delinquents.” In his famous speech, Che Guevara even vowed “to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!”
Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara’s admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Guevara, the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 1960s found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid-’60s, the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle (blue jeans, long hair, fondness for the Beatles and Stones) or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked out of Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” emblazoned in bold letters above the gate and with machine-gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.
Today, the world’s largest image of the man whom so many hipsters sport on their shirts adorns Cuba’s headquarters and torture chambers for its KGB-trained secret police. Nothing could be more fitting.
One day before his death in Bolivia, Che Guevara — for the first time in his life — finally faced something properly describable as combat. So he ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to their last breaths and to their last bullet. With his men doing exactly what he ordered (fighting and dying to the last bullet), a slightly wounded Che sneaked away from the firefight and surrendered with fully loaded weapons while whimpering to his captors, “Don’t shoot! I’m Che. I’m worth more to you alive than dead!” His Bolivian captors viewed the matter differently. On the following day, Oct. 9, 1967, justice was served.
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