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Books: Diary Of A Combatant

Unpublished until now, CHE GUEVARA'S diaries of the revolutionary war in Cuba reveal both his candour and political acuity

Diary Of A Combatant

by Ernesto Che Guevara
Ocean Press (£15.99)

 

1957

January 11. We spent the day at the same place waiting, as neither food nor Guillermo arrived. Given the opportunity to do so, the men from Manzanillo decided to return, pointing to the lack of weapons and saying they could do no more here. Four left during the day, one remained because he was sick. Ramiro's leg is still bad and we will leave him here. No other developments. The Rural Guards did not make an appearance.

 

January 12. We had originally decided to leave during the night. At Crescencio's urging, we decided to wait for cans of milk that were slow in coming, so we waited until the next day. There was a meeting with a rural leader, something of a charlatan and an opportunist, but who put himself at our disposal. The plan that we communicated to him is that we would kill the three overseers who had terrorised the peasants.

 

January 13. During the morning we received various vistors, a rural leader who said he had 20 men and a couple of merchants who offered their services in relation to supplies and messages, We placed an order for food and medicine. People from the region came to greet us and offer their help. At 3pm, after a good lunch, we set off for La Plata, we walked until 5pm, stopping so we could cross an open area at 6pm, when night would already be falling. We continued to walk under moonlight until approximately 9.30pm, sleeping in a small clearing. Melquiades Elias, a friend of our guide Eutimio, has marked the route with a machete.

 

January 14. At 6pm in the morning we continued the march along a hillside, starting to descend towards he Magdalena river, where we arrived two hours later and ate breakfast. Fidel calibrated all the rifles with telescopic sights. There are 23 functional weapons, nine rifles with telescopic sights, five automatic rifles, four common rifles, two Thompsons, two submachine guns and one 16-gauge shotgun. In the afternoon we climbed the last of the hills before reaching La Plata and there we ran into two cousins of Eutimio, the guide. We took one of them prisoner for two or three days, the other went free. We found as road built to bring out harvested trees from the woods and followed it until dark without seeing La Plata.

 

April 18. Guillermo arrived early with Filiberto Mora. His account revealed what kind of person Filiberto is, a regular snitch. It was also learned that Ciro had been seen by the sons of a man called Montero, a friend and companero of Filiberto's, and although he tried to fool them with some tale or other, they realised who they were and told their father, who planned to go to El Macho to report them. The man, Filiberto, came here thinking everything was OK but as soon as he saw Fidel he realised what had happened and began to apologise. He had also been the troops' guide to the site of the ambush.

We continued to an abandoned house where Pepe Martinez was waiting for us with two others; one was a merchant called Lalo Sardinias from a hamlet called Santo Domingo. He offered to serve us unconditionally and warned us about another snitch who we knew personally, Filiberto Mora. He was asked to provide supplies on a regular basis and they went on ahead. We followed more slowly with the column. My asthma prevented me from going more quickly. When we were approaching the place where we had elected to set up camp, Pena, the messenger from Manzanillo, caught up with us with a letter from Celia and $500. Celia told us that more money was supposed to have come with the previous messenger but it had been sent to Santiago. Apart from this, she told us she would locate the journalists and take them to the Sierra. Fidel decided to send Lalo to Manzanillo with a letter for Celia. There was also a report from Jacinto [Armando Hart] in which he showed himself to be positively anticommunist and even seemed to insinuate a certain kind of arrangement with the Yankee embassy. His attitude defines him.

When we reached the camp the snitch was executed; 10 minutes later ... he was declared dead. As night fell the 40 men who were to bring back the supplies set out but they soon returned because the guide, Pepe Martinez, had taken the wrong road.

 

August 7. Papo and one of Israel's brothers informed me of what happened in Peladero. It seems that David talked too much and told everything to a snitch cattleman. Shortly afterwards David was imprisoned, tortured and murdered and the army occupied Peladero. There they took one of Israel's father's fieldworkers and at the first blow he told them everything he knew. The result was that they killed 10 people, including two of David's muleteers, burned all the houses in the area and viciously beat several neighbours, some of whom were later killed and others, like Israel's dad suffered fractures. According to the reports there were three snitches and I asked for volunteers to kill them ... They left early with some signs that read: "Executed for betraying the people."

August 8. We got up early and set out on the trail to the heights of El Hombrito in a foul mood. On reaching the main road, a messenger was waiting for me to tell me that Gilberto Capote, the ex-sergeant rajado [deserters from Batista's army who joined the rebels] was coming with four men, all armed. I agreed to wait for them on the road. We continued walking a long time until we reached Fidencio Santana's house. From there we were sent to the home of the neighbour Perucho, who has a creek running through his land, where we all settled in. I had heard on the news that four rebels had been killed in combat in Peladero, and I thought that might have been Israel and the kids who might have been surprised somewhere and killed. I sent for Polo so I could talk with him the next day. A black man, whose name I don't remember, brought me a present of pork, which was perfect.

  

1958

June 8. This afternoon I inspected Horacio's zone, agreeing with him to ambush the helicopter that passes close to the slope. To carry this out I put Cuervo's machine gun and people to replace those of Horacio who were exhausted. Dr Fajardo came from California, where he had gone to operate one of our wounded, bringing back a very suspicious gringo with some messages from people in Miami and some extravagant plans.

 

June 9. I went up to see Fidel this morning after an intense bombardment of the Santo Domingo-Naranjo-Gamboa zone. Fidel had been advised that the gringo was either FBI or had been contracted to kill him. He read me the most recent communiques. There were good possibilities in Venezuela and Costa Rica. Laferte reported that a suspicious recruit had fled after having been denied permission to leave. I reached Las Minas at night to learn that the Awol recruit had been detained in his sister's house. He defended himself, saying that I had told him to go and he thought I meant to go home.

 

June 10. I asked Fidel about the Awol soldier and he absolved him. I spoke to [the recruits] for a few minutes asking them to show more enthusiasm. For several hours, intense machine-gun fore could be heard, especially from the beach.

 

September 5. We left at daybreak, after a shower of rain, on a journey of seven leagues through swamps, with half the troops on foot but without backpacks.

 

September 6. At dawn we reached the Leonero rice farm where the owner lives. We discussed the tax on rice that didn't please him and we also spoke with the workers, where we found a very good response. We urged them to form a union to present their demands. At night we continued travelling on a tractor and horseback, going some eight kilometres.

 

September 12. We left on a short journey in which the only accident worth mentioning was the loss of my veteran cap in the mud.

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