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After Guevara: the struggle for progress in Latin America

55 years after Che’s assassination, the continent he sought to liberate has overcome the dark decades of US-backed brutality and terror to once again embrace socialism, writes JOHN WIGHT

“He entered into death asking neither permission nor forgiveness: he led his men forth to face the bullets of the surrounding army in the dusty ravine of Yuro.”

SO WRITES that genius of the written word, Eduardo Galeano, of the last gun battle fought by Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967; the culmination of his ill-fated attempt to inspire Bolivia’s poverty-stricken, oppressed peasantry to rise up against the country’s then-dictator Rene Barrientos, an agent of the CIA in all but name, in what Guevara and his followers intended to be a rerun of the Cuban revolution eight years previously.

If one man’s legacy looms large over the modern history of Latin America it’s the legacy of Guevara, whose indomitable and unrelenting resistance to US imperialism and its agents continues to inspire in a region long considered in Washington to be US real estate.

In many respects Guevara was Latin America’s Soleimani and Soleimani the Middle East’s Guevara.

Since Guevara’s execution with the participation of the CIA in 1967, Latin America has existed in a state of constant flux and turmoil, engaged in a sometimes hidden, sometimes open, but neverending struggle to break free from the economic, geopolitical and military chains of Washington.

In the immediate decades after the Cuban Revolution failed to catalyse a region-wide revolutionary wave, Latin America existed under the iron heel of far-right military dictatorships which prioritised the interests of Washington over the interests of their own people.

From Chile all the way north to Guatemala, freedom and democracy were non-existent, while the advocacy of social justice was considered a crime punishable by torture and death.

The techniques of torture practised on countless thousands of victims during this period were taught at the infamous School of the Americas.

Located at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the US — and rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation (Whinsec) in 2001 — it is estimated that this institution has trained over 60,000 soldiers and police in torture and counter-insurgency techniques since its establishment in 1946.

Imagine for a moment the international outcry if such a school existed in China and Russia and you arrive at the rank hypocrisy that defines our world.

However just as you cannot hold back the tide, you cannot contain forever the need for justice and dignity which burns within all who are denied it, no matter the level of oppression and brutality extended in the attempt.

Whether Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, Brazil under Lula, Argentina under Cristina Kirchner, Bolivia under Evo Morales, socialism and socialist ideas continue to hold traction among the masses of Latin America in whom the spirit and memory of Guevara remains alive, no matter the ocean of reactionary propaganda churned out of those laboratories of anti-human ideas otherwise known as the newsrooms of CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and so on.

The unrelenting demonisation of the aforementioned leaders — leaders who dared to serve their people rather than Washington — is proof positive of the fear of a good example that resides in the heart of an empire whose crimes would shame all the devils in hell.

When Hugo Chavez asked the question, “What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?” he did so in the name of all right-thinking humanity.

He also did so as the world leader with the most solid democratic mandate of any while being attacked as a dictator in the upside-down world inhabited by Western ideologues.

Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro himself managed to withstand, with the support of the Venezulean people and military, an attempt by the Trump regime to mount a coup in 2019 with the aim of installing the pro-US puppet Juan Guaido in power in Caracas and returning the country to its pre-Chavez status as a wholly owned subsiduary of Washington.

That Maduro held out despite the grievous impact of US sanctions on the country and its people only emphasises the legacy built by Chavez and its enduring strength.

More rececently, Daniel Ortega was returned to power in Nicaragua in 2021 in an election dismissed by US President Joe Biden as a “pantomine” and which the Organization of American States (OAS) described as illegimate.

In response, Ortega began the process of withdrawing Nicaragua from the OAS, an organisation whose mission his Foreign Minister Denis Moncada derided as “facilitating the hegemony of the United States with its interventionism over the countries of Latin America.”

As we see then, the attempt to assert domination over Latin America by Washington has been unending, as has been the resistance to it.

As none other than Fidel Castro once powerfully declared: “What is the history of Cuba but the history of Latin America? And what is the history of Latin America but the history of Asia, Africa and Oceania? And what is the history of all these peoples but the history of the most pitiless and cruel exploitation by imperialism throughout the world?”

His friend and comrade Guevara died with this very sentiment engraved in his heart. In executing the man, they gave birth to the legend.

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