LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Remembering Ernesto "Che" Guevara's victims

When I came across an announcement for author Margaret Randall’s new book, Che on My Mind, on George Mason University’s website, I was truly disturbed by the event description. The University’s event website stated: “She [Randall] is deeply admiring of Che's integrity and charisma and frank about what she sees as his strategic errors. Randall concludes by reflecting on the inspiration and lessons that Che's struggles might offer early twenty-first-century social justice activists and freedom fighters.”


This view is similar to the one held by many professors and students in university campuses across the U.S. and around the world. However, while they celebrate this “icon” by wearing his image on their t-shirts or viewing films about his exploits, they ignore the other side of the story. Whether willingly or not, they ignore the bigoted views reflected in his writings, and his murdered victims in Cuba and throughout Latin America and Africa.


These victims were someone’s parents, someone’s siblings, someone’s children. They were also subjected to show trials reminiscent to those carried out in Nazi Germany. The accused were convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.


In order to present a balanced view of the facts, as our academic integrity demands, a group of undergraduate and graduate students from George Mason University held a vigil in honor of Guevara’s murdered victims. The vigil, which took place outside of the university’s Mason Hall, was held in conjunction with Randall’s presentation of her book.


During the vigil, students ceremoniously lit candles and read the names of 106 men and women executed on Guevara’s orders—only a sample of Guevara’s real death toll, as the real number of victims may never be known. They proceeded to hold a moment of silence in honor of the fallen.


While Randall is defending Guevara’s “inspiration and lessons,” she is ignoring the ultimate sacrifice made by those who did not have an advocate on their side as show trial tribunals were condemning them to death. It was out of a sense of duty and responsibility to their memory that these students came together to honor their lives and remember the circumstances of their deaths.


When an event such as this one is held on campus in the future, I challenge my fellow students to inform themselves on all the facts and press speakers and lecturers to answer the difficult questions. Guevara’s victims gave their lives to protect that right, and we must honor their memory through intellectual challenge and curiosity.


Daniel I. Pedreira is a graduate student at George Mason University’s Peace Operations Policy Program.

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