Acting Cuban president Raul Castro presided over a ceremony Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the execution in Bolivia of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, calling the bearded Argentine-born revolutionary an “exceptional warrior.” But the mere mention of his name stokes anger in the U.S. among Cuban exiles, who remember Guevara as the man who presided over a prison where hundreds of opponents of the Cuban revolution were executed.
What the commentators said
The irony, said Mark Lacey in The New York Times (free registration), is that “even in Cuba, one of the world’s last Communist bastions, Che is used both to make a buck and to make a point.” His dreamy, faraway stare has been stamped on T-shirts and key-chains, making one of the world’s best known rebels “as much a marketing tool as an international revolutionary icon.”
Guevara has been so “romanticized and corporate pimped” that he’s hardly recognizable, said John Ridley in The Huffington Post. His after-life as a revolutionary poster-boy stamped on T-shirts, fanny packs, and “apparently even a soap with the slogan "Che washes whiter," has fueled the myth that he was a “wide-eyed do-gooder” out to “right social wrongs.” In reality, “Guevara was a brutal, egotistical killer.”
And that is precisely why it’s worth remembering the day he died, said the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel in an editorial. It doesn’t matter whether you see Guevara as a “selfless, romantic” champion of the poor, or as a “sinister zealot.” His violent life and death showed that “using force to achieve ends, whether on the right or left, ultimately costs everyone a steep price. And it leaves a troubling legacy, even if it sells T-shirts.”