Che Guevera Archive
An Interview with Camilo Guevara, Son of El Che, in Belgium
Excerpts from interview in HUMO nr 43/3032 16 October
You didn't really know your father. You where five years old when
he died. You probably know him like we all do: out of books.
Guevara: I have a few memories, but vaguely,
things I'm not even sure off that they really happened or that I dreamed
them, fantasy. I know him through the stories that my mother, family
and friends of my father have told me.
For believers in the free market and the Americans, he is a devil.
Guevara: That's their problem, not
mine. He is a devil for the U.S. government and American multinationals.
Not for the North-American people. I am convinced that many North-Americans
admire and respect El Che, that they love him and that they fight
injustice in American society under his banner. In the U.S. there
is a movement that declares its solidarity with Cuba and tries to
lift the economic blockade.
Your father's life ended in controversy. He left Cuba because the
Soviets came, whom he did not trust, so they say, and had problems
with Fidel Castro who became more and more a pragmatic head of state.
Guevara: That isn't true. My father
left Cuba because he was an eternal revolutionary. He wrote as much
in letters that might soon be published. He had no quarrel with Fidel
at all. Fidel and Che stayed friends, brothers and comrades until
the end. That they had problems with one another is a lie which was
already launched before El Che's death. The period he was in Congo
during the sixties and the capitalist countries didn't know where
he was, the Western press wrote some crazy stories: he was dead; he
was locked up in a Cuban jail. With these lies they wanted to harm
the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro as one of the international
leaders of the left and of the poor in the world, still eighty percent
of the world population today. On the other hand they tried to convince
people that the revolutionary Guevara, this great symbol, wasn't all
that, but a man who had to flee from Cuba because he had problems
with his colleague — revolutionary Fidel Castro.
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is life for the son of El Che in Cuba?
You want to know if I'm privileged? Children of 'the symbol' have
one advantage: a great part of the Cuban people still loves El Che.
I often feel awkward about it, but a lot of Cubans treat us, the children
of El Che, more warmly than others. I feel that the Cubans convey
their affection that they had for my father onto me and my family.
In that way we are indeed privileged.
How are things in Cuba today? The economic situation seems to improve
Guevara: 1994 was rock-bottom for us. After that the Cuban economy
gradually began growing again, which was a miracle, really. And El
Che had nothing to do with it! (Laughs) Or maybe, a little. That year
made a great impression on us all. Imagine: a country which is the
victim of a rigorous economic blockade all of a sudden also loses
eighty percent of its trade due to the collapse of Eastern Europe.
At the same time the blockade is even tightened, and the prices of
Western goods, which we desperately needed just like any other Third
World country, keep on rising. And still we managed to let our economy
grow. That is the miracle. A very dangerous example. We achieved this
without one cent from the International Monitary Fund, nor of any
other international financial institution whatsoever! We have showed
that you can achieve a lot without money, but with a great political
will. I suspect that capitalists around the world are a bit anxious
that this example might be followed in other countries. That's why
they try to destroy us with even greater vigour.
El Maximo Lider Fidel will sooner or later disappear from the scene.
He is 72 now. What will happen then? In Florida huge groups of Cuban
exiles are waiting for the day they can reclaim Cuba.
Guevara: There are few thing of which one
can be sure in this world. (Laughs) The Cubans in Florida where already
convinced back in 1959 that they would re-conquer Cuba quickly. Ha!
We are forty years further now, and they are still in Florida. When
Eastern Europe collapsed, they knew for certain: we take Cuba back!
In the meantime that's nine years ago.
For sixty years, from the beginning of the century until the end of
the fifties, Cuba was a colony of the U.S. . We know capitalism, we
have experienced its deeds. Until Fidel and a group of youngsters
launched the revolution. What do you think the Cuban people are going
to do after Fidel's death? Do you think that everybody wants to go
back to the period before 1959; that the people will allow the U.S.
to come and boss us around?
Wouldn't it be possible that the Cuban regime imploded? The consumption
goods of capitalism are very seductive. One notices it these days
Guevara: In the West
capitalism seduces many people, yes. And maybe a few ignorant people
in the Third World too . . .
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come on, the Cuban youth wants Nikes and Marlboro's, Coca-Cola and
a doubt, without a doubt. But that isn't the majority of youngsters.
Never! The Cuban people have reached a level of political and cultural
awareness that cannot easily be ignored. The Cubans have seen what
has happened to Eastern Europe: before the collapse of the Berlin
Wall they had promised these people heaven, but what did they get?
Nothing, absolutely nothing, except chaos and exploitation. We Cubans
know this, we see it and we don't want it to happen to us. OK, there
are still some people that want to sell us out to the U.S. . But they
are a minority.
Q: Wouldn't it
be wiser to completely ignore the U.S. and tighten the economic ties
Guevara: The Europeans
aren't philanthropists either, hey. You have to be realistic: our
relationship with Europe depends on what we can earn from one another.
But the U.S. executes pressure onto Europe, a lot of pressure. Northern-Europe
resists the Helm-Burton law (American law that tries to prevent non-American
industry to trade with Cuba) and we are glad about that. But is that
because the Europeans are in love with Cuba? No, its a question of
sovereignty. How can one country accept that another country forbids
it to trade with the rest of the world?
Q: Until recently Cuba was a isolated socialist
'paradise'. Now you receive thousands of tourists and businessmen
from Europe and South-America. Is that positive?
Cuba has never been as isolated as you think. We have always had good
contact with Europe. With Eastern-Europe, sure. But we have always
been open to the European culture. In the past we have never promoted
mass tourism from Western-Europe because we didn't need it. Now it
has become our most important source of income and a way to attract
Q: But mass
tourism has a shadow side too: prostitution.
For me it has more to do with the crisis of human values all over
the world, than with tourists coming to Cuba.
You really believe that?
There's prostitution in Belgium as well. I have seen it with my own
eyes. People who have enough money to live on don't prostitute themselves.
People who lack money, do. Why?
Because they want money?
No! If I had no money and would go hungry every day, I would not prostitute
myself! It is a question of values. So, what can we do about it? Must
we throw out all tourists, or do we have to make sure that people
do not only have enough money, but also have respect for the essential
human values? In any case we are working hard to force back prostitution.
Q: You work for the Ministry of Fishery. Strange that you have such
ministry. Cubans hardly eat fish.
Guevara: That's true. But there is improvement. In the past, eating
fish was for the poor. Or food for cats and dogs. Now we try to promote
the fish consumption through fairs and feasts.
Q: Even Fidel seems to interfere?
Guevara: Yes, he once did an advertisement on TV. One saw an empty
table in an empty room. Fidel entered and sat himself behind the table,
looked into the camera very seriously but didn't say a word. After
a while a waiter entered and served him a plate of fish. Fidel ate
the fish in silence. This took a few minutes. When only the fish-bones
where left on his plate, Fidel rose up, looked imperatively into the
camera, and spoke to his people the historical words "And now,
YOU" And now we all eat fish.
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