David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (Harvard University)
By Manuel E. Yepe
As a life-long communist and supporter of the Cuban Revolution until his death, Alberto Korda claimed no payment for this picture of Che. A modified version of the portrait through the decades was also reproduced on a range of different media, though Korda never asked for royalties. Korda reasoned that Che's image represented his revolutionary ideals, and thus the more his picture spread the greater the chance Che's ideals would spread as well. Korda's refusal to seek royalties for the vast circulation of his photograph "helped it become the ultimate symbol of Marxist revolution and anti-imperialist struggle."
An October 2007 article in The Wall Street Journal intended to deprecate Ernesto “Che” Guevara on the 40th anniversary of his assassination in Bolivia. Instead, the article was an unintentionally eloquent description of his significance in the Americas.
The article, headlined “Forty years after, the shadow of Che still falls over Latin America,” reveals why the empire pursued Che with so much malice and assassinated him with so much hatred. Che was construed as the “ideologue of communism and the armed revolution against the West in the Third World,” too revolutionary even for Cuba, thus motivating Fidel Castro to send his great revolutionary collaborator abroad to promote the revolution in other countries.
“In his life, Che had scarce direct influence outside of Cuba, but his legend has done much more than sell t-shirts to discontented rich young people,” the WSJ article ironically noted.
“Che’s paranoid, anticapitalist economic doctrines have considerable appeal for Latin Americans. Many countries in the region have elected governments headed by Che sympathizers—from Salvador Allende’s Chile in 1970 to Evo Morales’ Bolivia and Rafael Correa’s Ecuador of today,” deplored the publication.
The article pointed out the supposedly negative effects for the region deriving from ideas inculcated during Che’s time. The article also expressed its concern for the wellbeing of the overall continent because of the example Che had set for Latin America.
“When Che was killed in 1967, the growth of productivity in Latin America was average compared to other countries, according to global estimates. But, from then on, it has fallen beneath the other regions. Only Brazil and Chile have had adequate developments, basically thanks to the extensive periods of rightist military governments, in which Cheismo was repressed.”
Then, the article conjectures: “Without Che’s legend, the annual growth rate would have been one percent higher. From there, it seems that the revolutionary has cost the region around 1.3 trillions of yearly internal development.” And the article emphatically concludes: “The shirts are cheap, but Che has been an expensive icon.”
While the article assumes that Che’s ideas led to the economic downfall of the region, in truth the economic and social disaster was the result of the neoliberal policies that Washington forced on the region. These were part of its global economic strategy in which it depended on military dictators and political repression to exercise imperial hegemony over the continent. Continue reading »
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