14ymedio, 10 February 2017 – The fight for popularity between Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara continues even after the death of both leaders. According to an article in last Saturday’s official newspaper Granma, some 150,000 people – both Cubans and foreign tourists – have visited Fidel Castro’s tomb in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba. The mausoleum was opened to the public on 4 December 2016.
For its part, the Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara Sculpture Complex in Santa Clara, dedicated to the Argentine guerrilla who died in 1967, received a total of 374,900 visits throughout 2016. Che died in Bolivia at the hands of the Army of that country and his remains were allegedly exhumed in 1997 by a forensic team designated by Fidel Castro himself, just in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his assassination.
After a dubious process undertaken by Cuban doctors in Bolivia, described by Havana as a “scientific feat,” the alleged remains were brought back to Cuba and buried alongside the other guerrillas who accompanied him in his unsuccessful attempt to export the Revolution to South America. For Cuba, which was in the midst of the economic trauma of the Special Period, Che’s “return” was a much-needed injection of morale.
Despite the high number of visitors to the Guevara tomb – about 1,000 visits a day in average in 2016, including Cubans and many foreigners, especially Argentines, Italians and French – the forecasts announced by the authorities suggest that the struggle for post mortem popularity will be won by Fidel Castro.
The pantheon erected to the former president, who died on 25 November 2016 at age 90, receives an average of 2,000 visits per day. At that rate, and with the increase in visits the government predicts for the summer months, the number of visitors to the remains of Fidel Castro will reach 1 million before the end of the 2017.
Everything seems to indicate that the decision is already taken in favor of the former president. It is a political issue and the numbers do not have to be true. Nor does it matter whether Che’s remains are his or whether Fidel Castro’s ashes are really deposited in the interior of that strange artificial rock erected next to José Martí’s mausoleum.