Che’s Widow Justifies La Cabana Firing Squads

Aleida March’s book was published in 2007, but Cubadebate has reopened the controversy by publishing the part that justifies the executions in La Cabaña. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 January 2019 — The official government media Cubadebate has started a controversy with the publication of some fragments of the book Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara (its title in the English translation), in which Aleida March de la Torre, Ernesto Guevara’s widow, describes the executions by firing squad in La Cabaña fortress as “an act of legitimate revolutionary justice.” The execution of hundreds of people, allegedly linked to the regime of Fulgencio Batista, was one of the most darkest and criticized pages of the Cuban revolutionary process.

The volume was published in 2007, but this Monday the official media published some passages of the text under the heading History. In the passages the author talks about the first days of Guevara in Havana and the short period in which she was in charge of La Cabaña, that “great training school” in which “small factories were created.”

“In January (of 1959), the Revolutionary Courts were organized and the first trials of the henchmen of the tyranny began, based on the work carried out by a Purification and Investigation Commission,” she writes. “This has always been a controversial issue and distorted by our enemies, even though it represented a legitimate act of revolutionary justice,” adds March.

The narrative contrasts with the data compiled by the Archivo Cuba project, which has documented 79 executions ordered directly by Guevara. The organization counts 954 executions of this type in Cuba in 1959, of which 628 occurred from January to June, 58 of them in La Cabaña. In addition, the project denounces the lack of due process.

The painter and writer Juan Abreu, who has put on canvas the faces of many of those executed, believes that the executions are “an untold story. Not only untold, but also they have tried to hide it, and when they have spoken of it, the effort has always been to discredit the protagonists, branded as outlaws or murderers.”

In Abreu’s opinion, “These accusations lack any kind of historical evidence. They were people who rebelled, the same as Fidel Castro rebelled against Batista, they rebelled against Fidel Castro.”

However, for March de la Torre “the rules of due process were followed in these cases” and she insists in her book that the Argentine commander did not participate in the hearings, nor in the executions.

“I remember that Che, although he did not attend any of these trials, nor did he witness the executions, he did participate in some appeals and interviewed some relatives who were going to ask for clemency.” March consider that gesture was due to his “humanistic and respectful action towards the enemy, before a decision that, although fair, could not fail to be unpleasant.”

The writer and academic Jacobo Machover, who supports another thesis, in December 2017 asked the mayor of Paris to withdraw an exhibition in homage to the figure of Che Guevara due to his involvement in these executions. The Cuban exile mentioned the Argentine’s participation in the “revolutionary courts” and his responsibility in an appeal commission that “never commuted a single capital sentence” as a reason to reject the event.

“He himself attended the shootings carried out in the fortress of La Cabaña in Havana, broadcast on television and by newsreels,” said Machover, who managed to collect dozens of signatures to support his complaint.


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