(Editor's Note: In the first of a two-part interview, Cybercast News Service speaks to Humberto Fontova, author of the new book, "Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.")
(CNSNews.com) - Che Guevara, who aided Fidel Castro in his rise to power in Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is today an icon of liberal culture worldwide. His picture and image adorn countless products, from posters to t-shirts to CD cases to bikinis.
Robert Redford made a 2004 movie about Guevara, "The Motorcycle Diaries," which won media praise and an Academy Award. Two more Guevara movies are due for release in 2008.
Yet the liberal-left and Hollywood are perpetuating myths, if not outright lies, about Guevara, according to author Humberto Fontova in his book, "Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him."
Fontova discussed with Cybercast News Service his new book and what he describes as the real Guevara - the man who directly helped Castro put into place a communist regime responsible for at least 102,000 deaths and which has cycled 500,000 people through its gulag.
Cybercast News Service: Why did you write this book?
Humberto Fontova: Because of the blizzard, the avalanche, the non-stop flood of complete B.S. that has been issuing from Castro's Cuba and from Castro himself since February 1957, when he had his first interview with the New York Times. He has had the Western media eating out of the palm of his hand.
I'll tell you what I told Alan Colmes, from Fox's "Hannity & Colmes." He said, "How can you - all of a sudden - discover all these things about Che Guevara?" And I said, "No, Alan, these things were discovered in 1959. These things were recorded as they were happening. But it's just that they never made it into the mainstream media, not just in the United States but also worldwide."
Cybercast News Service: Who was reporting the facts about Che Guevara in 1959 and not the propaganda?
Humberto Fontova: Cuban-Americans primarily. It was recorded a lot in Spanish newspapers. A lot of the sources for my book were Spanish-language sources - there were books and periodicals published in places such as Mexico City and Madrid. When many Cubans got to America, they learned that no major publisher would touch an anti-Castro book. Some people started their own publishing companies, but the sad part is that most of this stuff was published only in Spanish. But these things have been known since 1959.
Cybercast News Service: Who were the people in America and in the Western world praising Che Guevara and Castro?
Humberto Fontova: At the same time that Che is the chief executioner for the Cuban revolution and hundreds of bodies are being piled up every week by firing squads, we have none other than Ed Sullivan referring to Fidel Castro as the George Washington of his country. Now, Ed Sullivan made amends later. He is one of the few who actually retracted his comment. But we had Harry Truman saying Castro was doing what was best for Cuba - quote "we ought to extend our sympathy and help him to do what is right for them." We had CBS's Edward R. Murrow. Look at the movie "Good Night and Good Luck" - oh, Ed Murrow snarled when he got in front of Joe McCarthy. He was the grand inquisitor when he got in front of a right-winger. Well, Murrow actually went to Havana to interview Castro, and he complimented his dog, "That's a cute puppy, little Fidelita!" In that interview, he got no further than some talk about Castro's son - who Castro never took care of and abandoned - and his "little puppy." That's the type of investigative journalism we've come to expect when investigating things in Cuba.
Cybercast News Service: Why are so many people in the U.S. media and in academia so enthralled with Che Guevara and apparently so willing to repeat myths and distort facts about him?
Humberto Fontova: The whole thing starts with the cachet, the coolness surrounding the Cuban revolution. At the time, the United States was the biggest fuddy-duddy, Leave-it-to-Beaver country in the world. Then, all of a sudden, you had these long-haired revolutionaries down in Cuba - they were the first hippies, the first beatniks. Look at Che Guevara in those years. Take off the beard and you've got Jim Morrison. Raul Castro used to carry his shoulder-length blond hair in a ponytail. Camilo Cienfuegos looked like another Jerry Garcia. There was that coolness cachet, plus all the misconceptions about what Cuba was like prior to these guys.
Cybercast News Service: So, there is a lot of ignorance about pre-Castro Cuba?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. In fact, in 1958, Cuba had a higher per capita income than half of Europe. It had double Japan's per capita income. Cuban laborers, the unionized labor - the Cuban labor force was more unionized than the U.S. labor force - had the eighth highest wages in the world. This was at a time when Cubans could get a U.S. visa for the asking. Any Cubans could leave their country, with all of their property, at any time. At that time, in the 1950s, there were fewer Cubans living in the United States than there were Americans living in Cuba. No country in the world can make that claim. Cuba had the 13th lowest infant mortality rate, not in the hemisphere but in the world. Cuba had more doctors and dentists per capita than Great Britain and the United States.
So people now say, "Fine, Humberto, if Cuba was such a rosy place, then why did they have a revolution? Why did so many Cubans back Fidel Castro?" The answer is simple: It was not billed as a revolution. It was billed as a political rebellion. In other words, what was going to be ousted was the quasi-dictatorial regime of [Fulgencio] Batista, which was really not dictatorial technically. It was corrupt and sporadically brutal because of its police. But, as I said, in those years, the 1950s, people used to flock into Cuba. Cuba took in more immigrants, as a percentage of population, before the Cuban revolution, than did the United States. People used to jump on rafts from say, neighboring Haiti and Jamaica to try to enter Cuba. They were as desperate to enter the place then as they are to exit it now.
Now, we know that 20 percent - out of a country that was previously inundated with immigrants - of the population has fled. And that's a small percentage of those who wanted to leave and want to leave. So the ignorance about Cuba before Castro adds a lot to the myth and mis-reporting about Cuba.
Cybercast News Service: When academics and Hollywood and establishment media promote untruths about Guevara and Cuba, is it ignorance, or that they're sympathetic towards Castro, or both?
Humberto Fontova: It's a combination and reflexive anti-Americanism. You have to remember that, well before Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were the emblems of anti-Americanism, the worldwide emblems. Basically, the Cuban revolution and everything associated with it - and Che Guevara is the primary symbol of that - is the handiest club to pick up and whack the U.S. on the head.
Cybercast News Service: What do you consider to be some of Guevara's greatest crimes or offenses that people today should know about?
Humberto Fontova: He was the chief executioner. He performed for the Cuban revolution what Heinrich Himmler performed for the Nazis. Everything Che Guevara did was directed by Fidel Castro. Early on, when they were in the mountains, Castro realized that Che seemed to relish executing little farm boys. There were executions carried out, carried out in the mountains, of so-called informers. I interviewed many people who witnessed those executions. There was no due process.
Che Guevara wrote a letter to his father in 1957 and to his abandoned wife. In the letter to her, he wrote, "I'm here in Cuba's hills, alive and thirsting for blood." Then, to his father, "I really like killing." The man was a clinical sadist, whereas Fidel Castro you could describe as a psychopath in that the murders did not affect him one way or the other. It was a means to an end - the consolidation of his one-man rule. Che has a famous quote, where he wrote, a revolutionary has to become "a cold killing machine." The thing was, Che Guevara was anything but cold. He was a warm killing machine. He relished the slaughter.
Cybercast News Service: Are there reliable estimates on the number of people killed by Guevara or killed as a result of his policies or orders?
Humberto Fontova: He was put in charge of the execution squads in early 1959. He stayed in charge of the prison where most of the executions took place in Havana. And in the months he was in charge there, about four months until July 1959, the estimates run from 500 to 1,182 men and boys sent to the firing squad without due process. But the system he set in place for the executions ... in that system of justice, according to "The Black Book of Communism" - the definitive source - by the mid-sixties, 14,000 men and boys had been executed in Cuba. That was the year, December 1964, when Che Guevara ... addressed the General Assembly, and he said: "Executions? Certainly we execute. And we will continue executing as long as it is necessary!" So, in other words, he still claimed the system. It was still his system at work.
Cybercast News Service: When you use the phrase "useful idiot," how do you define that?
Humberto Fontova: There's some question whether the phrase was termed by Stalin or by Lenin. But it's related to Lenin's famous comment that, when asked, "where will we get the rope to hang the capitalist class?" Lenin said, "they will sell it to us." It's related to that, to the people who went to the Soviet Union, who saw what they wanted to see, and helped spread communist lies throughout the West. They were "useful" to the Soviet propaganda machine. The Soviet Union no longer exists, but these people, to this day, are "useful" to the Castro regime because that is still the emblem. You go to Cuba today and Che Guevara's face is plastered everywhere. And that face is considered the emblem of the Castro regime and the Cuban revolution. So, those who help whitewash and spread that message are useful to this day to the Castro regime.
Cybercast News Service: Who are the leading "useful idiots" in the United States when it comes to Guevara and Castro?
Humberto Fontova: I guess Robert Redford would have to take first place because of the movie, "The Motorcycle Diaries" - a movie, by the way, that had to be screened for Fidel Castro and Aleida Guevara, Che's widow, in Havana before the Cuban regime gave Robert Redford permission and benediction to release it in the U.S. You can imagine in this country if a U.S. director needed the permission of Nancy Regan to release that HBO movie, "The Reagans." You can imagine the howls of protest from the Hollywood crowd. But for some reason it's considered perfectly proper for a Hollywood director, who fancies himself a champion of artistic freedom, to require the permission of a Stalinist regime in order to release a movie - because that Stalinist regime helped him make it, helped propagate the myth.
It's getting worse now because, coming up there will be two movies about Che Guevara. Steven Soderbergh, an Oscar winner, will be directing Benicio Del Toro as Che Guevara. One movie will be called "Guerilla," although there was no guerilla war in Cuba. The other will be called "The Argentine." They basically pick up where "The Motorcycle Diaries" left off and take Che Guevara through the Cuban revolution, then to Africa, and then to his demise in Bolivia.
We have a clue as to what these movies will be like in that Benicio Del Toro made a comment a few months ago because he's studying up on his character. He said, "Che was just one of those guys who walked the walk and talked the talk. There's just something cool about people like that. The more I get to know Che, the more I respect him."
More interestingly, the screenplay is based on Che Guevara's official diaries. These diaries were published in Havana and edited by Fidel Castro. The propaganda ministry of a Stalinist regime is essentially issuing the screenplay for a Hollywood movie. You can't make this stuff up.
Cybercast News Service: Did Robert Redford's movie rely on similar Castro-regime-approved materials?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, Che Guevara's diaries. Those are the same diaries that he kept as a young man when he was traveling in South America. They were published in Havana. It's very interesting because Robert Redford chose to omit many fascinating items. For instance, in those diaries - the original ones - Che Guevara has a passage where he says, "crazy with fury, I will murder any enemy that falls into my hands. My nostrils dilate while savoring the sweet odor of blood and gunpowder." Naturally, for some reason, that was left out of Redford's heart-warming movie.
All you have to do is take Che Guevara's writing and put it alongside that of [Seung-hui] Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, and you can't tell the difference. Cho comes across as healthy compared to Che Guevara. Yet I haven't seen too many Cho t-shirts around, while there are lots of Che t-shirts.
Cybercast News Service: So, Robert Redford is a "useful idiot"?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, because "The Motorcycle Diaries" movie has probably done as much as anything else to boost the Che Guevara cachet.
Cybercast News Service: And you think Guevara has become so idolized because of people like Redford?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, ignorance and reflexive anti-Americanism. That sums it up. Che is known as a cool symbol. You can be anti-American and be Osama bin Laden, but that's not as cool. Put al-Zarqawi or Osama bin Laden on a poster, and they don't look cool, whereas Che Guevara looks like Jim Morrison. It's a good-looking, cool symbol for reflexive anti-Americanism.
Cybercast News Service: So these people really are useful idiots?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, but with the ignorance. I talk to young people and kids. The high school and college kids look at the image and probably think Che's a drummer for the Smashing Pumpkins. Slightly older ones, the Gen-Xers, think it's probably Bob Marley on the t-shirt. And many in my generation think of him as Jim Morrison of The Doors.
Cybercast News Service: You talk about some of these folks at Newsweek and Jon Lee Anderson and Richard Goodwin-can you explain how they've spread propaganda about Che Guevara?
Humberto Fontova: Anderson is the worst. His book, "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life" is more than 800 pages and considered by, again, all the major reviewers as the definitive book on Che. It's interesting because Anderson wrote it while living in Cuba, with the full cooperation of the Castro regime. The propaganda ministers of a totalitarian regime feed information to this guy; he puts it in his book; and then it's broadcast all over the world as an "authoritative" source. It boggles the mind.
Cybercast News Service: It would be like someone sitting in the office of Joseph Goebbels and taking dictation?
Humberto Fontova: As I say in the book, it's like, let us say that Hitler died, one of the assassination attempts against him succeeded, and then a so-called historian were to go to write Hitler's biography and were to use Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, and Martin Bormann as his sources. Would any sane person take that book seriously? But when it comes to the Cuban revolution, people don't look past that. There's something about the Cuban revolution that blinds people to reason.
Cybercast News Service: Is that intellectual blindness because liberals, in general, tend to look at issues based on emotion instead of reason - that, for instance, the communists "meant well" and wanted to help people and therefore they were good guys?
Humberto Fontova: Leftists are always judged on their intent, on their motives, rather than their results. But the intent and motives of the Cuban revolutionaries were not noble; they were Stalinists from the get-go. Che Guevara would sign his correspondence, before he even went to Cuba, as "Stalin II." The Cuban revolution did not veer off course. It was always led by Stalinists. Declassified Soviet documents now show that there were KGB agents in 1958 involved. Raul Castro, for instance, had KGB contacts from the mid-1950s. So, their intent was not noble. They were Stalinists from the get-go.
Cybercast News Service: And there were KGB or GRU agents training Guevara and others?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, the GRU was training the firing squads. In early 1959, when Che Guevara took over probably the most luxurious house in Cuba, that is where most of the meetings were held with Soviet agents. And, early on, these agents were Spanish communists who had fled the Spanish Civil War for the Soviet Union. They were the ones the Soviets sent to Cuba to train and hob-knob with their Cuban counterparts. They met in Che's house to plot the Stalinization of Cuba.
(to be continued)
"Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him" (Sentinel/Penguin Group, 2007)
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