(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: In your book you talk a lot about the various companies that put Che Guevara’s face and image on their products.
Humberto Fontova: Yes. AT&T, by the way, was selling cell phones with Che’s image on them and, just last week, they yanked them, stopped selling them because we protested – we mounted a phone and email program against the company. AT&T apologized, saying the image should not have been there in the first place and then yanked the product. Target was selling CD cases with Che’s face this past Christmas. We protested again, and they yanked the product.
Cybercast News Service: Do you think it’s morally fair to equate the placement of Guevara’s image on a product to placing Heinrich Himmler’s image on a product or Levrenti Beria’s image on a product?
Humberto Fontova: Probably not, only because of the ignorance. My guess is that 70 percent or 80 percent who buy Che’s image and post it on their product – the product managers – have no idea who Che is. They have a vague idea that he was a cool, revolutionary guy, but they have no idea about what he really did. If AT&T was telling the truth, it’s a perfect example when they said “this guy’s image shouldn’t have been there in the first place.” That confirms what I think. Most people who put the image on a product don’t know all the details.
Cybercast News Service: They think Che’s just a cool guy?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, let’s face it. If you see it from afar, his image, and you’re not very knowledgeable in history – and most people in this country are not – you say, “hey, that’s a cool picture, that’s a cool-looking guy.” And then you hear, vaguely, that he was an anti-establishment rebel and you say, “that’s pretty cool.” I tell kids, you know, that they may hear that Che Guevara “fought The Man, he fought The Man.” No, no. no, he was The Man that rebellious, freedom-loving people fought against. The ironies are so rich. A regime where, if you listened to rock music or tried to grow long hair, you went to prison. A regime that tells you what and how much you can eat; that you cannot travel without police-state papers; that you get machine-gunned if you try to leave; a regime that tells you what you can read. It basically tells you what you can think and say in public. The emblem of that regime is Che Guevara. And you see the image on people who consider themselves free spirits. You have to develop a sense of humor after a while.
Cybercast News Service: For Cuban-Americans, when they see Che’s image, is their view comparable to that of Jews in seeing an image of Himmler on a t-shirt?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, right. But obviously the murder figures for the Holocaust are not comparable to what happened in Cuba. But when you put it on a per-capita basis, Cuba was a country with 6.3 million people in 1960. According to Freedom House, one-half million people passed through Che and Castro’s gulag. That is a higher political incarceration rate than Stalin’s, prior to World War II. At one point, in 1961 in Cuba, 350,000 people were political prisoners – one out of every 19 Cubans.
Cybercast News Service: What were these prison camps like?
Humberto Fontova: Well, you had forced labor camps. You had bona fide political prisons. The best source is the book Against All Hope by Armando Valladares, who was a prisoner in those camps for 20 years. I interviewed a lot of the people who had been in the prisons. If you slowed down in your work at the camps, you got a bayonet thrust into you. The number of murders that took place in those prison camps is being documented now by a group called the Cuban Archive. But the prisons were similar to the Soviet gulag, they were patterned on the Soviet gulag. It was Soviet agents who trained the Cubans in these techniques. Cuba is essentially a Stalinist regime.
But people say, no, Che Guevara was actually a Trotskyite. But what’s the difference? The only difference between a Trotskyite and a Stalinist is that Trotsky wanted to spread Stalinism all over the world. Big deal. Okay, Castro wanted to keep Stalinism in Cuba while Che Guevara wanted to spread that curse all over the world.
Cybercast News Service: Your book mentions that Trotsky’s killer, Ramon Mercador, held an official position in Cuba.
Humberto Fontova: Yes, he was the Minister of Prisons in Castro’s government. That happened early in the game. Mercador was one of those Spanish Communists who had gone to the Soviet Union. He died in Cuba in 1978 and is now buried in Moscow. Che Guevara was a groupie of all these Soviets. He admired them from early on, saying the solutions to the world’s problems are behind the Iron Curtain.
Cybercast News Service: Can you explain some more about how Guevara was involved in terror attacks in New York City back in the 1960s?
Humberto Fontova: In November 1962, the FBI uncovered a terrorist plot – the targets were Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdale’s and Grand Central Terminal. Five hundred kilos of TNT were slated to go off in those places the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. When the FBI cracked the plot, they discovered that the people involved were with the Cuban mission to the United Nations working in cahoots with the New York chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Can you imagine the carnage? It would have made 9/11 look pretty tame. And that case was reported in the New York Times, November 27, 1962.
There was another plot, in 1964, when Che Guevara was actually visiting New York. He was fine-tuning a plot put into place by some black radicals, a group that considered the Black Panthers to be Uncle Toms. They had visited Cuba and had met with Che and, in 1964, he was meeting with them in New York. They were fine-tuning plans to blow up the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, among other landmarks.
But, the thing is, Che was so absolutely incompetent in everything he did except – the one thing he succeeded at in life – the mass murder of defenseless men and boys. I remember, right after 9/11, I think Dan Rather called Osama bin Laden “the Che Guevara of Islam,” and I said, I wish we could be so lucky, because then it would be a cakewalk because Che was so completely and utterly incompetent. In fact, there is reason to believe – I spoke to some of the people who tracked Che down in Bolivia – that he was incapable of applying a compass reading to a map. And this is a man people put on a pedestal with Mao Tse Tung, the leader of the 8,000-mile Long March. You really develop a sense of humor at the imbecility of some people.
Cybercast News Service: There’s a quote in your book about Che’s views on black people.
Humberto Fontova: Yes, that comes from his diaries. Che says the black “is indolent and lazy” and the European is “forward-looking and intelligent.” That was also somehow omitted from that heart-warming movie by Robert Redford.
Cybercast News Service: You write that Associated Press reporter Mario Llerena in New York was a Castro agent?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. The AP reports about the Cuban rebellion were being written by Mario Llerena. And Llerena admits as much in his book, The Unsuspected Revolution, but he defected early on. As soon as Castro took power, Llerena defected to the U.S. and he published his book – and that’s where he admits it.
Cybercast News Service: And the AP reporter was writing lies and propaganda about Castro?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, complete lies about what the Batista regime was doing and about what the rebels were doing in these so-called great battles. The New York Times wrote about the “great battle” in Santa Clara, saying thousands died. Yet in the entire so-called guerilla war, which lasted two years, according to an estimate from the U.S. Embassy there were 184 casualties on both sides. That’s a guerilla war? Sadly, that many people have likely died in Baghdad today.
Cybercast News Service: Has the New York Times ever gone back and corrected the record on any of this?
Humberto Fontova: No. There was a book published recently by Tony Depalma entitled, The Man Who Invented Fidel. In the book, The Times dances around the issue a little bit. It’s not quite a mea culpa because Depalma is a New York Times reporter. They don’t tackle the issue head on.
Cybercast News Service: This is the same paper that had Walter Duranty writing propaganda for the Soviet Union?
Humberto Fontova: Yes, and they’ve never gone back on that either. Ed Sullivan recanted. It’s interesting, one person was not fooled. When Castro visited the United States in 1959, the coverage was phenomenal – Mick Jagger gets less accolades. Castro went to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and got a standing ovation. This was at a time when the rebels first entered Havana and had abolished habeas corpus and Che Guevara says, judicial evidence is an “archaic bourgeois detail. We manufacture evidence. We execute from revolutionary conviction.” Reporters from the London Times and the New York Times were seeing death sentences issued, put up on the walls, before the trials were even held. This was going on in Havana. And Castro is in the United States and he gets invited as the guest of honor to address Harvard Law School! And he got a thundering, standing ovation.
Cybercast News Service: The man who gave his sanction to show trials in Cuba was being applauded at Harvard?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. Judicial evidence is “an archaic detail” and he abandoned habeas corpus, and he gets a standing ovation. Another guy who was duped was the Latin American expert, the CIA’s chief Latin American expert met with Castro during that trip and came away saying, gosh, Castro’s not only not a communist, he’s a strong anti-communist fighter and we’re going to start sharing our intelligence with him in a joint anti-communist fight throughout Latin America. That was a guy named Frank Bender.
But shortly after that Castro had a meeting with Vice President Richard Nixon. And you should not be surprised to find that the first man to see through Alger Hiss was also the first man to see through Fidel Castro. Nixon had Castro’s number from day one. Right from that meeting, Nixon went to see President Eisenhower and started to plant the seeds for a plan that came to be known as the Bay of Pigs.
Cybercast News Service: In your book you suggest that Castro had a hand in the demise of Guevara in Bolivia. Can you explain that?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. By that time, Che Guevara had become a nuisance. A live Che Guevara was no longer useful to Fidel Castro. The regime had been consolidated. The population had been cowed, exiled, jailed or murdered. The Soviet subsidies were pouring in. Castro didn’t need a main jailer and executioner. Plus, Che Guevara had completely destroyed the Cuban economy when he was appointed Minister of Industries.
Some people like to attribute that to communist “mismanagement.” No, no, no. What they don’t understand is that Cuba is the one country in history that went from capitalist prosperity to communism. So, it’s not like Castro and Che Guevara and Raul Castro didn’t know what capitalism looked like. Look at China, the Soviet Union, North Korea. Communism took over in those countries when they were ravaged by civil wars or world wars or both, completely ravaged. In Cuba, they knew what capitalism was and they had to uproot it because any capitalist was a rival to them.
So, after Che Guevara was used by Castro to eliminate, physically, real and potential enemies, Castro used Che to destroy the Cuban economy. But Che went a little overboard. Even the Soviets finally put their foot down because they were bankrolling the mess.
Cybercast News Service: What sort of policies was Che implementing?
Humberto Fontova: Massive nationalization. Rene Dumont, a French socialist economist, went to Cuba to advise the regime and told them, good grief, you’ve done more radicalization, more nationalization in two years than the Chinese revolution did in eight years. They were nationalizing everything, stealing all private property, turning farms into state farms – and that naturally would get rid of any potential capitalist rival. This was accomplished by 1964-65. And Che Guevara had made such a mess of it, the Soviets told Castro “enough!” They told him to remove Che Guevara, to lay him off, do something else with him. The Soviet Union poured the equivalent of eight Marshall Plans into Cuba. Think about it: One Marshall Plan, $9 billion, sent to war-raved Europe with 300 million people, and it worked. Eight of these plans, $72 billion, sent to Cuba, a country of 6.5 million people, who formerly had a better per capita income than half of Europe, and the place is poorer than Haiti today. That defies not just the laws of economics but also the laws of physics.
The Soviets refused to bankroll the mess anymore. That’s when Che Guevara gave a famous anti-Soviet speech. He hinted at it while at the United Nations and then gave a more anti-Soviet speech in Algeria. He was criticizing the Soviets because they refused to bankroll him anymore because he was such a complete incompetent. Then Che Guevara went to the Congo, and screwed up miserably there. He then went back to Cuba and then went to Bolivia.
As far as Castro having a hand in Che’s demise in Bolivia, I got this information from as primary a source as possible: the Cuban-American CIA head, who led the team that was helping capture Che in Bolivia, Mario Riveron. He told me that the Bolivian Communist Party was feeding information to him about Che’s whereabouts. The head of the Bolivian Communist Party, Mario Monje, had received direct orders from Fidel Castro. The orders from Castro for when Che gets there? “Not even an aspirin.” In other words, if Che gets in trouble, even a headache, don’t help him. This information came to me from the chief of the CIA team.
Cybercast News Service: So Guevara followed in the path of so many other communists, betrayed by his own comrades?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. And that is when the propaganda blitz started, when Che Guevara was safely sleeping with the fishes. That was in 1967. And then in 1968 you saw all the campus protests in the U.S. and Europe and all the Che Guevara banners being carried around. Early 1968, Castro’s propaganda ministry started propagating the Che hero – 1968 was the “Year of the Heroic Guerilla” in Cuba. Ta da! All of a sudden, Che is a wonderful guy, and his name became much more useful to Cuba, more useful dead than alive.
Cybercast News Service: It’s amazing how effectively propaganda can influence people.
Humberto Fontova: Yes. But AT&T buckled. Target buckled. And here’s our next one: eBay. They have a policy where they don’t allow items that promote hate. So, I’m going to try to sell a David Duke t-shirt on eBay. Now, David Duke has not killed anybody. David Duke has not even advocated the killing of people or the mass jailing of people. But watch, I won’t be allowed to sell a David Duke t-shirt. Yet a man who actually with his own hands murdered boys, and thousands under his tutelage were murdered, and who co-founded a regime that incarcerated per capita more than Stalin, it’s perfectly okay to sell him. There are dozens of Che items on eBay.
Cybercast News Service: Can you tell me about your cousin Pedro and what happened to him?
Humberto Fontova: Yes. He was beaten to death under questioning. I don’t want to over-do the situation. The fact is that my family, our family, got off very well compared to the tens of thousands of other Cuban families. When you consider the death toll, total, for the Cuban revolution – executions, drownings, death by beatings – the total comes to 102,000. If you could pin these horrors on any other regime besides Castro’s, you’d have endless books and HBO movies and everything else.
My cousin Pedro was not an armed terrorist. He was a Catechism teacher. He was known to speak against the regime, as the Catholic Church in 1961 was critical of the regime. Pedro was not real discreet in his Catechism classes, and that got him in trouble. This was not unique; it was happening all over Cuba. He was 23 when he was killed. Some of the Bay of Pigs veterans were 16 and 17 years old. Tens of thousands of freedom fighters in Castro’s jails were in their late teens and early 20s. The vast majority of the men executed by the Castro regime were probably under 25 years old.
Cybercast News Service: Besides the book tour, how else are you spreading the facts about Guevara?
Humberto Fontova: Well, on August 2nd I’ll be speaking at the Young American Foundation http://students.yaf.org/conferences/college/index.cfm">conference at George Washington University, and on August 1st I’ll be speaking on Capitol Hill to members of Congress about these matters. And the cool thing is that YAF is sponsoring a college tour for me and my book in the fall. Can you think of a more appropriate audience? We’re putting a poster together of Che Guevara’s face in the center surrounded by at least 200 smaller pictures of the men and boys who were executed.
Cybercast News Service: Any final words about Che Guevara?
Humberto Fontova: He is the Ringo Starr of revolutionaries. It has dawned on me that what I have written is actually an inspirational book and that what I give are inspirational talks. Because if Che Guevara – a coward, a sadist, an imbecile – can see his picture become the most widely reproduced picture of the century, then folks, there’s hope for all of us. It is astounding that a man who was so completely worthless should become so idolized. And that only happened because he hooked up with Fidel Castro, the most effective propagandist in modern history – and he’s still at it.
Michael Moore’s movie SiCKO is a perfect example of it. Nothing has changed. Did you know that the Havana hospital that Michael Moore visited in SiCKO is now offering tourist tours, medical tours, for people to come see the “marvels” of Cuban medicine. They’re even offering discount breast implants now. Perfect proof of what I said. It is still going on. People still swallow whatever comes out of Castro’s mouth as if it were gospel.
Cybercast News Service: So, Michael Moore is a “useful idiot?”
Humberto Fontova: Not really. He’s not stupid. I think Michael Moore knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s propagandizing. I don’t think he believed what they told him. As a matter of fact, you know who he interviewed in SiCKO at the Havana hospital? Che Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara. Obviously, this spontaneous visit to the hospital and who should Moore come across but Che Guevara’s daughter, huh? Is there the slightest chance that this encounter was arranged? I don’t think Michael Moore believed what he was told, but what he was told was used to bash the United States, so he used it.
Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him (Sentinel/Penguin Group, 2007)