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Monday, February 24, 2014

Viva Che Guevara, But Watch Out for Gary Prado: Conversations With a General

Bolivia's military has few heroes. One of them is Gen. Gary Prado, 75, who commanded the battalion that captured Ernesto (Che) Guevara in the mountains of Bolivia in 1967. For the second time in three years, I met him at his home in Santa Cruz.

Prado has been in a wheelchair since being shot in the spine by a right-wing fanatic some 30+ years ago. He is one of several dozen Bolivians accused by the government of Evo Morales of being involved in a plot five years ago to kill the president, the Roman Catholic archbishop and others in order to create a climate in which Santa Cruz Department could succeed from Bolivia. The case that brought the so-called "plot" to light was a massacre in the Hotel Las Americas in Santa Cruz in which an Irish lad, a Hungarian Croat and another man were shot in their beds as they, it was alleged, prepared to carry out the plot. All of that is nonsense, of course. But the trial has been going for more than four years, and likely will last much longer.

Prado, who is under house arrest, continues to give classes in International Relations at a local university. We talked of the "plot," the trial, the chief prosecutor, who has resigned and is now accused of taking bribes, etc. But mostly we talked of Che Guevara, the guerrilla movement he led in 1967 and his death at the hands of Bolivian troops, aided by U.S. military advisers and one CIA agent named Rodriguez, the famous Rodriguez.

We spoke of the myth of Che Guevara as revolutionary hero, and of the involvement of Cuban agents in promoting the guerrilla, and then abandoning the guerrillas. Prado has agreed to collaborate on a book on the death of Che. 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of his death. It's well past time for English readers that we de-mythologize the image of Che. Vamos.

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