“Groovy Name, Groovy Man, Groovy Politics!”
~ Benicio del Toro on Che Guevara
"Del Toro was fascinated with Che Guevara from the first time he heard his name mentioned in the Rolling Stones song Indian Girl," reads the introduction to an interview with Benicio del Toro last month in Britain’s The Guardian." Of course he found himself fascinated by Ernesto Che Guevara — he loved the Stones, and Emotional Rescue was the first album he’d bought. “I hear of this guy and he’s got a cool name. Che Guevara!” Del Toro as good as swoons when he says it. "Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics!"
“So I went to a library and I was looking at books, and I came across a picture by René Burri of Che, smiling, in fatigues, I thought, ‘Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!’ “
Well, there you have it. What’s next? Probably a YouTube featuring a weeping, wailing Benicio del Toro titled: "Leave Che Alone!"
Del Toro, who glorifies Che in a current movie, compared him (favorably) to Jesus Christ in an interview with Spain’s El Pais, and to whom he dedicated his Cannes Film Festival "Best Actor" award, speaks for millions of Che groupies. “Che Guevara has given rise to a cult of almost religious hero worship among radical intellectuals and students across much of the Western world,” proclaimed Time magazine in May 1968. "With his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, Che is the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious ’60s.”
“1968 actually began in 1967 with the murder of Che,” recounts Christopher Hitchens. “His death meant a lot to me, and countless like me, at the time. He was a role model.”
In a famous speech in 1961 Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates” commanded Guevara. “Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service.”
And woe to those youths “who stayed up late at might and thus reported to work (government forced-labor) tardily.” Youth, wrote Guevara, ” should learn to think and act as a mass.” “Those who chose their own path” (as in growing long hair and listening to Yankee-Imperialist Rock & Roll) were denounced as worthless “lumpen” and “delinquents.” In his famous speech Che Guevara even vowed, “to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!”
Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara’s admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Che Guevara the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 60’s, found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid 60’s the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” in bold letters above the gate and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.
Today the world’s largest image of the man Benicio del Toro honors on screen and in multiple interviews, adorns Cuba’s headquarters for it’s KGB-trained secret police, a gang of Communist sadists who jailed and tortured at a rate higher than Stalin’s own KGB and GRU.
"Rates," hardly tell the story however. Upon arriving in Havana on January of 1959 after an utterly bogus guerrilla war, Che Guevara immediately recognized the moat around Havana’s La Cabana fortress as a handy-dandy execution pit. At Babi-Yar Hitler’s SS had to dig one. Here Che Guevara had one ready made.
In 1961 a 20-year-old boy named Tony Chao Flores took his place at the execution stake, but he hobbled to it on crutches. He’d taken 17 bullets from their Czech machine guns when the Castroites captured him. On the way to the execution stake at the old Spanish fort turned to a prison and execution ground by Che Guevara, Tony was forced to hobble down some cobblestone stairs. Tony tumbled down the long row of steps and finally lay on the cobblestones at the bottom, writhing and grimacing. One of Tony’s bullet-riddled legs had been amputated at the hospital, the other was gangrened and covered in pus. The Castroite guards cackled as they moved in to gag Tony with their tape.
Tony watched them approach while balling his good hand into a fist. Then as the first Red reached him BASH!! right across his eyes.
“I’ll never understand how Tony survived that beating,” says eyewitness former political prisoner Hiram Gonzalez who watched from his window in la Cabana prison. The crippled Tony was almost killed in the kicking, punching, gun-bashing melee but finally his captors stood off, panting and rubbing their scrapes and bruises. They’d managed to tape the battered boys mouth, but Tony pushed the guards away before they bound his hands. Their commander nodded, motioning for them to back off.
Now Tony started crawling towards the splintered and blood-spattered execution stake about 50 yards away, pushing and dragging himself with his hands as his stump of a leg left a trail of blood on the grass. As he neared the stake he’d stop and start pounding himself in the chest. His executioners seemed perplexed. The crippled boy was trying to say something. But his message was muzzled by the gag del Toro’s idol made obligatory for his thousands of execution victims.
Tony’s blazing eyes and grimace said enough. But no one could understand the boy’s mumblings. Tony kept pushing himself, shutting his eyes tightly from the agony of the effort. His executioners shuffled nervously, raised their rifles, lowered them. They looked towards their commander who shrugged. Finally Tony reached up to his face and ripped off the tape Benicio del Toro’s pin-up boy required for his condemned.
The 20 year-old freedom-fighter’s voice boomed out. “Shoot me RIGHT HERE!” roared Tony at his gaping executioners. His voice thundered and his head bobbed with the effort. “Right in the CHEST!” Tony yelled. “Like a MAN!” Tony stopped and ripped open his shirt, pounding his chest and grimacing as his gallant executioners gaped and shuffled. “Right HERE!” he pounded.
On his last day alive, Tony had received a letter in jail from his mother. “My dear son,” she counseled. “How often I’d warned you not to get involved in these things. But I knew my pleas were vain. You always demanded your freedom, Tony, even as a little boy. So I knew you’d never stand for communism. Well, Castro and Che finally caught you. Son, I love you with all my heart. My life is now shattered and will never be the same, but the only thing left now, Tony . . . is to die like a man.”
“FUEGO!!” Che’s lackey yelled the command and the bullets shattered Tony’s crippled body, just as he’d reached the stake, lifted himself and stared resolutely at his murderers. But Che’s firing squads usually murdered a hero who was standing. The legless Tony presented an awkward target. So some of the volley went wild and missed the youngster. Time for the coup de grce.
Normally it’s one .45 slug that shatters the skull. Eyewitnesses say Tony required . . . POW!-POW! . . . POW! — three. Seems the executioner’s hands were shaking pretty badly. But they finally managed. The man Time magazine’s hails among the “heroes and icons of the Century” had another notch in his gun. Another enemy dispatched — bound and gagged as usual.
Castro and Che were in their mid-30s when they murdered Tony. According to the authoritative Black Book of Communism their firing squads riddled another 14,000 bound and gagged freedom-fighters. Many (perhaps most) of their murder victims were boys in their late-teens and early 20s. Some were even younger.
Compare Tony’s death to Guevara’s capture: “Don’t shoot!” whimpered the arch-assassin to his captors. “I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”
Then ask yourselves: whose face belongs on T-shirts worn by youth who fancy themselves, rebellious, freedom-loving and brave? Who deserves a Hollywood movie?
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit his website.