By: Pablo Illuzzi
50 years ago, on October 9th 1967, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was captured and executed by the Bolivian Army, with support of the CIA, in La Higuera, Bolivia, a small town lost in the Bolivian forest.
There are a lot of truths, lies, and misunderstandings about el Che Guevara, but between all of them, I believe there are 2 key truths about Ernesto Guevara. These truths are relevant for us as future global leaders, regardless of political affiliation, and can help shed light on the dynamics of political leadership.
The first truth is that he was martyrized. Almost everyone thinks that they know something about el Che. Looking at his famous picture “Guerrillero Heróico” taken by Alberto Korda in 1960, we think that we know who he was. He was martyrized by the people who supported him, but also by his opponents in Latin America, as well as in the United States (even though this wasn’t the original intention).
Most people have a “socially transmitted” opinion on him. Someone can like him because of his “rebellious” character and his “revolutionary cause” in Latin America, or detest him because of his communist affiliation and his participation in creating the Cuban totalitarian regime.
I labeled these kind of opinions as “socially transmitted” simply because, it’s not based on people reading his biography, or his speeches, or judging work during his time as a Minister of Industry or Finance.
The second truth is that he was a true political leader (Please, before you start looking to tackle me at the Winter Garden, keep reading until you get my point).
Ernesto Guevara’s political ideas and actions were born from his own experience and had a true and pure motivation. He was highly educated, an avid reader, writer, and poet. He left his upper-class comfort zone in Buenos Aires to try to eliminate poverty and inequality. He met Fidel Castro in Mexico and saw in him a political ally, engaging himself in the Cuban revolutionary cause.
He was committed to his cause, not to build power. Once the Cuban State was founded and his agrarian redistribution finished, he left Cuba. He didn’t stay to enjoy the benefits and the power, he left again for his ideals. He left because he didn’t agree with Cuban political submission to the Soviet Union. Guevara saw the Soviet Union as an exploiter of Asian and African countries, as he saw the United States as an exploiter of Latin America. El Che was committed to keep the fight alive against inequality.
Today’s politicians move from power to power. We’ve seen both right and left-wing populist governments end stealing his people’s resources and being judged for corruption while not improving countries’ macroeconomic metrics.
He once said that if he was born in the United States, he would probably be marching with Martin Luther King Jr. Maybe if commitment to people instead to power characterized political classes around the world, there will be less poverty and inequality. Perhaps La Revolución isn’t over yet.