Thirty years ago, on October 8, 1967, gunfire echoed through a steep ravine of the Andes Mountains in southern Bolivia. The guerrilla band led by Ernesto “Che” Guevara – a chief lieutenant in the Sierra Maestra, author of a book on guerilla tactics, one-time president of Cuba's National Bank and later Minister of Industries under Castro, and who renounced his Cuban citizenship and set off to devote his services to the revolutionary cause in other lands – was pinned down and surrounded by U.S.-trained Bolivian Army Rangers. Less than a year earlier, Guevara and a team of cadres had secretly traveled from Cuba to Bolivia to launch a guerrilla war, hoping to topple Bolivia’s pro-U.S. military government. Guevara had gone up into the mountains with about 50 supporters. Within months they were discovered by Bolivian troops and an intense pursuit started. Trying to escape the government forces, Guevara divided his supporters into two groups, and was never able to reunite them. His diary records that, by late August, his group was exhausted, demoralized and down to 22 men. On August 31 the other group was ambushed and wiped out crossing a river. On September 26, Bolivian army units ambushed Che’s remaining forces near the isolated mountain huts of La Higuera. The guerrillas found no way out of the encirclement. Several died in the shooting. Guevara himself was wounded in the leg. He and two other fighters were captured on October 8 and taken to an old one-room schoolhouse in La Higuera. The next day, October 9, a helicopter flew in a man called “Felix Ramos” who wore the uniform of a Bolivian officer. “Ramos” took charge of the prisoner. Two hours later, Che Guevara and both other guerrillas were executed.
The weapons and equipment of the killers were American-made. The Bolivian officer who took Guevara prisoner had been trained at Fort Bragg – at a U.S. school for army coups, murder and counterinsurgency. And the man…