Ernesto Guevara, better known as Che, was a revolutionary leader in Cuba, Congo, and Bolivia.
Born in Argentina in 1928, Che Guevara was one of the main leaders of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that overthrew US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. After a period of leadership in the new Cuban government, he focused on supporting revolutionary activity in other countries, such as the Congo, and later in Bolivia. His stance against Western colonialism, imperialism, and hegemony became an inspiration for many around the world.

Sadly, when Guevara and other Cuban revolutionaries were in Bolivia to help topple the US-backed Bolivian government led by President René Barrientos, Che was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. One day later, on October 9 1967, he was executed.

In the book Who killed Che?, authors Ratner and Smith argue that, based on previously published government documents, the CIA played a critical role in his murder. Smith said: "According to the [US] government, 'it was the Bolivians who did it, we couldn't do anything about it.' That's not true. This whole operation was organized from the White House by Walt Whitman Rostow. And the CIA, by then, had become a paramilitary organization."

As for the significance of Che, Ratner says he was "a symbol for revolutionary change... He still remains, of course, that today. If you go to Occupy Wall Street, if you go to Tahrir Square, you will see people who are wearing Che T-shirts, because they understand that their obligation, their necessity, is to take on the 1 percent. And that's what Che was about. And that's why I think he remains such a hero for people in the streets today."

As previously mentioned, Che not only stood up for people's rights in Latin America, but reached out to nations outside this region that were oppressed by Western powers. As Evo Morales, current President of Bolivia, said: "I like Che because he fought for equality, for justice. He did not just care for ordinary people; he made their struggle his own." One such struggle was that of the Congolese in central Africa.

Cuba, Soviet Union, and China supported resistance against Western imperialism in the Congo


Forced labour in the former Belgian colony Congo has, even though the exact numbers are somewhat disputed, contributed to the death of approximately 20-50% of the colony’s population.
In the late 19th century, Belgium took control of the African country for its own interests, and named it the 'Belgian Congo'. Southern parts of the Congo were particularly rich in natural resources, including copper, cobalt, diamond, gold, and uranium. Belgian mining company Union Minière du Haut-Katanga siphoned off vast profits to Europe.

Conditions in the Congo soon became unbearable due to forced labour, mandatory cultivation, starvation, and brutal treatment by the visiting white 'civilizers'. As a result, Between 1880 and 1920, the Congolese population decreased from 20 million to 10 million.

Despite Belgium's chief psychopath, King Leopold II, handing over control of the Congo to the Belgian government in 1908, the forced labour system continued until the 1920s. The population was shrinking at such a high rate, if the system was left unchanged, there would be no labour force left.

As time went on, conditions slightly improved in the 1940s and 1950s, leading to the development of a new middle class of Europeanised African "évolués" (literally, 'evolved') in the cities. During the 50s an African nationalist movement developed among Congolese évolués.

Three popular African nationalist parties were: ABAKO, led by Joseph Kasa-Vubu; CONAKAT, led by Moise Tshombe; and MNC-L led by Patrice Lumumba. Of these three key party figures, Lumumba had the Congo's best interests at heart. The Belgian government organised Congolese elections in May 1960, and with voter turnout of 81.8%, the MNC-L won most seats. The Congo became independent on 30 June that same year, with executive power shared between Prime Minister Lumumba and President Kasa-Vubu.

Lumumba strongly opposed Belgian colonialism, as he expressed in his speech at the ceremony of the proclamation of the Congo's independence:

PM Lumumba's speech at the Palais de la Nation in Léopoldville (the capital of the Belgian colony of Congo, before it was renamed Kinshasa in 1966) on 30 June 1960
[...] We have experienced forced labour in exchange for pay that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe ourselves, to have decent lodgings or to bring up our children as dearly loved ones.

Morning, noon and night we were subjected to jeers, insults and blows because we were 'negroes'. Who will ever forget that the black was addressed as "tu", not because he was a friend, but because the polite "vous" was reserved for the white man?

We have seen our lands seized in the name of ostensibly just laws, which gave recognition only to the right of might.

We have not forgotten that the law was never the same for the white and the black, that it was lenient to the one, and cruel and inhuman to the other.

We have experienced the atrocious sufferings, being persecuted for political convictions and religious beliefs, and exiled from our native land: our lot was worse than death itself.

We have not forgotten that in the cities the mansions were for the whites and the tumbledown huts for the blacks; that a black was not admitted to the cinemas, restaurants and shops set aside for "Europeans"; that a black travelled in the holds, under the feet of the whites in their luxury cabins.

Who will ever forget the shootings which killed so many of our brothers, or the cells into which were mercilessly thrown those who no longer wished to submit to the regime of injustice, oppression and exploitation used by the colonialists as a tool of their domination?

All that, my brothers, brought us untold suffering. [...]
Unfortunately, he was too naive in thinking that Belgium had learned its "lesson of history and need no longer try to oppose our independence [and] is prepared to give us its aid and friendship". A monstrous entity that has looted a country for so many years, and enslaved and killed millions of its citizens, will not so easily let go of it.

Soon after the proclamation of independence, racial violence increased in the country. This led to Belgium deploying paratroopers, without the permission of the Congolese government, ostensibly to 'save' the 'whites'. While President Kasa-Vubu welcomed the paratroopers, Lumumba opposed Belgian meddling in the unrest because its 'humanitarian intervention' cost the lives of many civilians and only aggravated the situation.

© Wikipedia
Map of the Congo in 1961
Meanwhile, Tshombe, leader of CONAKAT, declared the Congo's southern province of Katanga independent, with himself as President. Less than a month later, a section of the region of Kasai situated slightly to the north of Katanga (see image to the right) also declared its autonomy from the central government, with its President being Kolanji. Both areas are mineral-rich and, unsurprisingly, Belgium supported both secessions. Lumumba however, was less happy with these developments because they did not serve the interests of the Congolese people.

The UN was unwilling to provide help suppressing the secessionist states, causing Lumumba to turn to the Soviet Union for help instead, and it agreed.

At this point the US let it be known that it didn't want the Congo becoming a Soviet 'client state'. Knowing that the country was rich in natural resources, particularly uranium, there was no way the US would allow any partnership to form between the Congo and the Soviet Union.

As journalist William Blum wrote in his book Killing Hope:
Into this disorder the Western powers were 'naturally' drawn, principally Belgium to protect its vast mineral investments, and the United States, mindful of the fabulous wealth as well, and obsessed, as usual, with fighting 'communism'.

Successive American administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, looking through Cold War binoculars, perceived an East-West battleground. The CIA station in the Congo cabled Washington in August to report that, "Embassy and station believe Congo experiencing classic communist effort [to] takeover government." CIA Director Allen Dulles warned of a "communist takeover of the Congo with disastrous consequences ... for the interests of the free world".

At the same time, Dulles authorized a crash-program fund of up to $100,000 to replace the existing government of Patrice Lumumba with a "pro-western group'."
As expected, with the help and support of the West and the UN, Lumumba was removed from power. He was placed under house arrest, escaped, but was captured soon after. While the Soviets demanded his release, Lumumba was tortured and transported to Katanga. He was executed by Katangese troops on 17 January 1961.

Fast-forwarding in time to 1964, Congolese rebels seeking equality, the "Simbas", fought against the imperialist puppet-government led by Tshombe. They founded a state called the People's Republic of the Congo in the northern part of the country. The new state was supported by Cuba, the Soviet Union and China, which supplied it with arms. Che Guevara arrived in the Congo with a team of over 100 advisors to train and lead the Simbas.

Che Guevara seen here in the Congo.
Even with the support of those countries however, the Simbas were defeated by the CIA-supported Katangese mercenaries and Belgian paratroopers dropped from American aircraft. After bloody Western assaults on the Simbas and Congolese civilians, Mobutu, a military dictator and imperialist puppet, ruled the Congo for years to come. As is the case with most US puppets, Mobutu was a true psychopath:
Mobutu, with the backing of the military, again removed the two politicians [Tshombe and Kasa-Vubu] and took control of the country, becoming president in 1965. This time he outlawed political parties, identifying them as the root of the nation's problems. He founded the MPR (the Mouvement populaire de la revolution), the only legal political party, and of which all citizens were members.

In the end, what he achieved during his over 30 years in power was an all-pervasive cult of personality and a police state. Like most dictators, he lived lavishly as large numbers of his people suffered in crippling poverty. He took complete control of the media, which allowed him to constantly bombard the populace with political rhetoric and praise for his benevolence and wisdom through radio, TV, and the newspapers. Looking upon his people as 'children', he admitted to controlling the media in his nation, calling it "an excellent vehicle for educating the masses," and added a warning: "The people must not be left to the mercy of the media, which over time and without their knowledge may sow the seeds of strife and discord." - Source
So, coming back to CIA Director Dulles' warning of a "communist takeover of the Congo with disastrous consequences for the interests of the free world," it's clear that what really took place was an American-Belgian takeover, with disastrous consequences for the interests of the free world. The role the Soviets played was that of providing help when it was asked for. The real interests that were served here were not those of the Congolese, much less of 'the free world', but of a few greedy Western warmongers.

Guevara's speech in 1964

As head of the Cuban delegation, Guevara addressed the United Nations in New York on 11 December 1964. He expressed strong criticism against the actions of the UN in the Congo, and their reticence against apartheid in South Africa. Here's a short clip of his speech - in Spanish with English subtitles:

This is what Che had to say on the situation in the Congo:
I would like to refer specifically to the painful case of the Congo, unique in the history of the modern world, which shows how, with absolute impunity, with the most insolent cynicism, the rights of peoples can be flouted. The direct reason for all this is the enormous wealth of the Congo, which the imperialist countries want to keep under their control. In the speech he made during his first visit to the United Nations, compañero Fidel Castro observed that the whole problem of coexistence among peoples boils down to the wrongful appropriation of other peoples' wealth. He made the following statement: "End the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will be ended as well."

But the philosophy of plunder has not only not been ended, it is stronger than ever. And that is why those who used the name of the United Nations to commit the murder of Lumumba are today, in the name of the defense of the white race, murdering thousands of Congolese. How can we forget the betrayal of the hope that Patrice Lumumba placed in the United Nations? How can we forget the machinations and maneuvers that followed in the wake of the occupation of that country by UN troops, under whose auspices the assassins of this great African patriot acted with impunity? How can we forget, distinguished delegates, that the one who flouted the authority of the UN in the Congo — and not exactly for patriotic reasons, but rather by virtue of conflicts between imperialists — was Moise Tshombe, who initiated the secession of Katanga with Belgian support? And how can one justify, how can one explain, that at the end of all the United Nations' activities there, Tshombe, dislodged from Katanga, should return as lord and master of the Congo? Who can deny the sad role that the imperialists compelled the United Nations to play?

To sum up: dramatic mobilizations were carried out to avoid the secession of Katanga, but today Tshombe is in power, the wealth of the Congo is in imperialist hands — and the expenses have to be paid by the honorable nations. The merchants of war certainly do good business! That is why the government of Cuba supports the just stance of the Soviet Union in refusing to pay the expenses for this crime.

And as if this were not enough, we now have flung in our faces these latest acts that have filled the world with indignation. Who are the perpetrators? Belgian paratroopers, carried by U.S. planes, who took off from British bases. We remember as if it were yesterday that we saw a small country in Europe, a civilized and industrious country, the Kingdom of Belgium, invaded by Hitler's hordes. We were embittered by the knowledge that this small nation was massacred by German imperialism, and we felt affection for its people. But this other side of the imperialist coin was the one that many of us did not see. Perhaps the sons of Belgian patriots who died defending their country's liberty are now murdering in cold blood thousands of Congolese in the name of the white race, just as they suffered under the German heel because their blood was not sufficiently Aryan. Our free eyes open now on new horizons and can see what yesterday, in our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that "Western Civilization" disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals. That is the only name that can be applied to those who have gone to fulfill such "humanitarian" tasks in the Congo. A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples. That is what imperialism does to men. That is what distinguishes the imperial "white man."

All free men of the world must be prepared to avenge the crime of the Congo. Perhaps many of those soldiers, who were turned into sub-humans by imperialist machinery, believe in good faith that they are defending the rights of a superior race. In this Assembly, however, those peoples whose skins are darkened by a different sun, colored by different pigments, constitute the majority. And they fully and clearly understand that the difference between men does not lie in the color of their skin, but in the forms of ownership of the means of production, in the relations of production. The Cuban delegation extends greetings to the peoples of Southern Rhodesia and South-West Africa, oppressed by white colonialist minorities; to the peoples of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, French Somaliland, the Arabs of Palestine, Aden and the Protectorates, Oman; and to all peoples in conflict with imperialism and colonialism. We reaffirm our support to them. [...]

In adding our voice to that of all the peoples of the world who ask for general and complete disarmament, the destruction of all nuclear arsenals, the complete halt to the building of new thermonuclear devices and of nuclear tests of any kind, we believe it necessary to also stress that the territorial integrity of nations must be respected and the armed hand of imperialism held back, for it is no less dangerous when it uses only conventional weapons. Those who murdered thousands of defenseless citizens of the Congo did not use the atomic bomb. They used conventional weapons. Conventional weapons have also been used by imperialism, causing so many deaths.
Sanity in an insane world

The 'hyenas' and 'jackals' that Che spoke about are still at work today. They are psychopaths, individuals who pose as humans but have no conscience. While a normal person seeks solidarity, equality, and fairness, the psychopath is always looking for power and control - and will do whatever it takes to get it. Che realized that the Congo, for example, was a land of wealth that was plundered by Western leaders who couldn't care less for the local population. Che stood up for the Congo, Bolivia, Cuba, and others. He stood up for the rights of man.

His ideas and determination were inspirational to many. Former and current leaders such as the late President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, the current President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro, President of Bolivia Evo Morales, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, and President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega, are striving for a better world, one that Che had in mind. In almost every revival of revolutionary movements in Latin America in the last forty years, traces of 'Guevarismo' can be found. As human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú said, "In these present times when, for many, ethics and other profound moral values are seen to be so easily bought and sold, the example of Che Guevara takes on an even greater dimension."

A neighborhood with supporters of Chávez. (Che Guevara :) we will NEVER return to the past-until victory always.

Putin and Che Guevara posters in the streets of Tiraspol, Transnistria
Today we see similarities between Che and Putin. During the last United Nations General Assembly in New York, Putin gave a strong speech in which it became clear that Russia will make short work of US imperialist plans. The destruction, looting and impoverishment of nations cannot continue. As Putin said during his speech: "after the end of the Cold War, the world was left with one center of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done."

This single center of domination is the US and its European suitors. It's too early to say for certain, but it seems that Russia has beaten them at their 'game' in the Middle East. From here, it might not be long before Western influence is finally eradicated from war-torn places like the Congo and its people can finally live and prosper in peace. It's good-natured leaders like Che, Lumumba, Putin, and others of like-mind who give us inspiration and hope of a better future.

In the words of Che Guevara: "¡Hasta la victoria siempre!" ("Until victory, always!")