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Tuesday, June 23, 2015


OCTOBER 17, 1997: In a ceremony Attended by Fidel Castro and Thousands of Cubans, Che Guevara is reburied at His memorial (above) in Santa Clara, Cuba.
Photo: Mike Shess, Pillar to Post, 2015
Editor's note: originally posted this report on June 23, 2015 with many typographical errors.  It is reposted here with better editing. Our apologies. 

A CHRONOLOGY 1965-1967
E rnesto "Che" Guevara was killed by Bolivian Army forces on October 9, 1967.   Several years ago, The National Security Archive's Cuba Documentation Project files posted electronically previously classified relating to Dr. Guevera and his death.   Reason for the declassification project was to shed light on the circumstances of Guevera's guerrilla foray into Bolivia and his death and burial.   The National Security Archive is located at George Washington University.

Pillar to Post Obtained an excerpt from the public domain. The entire project will be found in this file:

The following declassified briefing was compiled by Paola Evans, Kim Healey, Peter Kornbluh, Ramon Cruz and Hannah Elinson.

OCTOBER 3, 1965 : In a public speech, Fidel Castro reads a "Farewell" letter written by Che in April, in which Che resigns from all of his official positions within the Cuban government. The letter, Che, which apparently intended never to be made ​​public, states that "I have the brilliant part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban revolution ... and I say goodbye to you, to the comrades, to your people, who are now mine. " (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "Castro and Communism: The Cuban Revolution in Perspective," 5/9/66).

OCTOBER 18, 1965 : A CIA Intelligence Memorandum discusses what analysts perceive as Che Guevara's fall from power within the Cuban government beginning in 1964. It states That at the end of 1963, Guevara's plan of "rapid industrialization and centralization during the first years of the Revolution brought the economy to the lowest point since Castro came to power. " "Guevara's outlook, which approximated present -day Chinese - rather than Soviet - economic practice, was behind the controversy." In July 1964, "two cabinet important appointments signaled the internal power struggle over economic policy which culminated in Guevara's elimination." That was another conflict Guevara wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa, while "other Cuban leaders to devote their attention to the internal problems of the Revolution." In December, 1964, Guevara departed on a three-month trip to the United States, Africa, and China. When he returned to Cuba, according to the CIA report, his economic and foreign policies were in disfavor and he left Cuba to start revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world. (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution," 10/18/65).

FALL 1966: Che Guevara arrives in Bolivia sometime between the second week of September and the first of November of 1966, According to different sources. He enters the country with forged Uruguayan passports to organize and lead a communist guerrilla movement. Che chooses Bolivia as the revolutionary base for various reasons. First, Bolivia is of lower priority than Caribbean Basin Countries to US security interests and poses a less immediate threat, "... the Yankees would not concern themselves ...." Second, Bolivia's social conditions and poverty are such that Bolivia is considered susceptible to revolutionary ideology. Finally, Bolivia shares a border with five other countries, which would allow the revolution to spread easily if the guerrillas are successful. 

SPRING 1967 : From March to August of 1967, Che Guevara and his guerrilla band strike "pretty much at will" against the Bolivian Armed Forces, which totals about 20,000 men. The guerrillas lose only one man compared with 30 of the Bolivians during these six months. 

APRIL 28, 1967 : General Ovando of the Bolivian Armed Forces, and the US Army Section signed a memorandum of understanding with regard to the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Bolivian Army "which clearly define the terms of US-Bolivian cooperation in the Armed Forces activation, organization, and training of esta unit. "

MAY 11, 1967: Walt Rostow, presidential advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson, sends a message to the President saying that I have received the first credible report that "Che" Guevara is alive and operating in South America, although more evidence is needed. 

JUNE 1967: Cuban-American CIA agent Felix Rodriguez receives a phone call from a CIA officer, Larry S., who proposes a special assignment for him in South America in which he will use his skills in unconventional warfare, counter-guerrilla operations and communications. The assignment is to assist the Bolivians in tracking down and capturing Che Guevara and his band. His partner will be "Eduardo González" and Rodriguez is to use the cover name "Felix Ramos Medina." 

JUNE 26-30, 1967: Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin visits Cuba for discussions with Fidel Castro. According to a CIA intelligence cable, the primary purpose of his trip to Havana June 26-30, 1967 was to inform Castro concerning the Middle East Crisis.  A secondary but important reason for the trip was to discuss the subject of Castro with Cuban revolutionary activity in Latin America. The Soviet Premier criticizes the dispatch of Che Guevara to Bolivia and accuses Castro of harming the communist cause through his sponsorship of guerrilla activity and through providing support to various anti-government groups, which, although they claimed to be socialist or communist, were engaged in disputes with the legitimate Latin American communist parties: those favored by the USSR.  In reply Castro stated that Cuba will support the "right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of his country." (CIA Intelligence Information Cable, 10/17/67).

AUGUST 2, 1967: Rodriguez and Gonzalez arrive in La Paz, Bolivia. They are met by Their case officer, Jim, another CIA agent, and a Bolivian immigration officer. The CIA station in La Paz is run by John Tilton. Eventually the CIA's Guevara task force is joined by another anti-Castro Cuban-American agent, Gustavo Villoldo. (Rodríguez: 1, 162).

AUGUST 31, 1967: The Bolivian army scores its first victory against the guerrillas, wiping out one-third of Che's men. Jose Castillo Chavez, also known as Paco, is captured and the guerrillas are forced to retreat. Che's health begins to deteriorate. 

SEPTEMBER 3, 1967: Felix Rodriguez with Major Arnaldo Saucedo flies from Santa Cruz to Vallegrande to interrogate Paco. (Rodríguez: 1, 167).

SEPTEMBER 15, 1967: The Bolivian Government air-drops leaflets offering a cash
reward for the capture of Che Guevara. (New York Times 9/16/67).

SEPTEMBER 18, 1967: Fifteen members of a Communist group, who were providing supplies to the guerrillas in the southeastern jungles of Bolivia, are arrested. (NYT 9/19/67).

SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Che's guerrillas arrive at Alto Seco village in Bolivia. Inti Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla, lectures the villagers on the objectives of the guerrilla movement. The group leaves later that night after purchasing a large amount of food. [other accounts of Che's grocery shopping are that the guerrillas took the food without paying for it after discovering that the local authorities in Alto Seco have left to inform the army about the guerrilla's position.] 

SEPTEMBER 22, 1967: Arze Guevara, the Bolivian Foreign Minister, provides evidence to the Organization of American States to prove that Che Guevara is indeed leading the guerrilla operations in Bolivia. Excerpts taken from captured documents, Including comparisons of handwriting, fingerprints and photographs, suggests that the guerrillas are comprised of Cubans, Peruvians, Argentineans and Bolivians. The foreign minister's presentation draws to loud applause from the Bolivian audience, and gives his assurance that "we're not going to let anybody steal our country away from us. Nobody, at any time." (NYT 9/23/67).

SEPTEMBER 24, 1967 : Che and his men arrive, exhausted and sick, at Loma Larga, a ranch close to Alto Seco. All but one of the peasants flee upon Che's arrival. 

SEPTEMBER 26, 1967 : In the morning, the guerrillas move to the village of La Higuera and immediately notice that all the men are gone. The villagers had been previously been warned the guerrillas were in the area and they should send any information to Bolivian authorities (Vallegrande). The remaining villagers tell the guerrillas that most of the people are at a celebration in a neighboring town called Jahue. 

By 1pm as Che's mens are about to depart La Higuera for Jahue, the rebels hear shots coming from the road and are forced to stay in the village and defend themselves. Three guerrillas are killed in the gun battle: Roberto (Coco) Peredo, a Bolivian guerrilla leader, who was one of Che's most important men; "Antonio," believed to be Cuban; and "Julio," likely a Bolivian. Che orders his men to evacuate the village along a road leading to Rio Grande. That day Bolivian army high command and the government consider this encounter a significant victory. Che notes in his diary that his rebel cell suffered great losses in La Higuera.

CIA agent Felix Rodriguez, under the alias "Captain Ramos," urges Bolivian Colonel Zenteno to move his Rangers battalion headquarters from La Esperanza to Vallegrande. The death of Antonio, Che's vanguard commander [aka Miguel Rodriguez] prompts CIA's Rodriguez to close in because Che must be close by. Colonel Zenteno argues that the battalion has not yet finished its training, but he will move them as soon as training is complete. Convinced that he knows Che's next move, Rodriguez pressures Zenteno to order the 2nd Ranger battalion into combat. (Rodríguez: 1, 184).

SEPTEMBER 26-27, 1967: After the battle of La Higueras, the Ranger Battalion sets up a screening force along the river San Antonio to prevent exfiltration of the guerrilla force. During the mission, the troops captures a guerrilla known as "Gamba." I appears to be in poor health and is poorly clothed. This produces an immediate effect on the troops morale because they notice That the guerrillas are not as strong as they thought. "Gamba" says that he had separated from the group and was traveling in hope of contacting "Ramon" (aka Che Guevara). 
(Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67).

SEPTEMBER 29, 1967: Colonel Zenteno is finally persuaded by Rodriguez, and I moves the 2nd Ranger battalion to Vallegrande. Rodriguez joins these 650 men who have been trained by US Special Forces Major "Pappy" Shelton. (Rodríguez: 1, 184)

SEPTEMBER 30, 1967: Che and his group are trapped by the army in a jungle canyon in Valle Serrano, south of the Great River. (NYT 1/10/67)

OCTOBER 7, 1967 : The last entry in Che's diary is recorded exactly 11 months since the inauguration of the guerrilla movement. The guerrillas run into an old woman herding goats. They ask her if there are soldiers in the area but are unable to get any reliable information. Scared that she will report them, they pay her 50 pesos to keep quiet. In Che's diary it is noted that I have "little hope" that she will do so. (CIA Weekly Review, "The Diary Che Guevara," 12/15/67)

On the evening of 10/7/67, Che and his men stop to rest in a ravine in Quebrada del Yuro. 

OCTOBER 8, 1967: The troops receive information that there is a band of 17 guerrillas in the Churro Ravine. By morning, several companies of Bolivian Rangers are deployed through the area where Guevara's Guerrillas are located. They take up positions in the same ravine as the guerrillas.  A unit, all recent graduates of the US Army Special Forces training camp, confronts the guerrillas. Che's last battle begins in Quebrada del Yuro.  The Rangers entered the area and encountered a group of 6 to 8 guerrillas.  The Bolivians open fire, and kill two Cubans.  

However, "Ramon" (Guevara) and "Willy" (Simon Sarabia), a Bolivian miner, try to break out.  Soon Guevara is wounded in the leg several times. Sarabia picks up Che and tries to carry him away from the line of fire. The firing starts again and Che's beret is knocked off. Sarabia sits Che on the ground so he can return the fire. Encircled at less than ten yards distance, the Rangers concentrate their fire on the pair. Che attempts to keep firing, but can not keep firing his gun with only one arm. Che is hit again on his right leg, his gun is knocked out of his hand and his right forearm is pierced. As soldiers approach Che is reported to have shouted, "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead." The battle ends at approximately 3:30 pm Che is taken prisoner. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67)

Other sources claim that Sarabia is captured alive and he and Che are brought before Captain Prado. Captain Prado orders his radio operator to signal the divisional headquarters in Vallegrande informing them that they captured Che. The coded message sent is "Hello Saturn, We have Dad!" Saturn is the code for Colonel Joaquin Zenteno, commandant of the Eighth Bolivian Army Division, and Dad is code for Che. In disbelief, Colonel Zenteno asks the field commander to confirm the message. With confirmation "euphoria" erupts among the divisional headquarters staff. Colonel Zenteno radios for Che to be immediately transferred (with any other prisoners) to La Higuera. 

In Vallegrande, CIA's Felix Rodriguez receives the message over the radio: "Dad tired," which means Che is captured and wounded. (Rodríguez: 1, 185)

Stretched out on a blanket, Che is carried by soldiers to La Higuera, seven kilometers away. Sarabia is forced to walk with his hands tied behind his back. Just after dark the group arrives in La Higuera and both Che and Sarabia are put into the one-room schoolhouse. Later that night, five more guerrillas are brought in. 

A false report states that Che is killed in the clash in southeastern Bolivia. Other Army reports confirm the killing of Che and that the Bolivian army has his body. However, the army high command does not confirm that information. (NYT 10/10/67)

OCTOBER 9, 1967: Walt Rostow sends a memorandum to President Johnson with the  tentative information that the Bolivians have captured Che Guevara. The Bolivian unit engaged in the operation was the one that had been trained by the US. (Rostow 09/10/67)

OCTOBER 9, 1967: At 6:15 am: Felix Rodriguez arrives by helicopter in La Higuera, along With Colonel Joaquin Zenteno Anaya. Rodriguez brings in cameras used to photograph documents. Rodriguez quietly observe the scene in the schoolhouse, and records what he s ees, finding the situation "gruesome" with Che lying in dirt, his arms tied behind his back and his feet bound together, next to the bodies of his friends. He looks "like a piece of trash" with matted hair, torn clothes, and wearing only pieces of leather for shoes on his feet. In one interview, Rodriguez states that, "I had mixed emotions when I first arrived there. Here was the man who had killed many Bolivians. And nevertheless when I saw him, the way he looked, I felt really sorry for him. " (Rodriguez: 2)

Rodríguez sets up his radio and transmits a coded message to the CIA station in Either Peru or Brazil to be retransmitted to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Also Rodriguez starts to photograph Che's diary and other captured documents. Later, Rodríguez spends time talking with Che and takes a picture with him.  The photos are preserved by the CIA. (Anderson, 793; Rodríguez: 1, 193)

OCTOBER 9, 1967, Che Guevera is posed With
CIA agent Felix Rodriquez in Bolivia.
10 a.m.: The Bolivian officers are faced with the question of what to do with Che. The possibility of prosecuting him is ruled out because a trial would focus world attention on him and could generate sympathetic advertising for Che and for Cuba. It is concluded that Che must be executed immediately, but it is agreed upon that the official story is that he died from wounds received in battle. 

Felix Rodriguez receives a call from Vallegrande and is ordered by the High Command to conduct Operation Five Hundred and Six Hundred. Five hundred is the Bolivian code for Che and six hundred is the order to kill him. 

Rodriguez informs Colonel Zenteno of the Bolivian order, and also tells  tells him the US government has instructed him to keep Che alive at all costs. The CIA and the US government arranged have helicopters and airplanes to take Che to Panama for interrogation. However, Colonel Zenteno says he must obey orders and to leave the matter in the hands of the Bolivians. 

When a school teacher informs him she's heard a news report on Che's death on her radio, Rodriguez realizes he can not stall any longer.  Rodriguez enters the schoolhouse to tell Che of the orders from the Bolivian high command. Che Understands and says, "It is better like this ... I never should have been captured alive." Che gives Rodriguez a message for his wife and for Fidel. They embrace and Rodriguez leaves the room. 

According to one source, the top ranking officers in La Higuera instructed the noncommissioned officers to carry out the order and straws are drawn to determine who will execute Che. Just before noon, having drawn the shortest straw, Sergeant Jaime Teran goes to the schoolhouse to execute Che. Teran finds Che propped up against the wall and Che asks him to wait a moment until I stand up. Terán is frightened, runs away and is ordered back by Colonel Selich and Colonel Zenteno. "Still trembling" the sergeant returns to the schoolhouse and without looking at Che's face fires into his chest and side. Several soldiers, also wanting to shoot Che, enter the room and shoot him. 

Felix Rodriguez places the time of the shooting at 1:10 pm Bolivian time. (Rodriguez: 2)

OCTOBER 9, 1967: Early in the morning, the unit receives the order to execute Guevara and the other prisoners. Lt. Perez asks Che if I wishes anything before his execution. That Guevara replies I only wishes to "die with a full stomach." Perez asks him if Che is a "materialist" and Guevara answers only "perhaps." 

When Sgt. Teran (the executioner) enters the room, Guevara stands up with his hands tied and states, "I know what you have come for I am ready." Teran tells him to be seated and leaves the room for a few moments. While Teran was outside, Sgt. Huacka enters another small house, where "Willy" was being held, and shoots him. 

When Teran returns, Guevara stands up and refuses to be seated saying: "I will remain standing for this." Teran gets angry and tells Guevara to be seated again. Finally, Guevara tells him: "Know this now, you are killing a man." Teran fires his M2 Carbine Teran fires his M2 carbine and kills him. (Dept. of Defense Intelligence Information Report - 11/28/67).

Che's body is flown to Vallegrande by helicopter and later fingerprinted and embalmed. (NYT 11/10/67)

General Ovando, Chief of Bolivian Armed Forces, states that just before I died, Che Said, "I am Che Guevara and I have failed." 

October 10, 1967: Walt Rostow receives a memo saying that they do not know if Che Guevara was "among the casualties of the October 8 engagement." They think that there are no guerrilla survivors. By October 9, reports said they thought two guerrilla wounded and possibly one of them is Che. (W.G. Bowdler, The White House 10.10.67)

October 10, 1967: Two doctors at the Hospital Knights of Malta in Vallegrande, Bolivia, sign a death certificate for Che Guevara. The document states that "on October 9 at 5:30 pm, there arrived Ernesto Guevara Lynch, approximately 40 years of age, the cause of death Being multiple bullet wounds in the thorax and extremities. Preservative was applied to the body." On the same day, an autopsy reported multiple bullet wounds found in Guevara's body. "The cause of death," the autopsy report states, "was the thorax and consequent hemorrhaging wounds." (US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)

October 10, 1967: Bolivian General Ovando reported Che died the day before at 1:30 pm. That means Che lived for 22 hours after the battle in Quebrada del Yuro, which contradicted Colonel Zenteno's story. Colonel Zenteno later changes his story to support General Ovando's. 

The New York Times reports That the Bolivian Army High Command dispatches officially confirm that Che was killed in the battle on Sunday, October 8, 1967. General Ovando states Che admitted his identity and the failure of his guerrilla campaign before dying of his wounds. (NYT 10/10/67)

Ernesto Guevara, the father of Che, denies the death of his son stating that there is no evidence to prove the killing. (NYT 11/10/67)

October 11, 1967: General Ovando claims that Che's body is buried in the Vallegrande area. 

October 11, 1967: President Lyndon Johnson receives a memo from Walt W. Rostow: "This morning we are 99% sure that Che Guevara is dead." The memo informs the President that according to the CIA, Che was taken alive and after a short interrogation Bolivia ordered his execution. (Rostow, "Death of Che Guevara," 11/10/67)

Rostow added "the significant of Guevara's death marks the passing of another of the aggressive, romantic revolutionary...In the Latin American context, it will have a strong impact in discouraging would-be guerrillas. It shows the soundness of our 'preventive medicine' assistance to countries facing incipient insurgency. It was the Bolivian 2nd Ranger Battalion, trained by our Green Berets from June-September of this year, that cornered Che and got him ". (Rostow 10/11/67)

October 12, 1967 : Che's brother, Roberto, arrives in Bolivia to take the body back to Argentina. However, General Ovando tells him the body has been cremated. 

OCTOBER 13, 1967 : Walt Rostow informs President Johnson that intelligence information "removes any doubt that 'Che" Guevara is dead "(Rostow 10/13/67).

OCTOBER 14, 1967 : Annex No.3 - three Officials of the Argentine Federal Police, at the request of the Bolivian Government, visited Bolivian military headquarters in La Paz to help identification identify the handwriting and fingerprints of Che Guevara. "They Were shown a metal container in Which Were two amputated hands in a liquid solution, formaldehyde Apparently." The experts Compared the fingerprints With The ones in Guevara's Argentine identity record, No. 3,524,272, and They Were the same. (US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Airgram, 10/18/67)

 OCTOBER 14, 1967 : Students at Central University of Venezuela protest the US Involvement in Che's death. Demonstrations are organized against a US business, the home of a US citizen, the US Embassy and other targets like.

OCTOBER 15, 1967: Bolivian President Barrientos claims That Che's ashes are buried in a hidden place somewhere in the Vallegrande region. 

OCTOBER 18, 1967: The US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia SENDS an airgram to the Department of State With The Official Confirmation of Death of Che Guevara. (US Embassy, ​​La Paz, Bolivia, 10/18/97)

OCTOBER 18, 1967 : A CIA Cable highlights the errors leading to Guevara's defeat. There Were negative factors and tremendous errors involved in the defeat of the guerrillas in Bolivia.  Guerrillas did not get the widespread support of the peasant population.  Also internal bickering within the Communist factions in Bolivia were never overcome...The guerrilla failure in Bolivia is definitely a leadership failure ..." 

OCTOBER 18, 1967: Fidel Castro delivers a eulogy for Che Guevara to nearly a million people --one of his largest audiences ever - in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution. Castro proclaims that Che's life-long struggle against imperialism and his ideals will be the inspiration for future generations of revolutionaries. His life was a "glorious page of history" because of his extraordinary military accomplishments, and his unequaled combination of virtues which made ​​him an "artist in guerrilla warfare." Castro professed Che's murderers' will be disappointed when they realize the ideals Che lived for can not die." 

OCTOBER 19, 1967: Intelligence and Research's Cuba specialist, Thomas L. Hughes, writes a memorandum to Secretary of State, Dean Rusk. Hughes outlines two significant outcomes of Che Guevara's death that will affect Fidel Castro's future political strategies. One is that "Guevara will be eulogized as the model revolutionary who met a heroic death," particularly among future generations of Latin American youth. Two, Castro can continue justifying his defiance on the usual suspects: US imperialism, the Green Berets, and the CIA." Another outcome is that Castro will reassess his expectations of exporting revolutions to other Latin American Countries. Some Latin American leftists "will be reliable to argue that any insurgency must be indigenous and local and only local parties will know when conditions are right for revolution." 

NOVEMBER 8, 1967: The CIA reports Cuba is threatening assassinations of a prominent Bolivian figures, such as President Barrientos or General Ovando, in revenge of Che Guevara's death. (CIA cable 08/11/67)

JULY 1, 1995: In an Interview Bolivian General Mario Vargas Salinas reveals that "he had been a part of a nocturnal burial detail and that , Che's body and those of several of his comrades were buried in a mass grave near the dirt airstrip outside the little mountain town of Vallegrande in Central Bolivia. The article in the New York Times sets off a two-year search to find and identify identity Guevara's remains. 

JULY 5, 1997: Che Guevara biographer Jon Lee Anderson reported in the New York Times, that recently recovered remains in Vallegrande were identified by two experts as being 100% sure" as being Che's remains. The fact that one of the skeletons is missing both hands is cited as the most compelling evidence. (NYT 5/7/97)

JULY 13, 1997: A ceremony in Havana, attended by Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials, marked the return of Che's remains to Cuba. (NYT 7/14/97).

OCTOBER 17, 1997 : In a ceremony attended by thousands of Cubans and Castro, Che Guevara is reburied in Santa Clara, Cuba. (NYT, 10/18/97)

Debriefing of Felix Rodriquez :

Other resources:
The Fall of Che Guevara by Henry Butterfield Ryan (New York: Oxford University Press, November 1997).

Also: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (New York: Knopf, October 1997).

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