A controversy in brewing in the west of Ireland over plans by Galway City Council to erect a statue of Che Guevara in Galway city center. At first I ignored this issue. So the left want to put up a statue of their poster boy, so what, I thought, let the baby have his bottle. But on reflection I have joined with the thinking of those vehemently opposed to this statue. My understanding of Che Guevara is that he never held any notable position of power except for some ministerial roles which he held briefly in post revolutionary Cuba. Furthermore his exploits as a military leader and the impact he actually had on the Cuban revolution are greatly exaggerated. So part of me thought what's the harm in allowing the left to indulge in a bit of delusional hero worship. Nothing will ever convince these people of the truth that the one country where Guevara actually got his way has been run by a brutal dictatorship for fifty years.
In preparation for this post I researched some background on Mr Guevara. This guy was hard line. I mean big time red. During the Cuban missile crisis he reacted with fury over the Soviets decision to back down, something which he never forgave them for. He backed the Chinese in the Sino Soviet split because he was convinced Moscow was abandoning Communist principles most notably, the theory that money, interest, commodity production, and other Capitalists methods should be completely removed. He opposed peaceful coexistence with the west in favour of world socialism. This was in contrast with Soviet pragmatism. To put it bluntly, this guy wanted a third world war and had he lived he might have got it. I support the opposition of many Cuban Americans to glorifying Che. Republican Congresswoman Lleana Ros-Lehtinen has written a personal letter to the Taoiseach stating that
I am concerned regarding the proposal by the city council of Galway to build a monument in honour of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and respectfully request that the Government of Ireland instead lend its support to and honour the enslaved Cuban people who seek to be free from the dictatorship that Che helped impose upon them
While I have never been a huge fan of many right wing Latin exiles that hang out in the US who often seem to prefer one form of autocratic rule over another I do have enormous sympathy with the hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees, and their descendants who are entitled to be outraged at the continued glorification of a man who helped install the current Castro dynasty. Glorifying Che out of romanticism when he stands for a symbol of tyranny which brought untold suffering to the world is irresponsible, insensitive and narrow minded. As Irish Cuban Professor at Yale Carlos Eire says, "If Galway wants to honor Che with a monument, it should also build one for Cromwell, right next to it."