25. Despatch From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State 1
- Ernesto Guevara Serna: Information Concerning His Political Orientation and Activities with the “26th of July” Movement
Homer Bigart, well-known American newsman now with the New York Times, returned to Habana on February 23, 1958 from two weeks in the Sierra Maestra with Fidel Castro and his forces there. He had an extended conversation with an officer of the Embassy the following day, during which he furnished the following information concerning Ernesto Guevara Serna.
Mr. Bigart had had several fairly lengthy conversations with Guevara. He had been handicapped by lack of a common language, and the necessity to use an interpreter, but had learned a good deal during the meetings. Guevara said he had not been educated in France, as some allege. He had never been out of the Western hemisphere. All his education had been obtained in Argentina, and he had been graduated as a doctor of medicine from the University of Buenos Aires. Guevara said he was not a communist. He was a leftist and liberal. He had joined the Arbenz government in Guatemala only four days before its downfall, as a physician. He had been completely in favor of the Arbenz government. That government had not been communist, or under communist influence. Rather, it had represented the true expression of the freely expressed will of the Guatemalan people. Its overthrow had been engineered by the United States.
Guevara had expressed rather strong anti-American sentiments. He felt that the United States constantly meddled in Latin American affairs, was imperialistic, supported dictatorial regimes, and frequently attempted to act contrary to the will of the citizens of Latin American [Page 47] nations. He had no convincing reply to a question from Bigart as to what he, an Argentine, was doing in Cuba if not meddling in the affairs of other nations.
Bigart says that Guevara appeared to be in good health, and showed no signs of any injuries.
Bigart asked Fidel Castro why he had accepted Guevara’s services in the first place; why he kept him; and, why Guevara had a position of importance in the forces in the Sierra. He pointed out to Castro that Guevara was by his own words an extreme leftist, that there were allegations that he was a Communist, and that it appeared somewhat strange for Castro to rely so heavily on an Argentine, while claiming that his movement was a true expression of the desires of the majority of the Cuban people. Castro said that he had originally taken on Guevara since he was the only medical doctor he could find in Mexico willing to join with him. He said that Guevara had turned out to be a highly capable fighter and military leader, and had naturally been used in that capacity. He stated flatly that he, Castro, was the supreme commander of the movement. Hence, he added, it really made little difference what Guevara’s political beliefs were, since Castro determined policy.
Bigart added that Castro’s complacency concerning Guevara was not shared by several other members of the leading group of the “26th of July” Movement with whom he spoke. He felt that they were worried and sensitive about the charge that there is Communist influence in their movement. One of those leaders stated that Castro was only the military or field commander, and that party policy was determined by the National Directorate, of which Castro was only one among equals. Bigart felt that regardless of protestations to the contrary, it appeared clear that Castro was really running the show, and that all others simply took orders from him, at least in the Sierra Maestra.
From other sources, the Embassy has learned that the full name of Guevara’s father, mentioned in the despatch under reference, is Ernesto Guevara Lynch. He is a first cousin of the present Argentine Ambassador to Cuba, Rear Admiral Raul A. Lynch. The father apparently has little use for Ambassador Lynch. He is reported to have inquired of the Ambassador several months ago if he would grant asylum in the Argentine Embassy here to Guevara Serna, and to have received a flat refusal. Interestingly, officers of the Argentine Embassy [Page 48] here who are normally frank and outspoken in their relations with the Embassy have denied that there is any relationship between the Guevaras and Ambassador Lynch.
Eugene A. Gilmore
Counselor of Embassy
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/3–558. Confidential. Drafted by Topping.↩
- In despatch 599, the Embassy provided biographical information on Ernesto Guevara Serna. (ibid., 735.521/2–558)↩
- In despatch 663, the Embassy provided biographical information on Ernesto Guevara Serna’s wife, Hilda Gadea, and an assessment of his political orientation. (ibid., 723.52/2–2058)↩