Ireland just issued a Che Guevara stamp. In Miami, people are not happ…


Buenos Aires: Fifty years after he was gunned down in a Bolivian jungle, revolutionary iconoclast Ernesto “Che” Guevara is still setting off controversy.

This week marks the anniversary of the death of the Argentina-born figure who helped Fidel Castro topple the Batista regime in 1959. To honour the occasion, the Irish government has released a one euro stamp featuring the image of the revolutionary.

But across the Atlantic Ocean, the commemorative postage is not sitting well with the families still reeling from the aftershocks of the Cuban revolution and the Castro regime, the Irish Times reports.

The connection between Guevara and Ireland is not random. Che’s father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was a civil engineer of Irish descent. “The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels,” the elder Guevara told an interviewer in 1969.

According to the New York Times, family’s roots stretch back to two families, the Lynches and the Blakes, who were among the original founding 14 tribes of the Irish city of Galway. “Patrick Lynch immigrated to Argentina in the mid-1700s and settled in Buenos Aires,” an Irish politician explained to the Times in 2012. “Che is part of the Irish diaspora, I would say.”

At an event in Buenos Aires this week, Guevara’s brother, Juan Martin Guevara Lynch, told the Irish Times his father embraced those Gaelic roots. “He used to speak about the rebellious nature of the Irish. Beyond that he liked the Irish because of their party nature; they like to drink a drop of [liquor]! He was really fond of all that.”

Since his death, Guevara has become a worldwide figurehead for revolution. And the image most associated with Guevara — on shirts and posters and bumperstickers everywhere — was designed by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick in 1969.

“A famous revolutionary of Irish descent and the artwork by an Irish artist that became one of the world’s great iconic images, all come together in a stamp which has just been issued,” Ireland’s postal authority said in a statement announcing the stamp.

But if there’s one place on the globe where Guevara is not welcome, it is South Florida, the homebase of the vocal and politically active Cuban-American expat community. And last weekend, Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Havana-born Cuban who represents the Miami area, blasted the Irish stamp as a “grotesque insult to the many lives he slaughtered.”

Conservative activists like Jack Posobiec have also jumped on the radical symbolism, comparing the stamp to “commemorating Timothy McVeigh”.

“Ireland just put domestic terrorist Che Guevara on a stamp bc of his Irish heritage. That’s like commemorating Timothy McVeigh,” Posobiec wrote on Twitter.

Further complaints have come from within the Irish government.

Referring this week to the stamp as “totally objectionable,” Irish Senator Neale Richmond has written to the country’s minister for communication demanding for more information on the decision-making process. According to the Times, Richmond compared the decision to giving Cambodian dictator Pol Pot or Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceausescu a similar honour.

“Although Che Guevara seems now to be classed as a romantic revolutionary figure and that some of his political ideals might be shared by some in this country, it is my belief that he is most definitely not a suitable candidate for such an honour,” Richmond wrote. “Minister, as you will be aware, Che Guevara was a violent revolutionary whose legacy has been greatly glossed over.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales lauded Guevara on Monday as he led commemorations 50 years to the day since the Cuban revolutionary leader was killed by CIA-trained Bolivian troops.

“The best way to pay tribute to Che is to continue his struggle, an anti-imperialist struggle,” the socialist Morales told an audience including Guevara’s brothers and four children in the mountain town of Vallegrande in central Bolivia.

The ceremony capped five days of special remembrance of the Argentine-born revolutionary in Bolivia, whose government ordered his execution on October 9, 1967, a day after he was wounded and captured in a firefight with a special CIA-trained unit of the Bolivian army.

“El Che fought and died for the liberation of Bolivia and thinking of the liberation of the great homeland,” said Morales, using the socialist term for Latin America.

Morales defended himself against criticism for putting the spotlight on Che at the expense of the Bolivian army that fought Guevara and his rebels as he tried to export revolution to the South American country.

Two members of his rebel unit who survived the gun battle, Harry Villegas Tamayo, and Leonardo Tamayo Nunez, were among the invited guests.

“Che was a revolutionary and the revolutionary is a man full of love who wants to build another society,” Tamayo said, leaning on his cane.

The Bolivian president pointed out that 26 of his 50-strong guerrilla force “were Bolivian brothers who fought alongside Che for the liberation of our country.”

And he reminded his audience that “our own soldiers were used and ordered to persecute the guerrillas, not just Che.”

“It is not treason to remember those who wanted to liberate the country. Treason against the country is to serve as a lackey for the American empire,” he added.

Morales, who as president is commander in chief of the armed forces, stressed however that “we do not blame the hands of the Bolivian soldiers who were obliged to follow orders, we blame the agents of the CIA and the generals who subordinated themselves to them.”

Following his execution in the village of La Higuera, Che’s body was taken the local market town of Vallegrande where his body was put on display by a jubilant military.

Che and a handful of his fighters were buried in the mountains but the bodies were exhumed in 1997 and brought to Cuba, where his late revolutionary comrade Fidel Castro dedicated a mausoleum to him.

Vallegrande meanwhile, hopes to profit from its own brand of Che tourism, and local authorities have opened a museum and visitors’ centre.

However, only around 2,000 people turned out for the commemoration, far fewer than the expected 35,000.

In Cuba on Sunday, an estimated 70,000 people thronged the streets for a ceremony at Guevara’s mausoleum.

The Bolivian president, one of the last of the leftist leaders in Latin America, along with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, said Guevara’s influence was still relevant and part of the future of the region.

He also criticised the United States, adding that “the empire continues to strike at the countries that have policies contrary to their interests,” citing crisis-wracked Venezuela.

“Brother (Nicolas) Maduro is not alone,” he said, alluding to the Venezuelan president whose administration has been rocked by an economic and political crisis.

Two members of his rebel unit who survived the 1967 gun battle, Harry Villegas Tamayo and Leonardo Tamayo Nunez, were among the invited guests.

“Che was a revolutionary and the revolutionary is a man full of love who wants to build another society,” Tamayo said, leaning on his cane.

Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela sent official delegations to the ceremony.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here