Miguel Ramirez: 'The most complete human being of our age'

I wish to correct Peter Calder's movie review on Motorcycle Diaries, in which he wrote so many factual errors and biased opinions that I believe he intends to do a greater job as a political analyst than as a movie critic. It is a pity that he has not been very successful in either of them.

I wish to mention one by one his unsubstantiated assertions, which I am surprised have been allowed to be published:

* Those with some knowledge of Latin American history would understand that Che Guevara was famous because he fought alongside Castro to liberate Cuba. He was one of the most important leaders of the Cuban revolution that for the first time dared to fight American domination in Latin America and carried his revolutionary struggle to Africa and Latin America.

It is preposterous to say that if it were not for a single photograph he would scarcely have been known outside Cuba. This photo became famous in 1967, many years after Che had been fighting in Africa and Latin America and had even died fighting to defend his beliefs.

I also challenge Calder to show proof that Alberto Korda ever said that he was struck by the ruthlessness and implacability in his eyes, when he just said that he was struck by his expression and he instinctively shot the camera twice.

The resolution and sad emotions in his face were not surprising, because the photograph was taken at a memorial service for 101 people who had been killed because of a CIA sabotage at the Cuban harbour.

* Any serious scholar, and even what Che himself wrote, give clear proof that he was never a Stalinist and, on the contrary, had strong reservations about some of the Soviet policies.

Why call him a thug?

He was always very strict with discipline but he never tortured anyone, nor has he killed anyone except in military combat, and he was always a very humane leader. He just followed the ideals of the Cuban Revolution that was so humane with the Batista soldiers that they easily surrendered because they were sure what to expect, and that was an accelerating factor in the victory.

At the beginning of the revolution he was in charge of the prisons where the murderers and torturers of the Batista dictatorship were detained until they were tried by the Cuban people through legitimate trials and found guilty and executed. They were not dissenters, as Calder would want us believe, but murderers.

* Calder's opinions on the so-called forced labour camps, the rehabilitation institutions that the Cuban government had from 1966 to 1968, are very far away from the facts and do not even take into account that Che was not even in Cuba when they were established.

Calder does not seem to notice that HIV appeared more than 10 years after Che died and that the United Nations praises Cuba for its role in combating HIV and their experts have said Cuba is the model to use to eradicate that disease.

It is totally false that Cubans with HIV are in forced labour camps. Some are in sanitariums and most have a normal life at home and only go to the specialised institutions for medicines and check-ups.

* How can Calder prove that Guevara ached for the Cuban missile crisis to escalate into a purifying nuclear holocaust?

The truth is that Cuba had been forced to take any legitimate measure to defend itself after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the plans were already on the way in the US administration to directly invade Cuba. The nuclear missiles were just a deterrent, a practice many other countries have used.

We were ready to die to defend our sovereignty and independence, concepts probably not understood by Calder.

* To say that Guevara left Cuba because he thought Castro was sissy is such a disgusting phrase that it is barely worthy of comment. Their personal exchanges show clearly how close they were and how much they admired each other.

* Just when you might think Calder would at last talk about the movie again, he falsely accuses Guevara and Cuba of denying food to its non-believers.

The revolution has never had any issue against any religion in Cuba and the Government has never seen any difference between any of its citizens, either based on religion or political beliefs.

They are beneficiaries of the same laws of social justice that our revolution has provided to all. Calder's comment is offensive, unwarranted and false.

* His mentioning of Guevara and Hitler in the same context is offensive and misguided and he cannot escape criticism for that.

I have to conclude that Calder has a biased agenda against Cuba, which I am confident is not the policy of the Herald.

I conclude with a phrase by the famous intellectual Jean Paul Sartre: "Che was the most complete human being of our age."

* Miguel Ramirez is Cuba's ambassador to New Zealand.

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