This is the covert story of how Che Guevara’s Bolivian Journal arrived in Cuba and why it was necessary to keep it anonymous for so long.
In 1968, a group of men did the impossible: they broke the ‘impenetrable’ security of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and unveiled the guerrilla activities of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara during his last days in Bolivia.
“At this time, it cannot be disclosed how this Journal came into our hands,” said the Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro when the first edition of the document was published.
Back then, one had to keep quiet. The lives of many were in danger and there was the risk of delaying an operation that, to be of help, would disprove the misrepresentations surrounding the facts.
“Today,” he said, “on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its publication and after 35 years of anonymity, it’s time to break the silence and open the archives.”
“Now that I have turned 80, I intend to reveal all the interference run by the CIA,” said Ricardo Aneyba, former head of the Technical Department of said agency in Bolivia and one of the protagonists of this story.
The memories of Aneyba
In October 2017, the face of Aneyba was shown to the world during the memorial for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Che in Valle Grande, Bolivia.
As a CIA agent, he was directed to create an information centre where he documented the phone calls, post and every move of the people, especially those associated with the left.
Aneyba had obtained three boxes of documents in his possession that contained the roster of undercover agents in the press, political parties and other organisations, the accounts of payment records and recordings.
At that time, Bolivia had its doors open to American intelligence which shamelessly influenced the decision-making of General René Barrientos, then the nation’s president.
This man invested a lot of energy and resources in Che’s persecution and assassination and, after the murder, procured his Journal as a war trophy.
However, the leftist forces were growing and many of his followers no longer professed the same faith in his government. These people followed his orders but had turned their eyes towards other ideas and political convictions.
“Arguedas came to me and said: The President wants you to take a photocopy of the journal with its negatives, then he made a sign to me with his index and middle fingers, and I responded with a thumbs up,” Aneyba remembers.
Antonio Arguedas was the founder of the Bolivian Communist Party in the 1950s and, 15 years later, allied himself with the CIA from his position as Bolivian Minister of the Interior.
The gesture he made to Aneyba gave him the green light to initiate the operation. Under his guidance, the Journal fell into the hands of the Bolivian journalist Victor Zannier, who was in charge of leaving the country with the film pieces camouflaged in music casings.
Chile was his first stop. There he entrusted the document to his Chilean colleague Hernán Uribe, editor of the magazine Punto Final, to the general manager of the magazine, Manuel Cabieses, and to the diplomat Luis Fernández Oña, who confirmed the authenticity of the Journal by his recognition of Che’s handwriting.
The journalist Mario Diaz was in charge of crossing the borders and taking it to Havana and placing it in Fidel’s own hands.
Here the transcription and printing processes lasted a few days. One million copies were freely distributed amongst the people of Havana on the 1st July 1968 and it happened similarly in other parts of the island. By then, his prologue read: (…) There are only a few missing pages that have not yet reached our hands, but because they correspond to dates on which no important events took place, it does not alter its content at all.”
This event was not only recorded in history, but also in “Operación Gaveta”, a special edition of a trilogy of documentaries by the Cuban researchers Froilán González and Adys Cupull, who were also authors of the book “The CIA against Che”.
“Operación Gaveta” concisely and fully exposes the clear truth of how Che’s Bolivian Journal arrived in Cuba and revealed the interventionist process of the CIA.
It describes the reactions to and details of the 13 pages that were missing from the first edition, removed by the Bolivian government as a precautionary measure precisely in case the document was leaked.
“The news was traced back to the third floor of the Ministry, which was fully controlled by the gusanera [“worms”, traitors to the revolution], and Arguedas was made leave to country and submit to the authorities and the military court,” recounts the octogenarian. The film also talks about the confusing accident that caused the death of Arguedas and the mystery of Aneyba’s name in the Journal, written in the hand of Guevara himself on the edge of the page. (PL)
(Translated by Hannah Phelvin-Hartley – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)