‘Do Not Shoot!’: The Last Moments Of Communist Revolutionary Che Guevara
“Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead,” he said as U.S.-trained Bolivian forces closed in. The Argentine-born doctor and Marxist rebel leader who helped Fidel Castro seize power in Cuba was finally captured after years of living in secrecy. Guevara, the beret-wearing guerrilla leader who had led firing squads after the Communist victory, abruptly resigned from his government posts and left Cuba to spread the revolution in Africa and South America.But the missions, including the one to arouse an uprising in Bolivia, were all but doomed. On that afternoon of Oct. 8, 1967, Guevara was taken prisoner and carried by soldiers to a one-room schoolhouse in the town of La Higuera in Bolivia, about 4 miles away from where he was captured, according to Richard Harris’ biography, “Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara’s Last Mission.”
Felix Rodriguez, a Cuban-American CIA operative posing as a Bolivian military officer, would find him covered in dirt inside that schoolhouse the next day. His hair was matted, his clothes were torn and filthy, and his arms and feet were bound. The U.S. government wanted him alive to be interrogated, but Bolivian leaders decided that Guevara must be executed, as a public trial would only garner him sympathy. The official story would be that he was killed in battle.Rodríguez, who was instrumental in Guevara’s capture, had mixed emotions at that time, as he had acknowledged later in an interview. Here was a man who had assassinated many of his countrymen, Rodríguez said, and yet he felt “sorry for him.”
Then, he told the guerrilla leader that he was about to die.”I looked at him straight in the face, and I just told him. . . . He looked straight to me and said: ‘It’s better this way. I should have never been captured alive,’ ” Rodríguez recalled during a “60 Minutes” interview years later.The two men shook hands. “He embraced me. I embraced him,” Rodríguez said.
Then Rodríguez left, ordering a soldier to shoot below the neck because that would fit the official story that Guevara had died in combat.Guevara’s last words were to Sgt. Jaime Teran, the soldier ordered to shoot him, according to journalist Jon Lee Anderson’s biography, “Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.””I know you’ve come to kill me,” he said. “Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.”