Documentary alleges last photo of Che is fake
Berlin | October 11, 2007 2:05:07 PM IST
What has been touted as the last picture taken of iconic Latin American rebel Ernesto "Che" Guevara is probably fake and a photomontage made by the Bolivian troops who captured and executed the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary in October 1967.
That conclusion is drawn in German documentary "Schnappschuss mit Che" (Snapshot with Che) by journalist Wilfried Huismann, reported Spanish news agency EFE.
The well-known image shows the revolutionary with an unsociable expression, his hair and beard dishevelled and his hands evidently handcuffed, standing in front of an adobe hut between his captors, with Central Investigative Agency (CIA) operative Felix Rodriguez on his right and three Bolivian soldiers on his left.
Huismann managed to gather and interview both Rodriguez and Bolivian soldiers in his report, along with former guerrilla Daniel "Benigno" Alarcon, who was considered to be Che's right-hand man.
Also appearing in the documentary is helicopter pilot Jaime Nio de Guzman, who transported Rodriguez to the small town of La Higuera in the Bolivian sierra, and Dino Brugioni, one of the foremost US photography experts, who expresses his conviction on camera that the legendary image was altered.
The chopper pilot's statement is crucial as he is confirmed as being the one who more than 40 years ago took the photo that has appeared in numerous history books since then.
"That photo was never taken," Nio de Guzman says categorically, however, adding immediately thereafter that the image is a falsification and that during the meeting between Che and Rodriguez, Guevara spat in the face of his captor and completely refused to speak with him.
His statement contradicts the version of the encounter that, up until now, Rodriguez had offered. He has said that he held a conversation on relatively friendly terms with Guevara, whose life he tried to save, but in the end he was not able to prevent his execution by the Bolivian soldiers who - as had been repeated over and over since that time - wanted to avoid an international trial.
The possible faking of the image allegedly taken on Oct 9, 1967, is certified also by Brugioni, who says that the sunlight illuminating Che and the Bolivian soldiers is different and emanates from a different angle than the light illuminating Rodriguez.
The expert also emphasises that Che's right arm seems to have been "shortened" just at the point where it touches Rodriguez's body, as if the image of the latter could have been added later to the snapshot.
The work of Huismann, an award-winning journalist, calls into question the official version of Che's capture that to date had been offered by Rodriguez and which the latter insists upon during his interview in a Paris cafe.
Doubts about the matter are also raised by Alarcon, who recalls during the same cafe interview that Guevara "pounded into us day after day that a revolutionary does not surrender. He always said that the last bullet must be for oneself".
For that reason, Alarcon says that he cannot believe that Che spoke in a friendly manner with his captors as Rodriguez says.
Despite that, Alarcon maintains a certain friendship with Rodriguez which began years ago when the revolutionary veteran sought out the former CIA operative to learn first-hand about Che's last hours.
Alarcon managed to escape from the cordon the Bolivian army set up around the revolutionaries and he fled 3,000 km through South America until he finally found refuge in his native Cuba.
Guevara, who was born in 1928, met Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955 and returned with him to Cuba to mount the uprising that would ultimately oust Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
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