first met Che one day in July or August 1955. And in one night
— as he recalls in his account — he became one of the future
Granma expeditionaries, although at that time the expedition
possessed neither ship, nor arms, nor troops. That was how,
together with Raúl, Che became one of the first two on the
years have passed since then; they have been 12 years filled
with struggle and historical significance. During this time
death has cut down many brave and invaluable lives. But at the
same time, throughout those years of our revolution,
extraordinary persons have arisen, forged from among the people
of the revolution, and between them, bonds of affection and
friendship have emerged that surpass all possible description.
we are meeting to try to express, in some degree, our feelings
toward one who was among the closest, among the most admired,
among the most beloved, and, without a doubt, the most
extraordinary of our revolutionary comrades. We are here to
express our feelings for him and for the heroes who have fought
with him and fallen with him, his internationalist army that has
been writing a glorious and indelible page of history.
was one of those people who was liked immediately, for his
simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely
attitude, his personality, his originality, even when one had
not yet learned of his other characteristics and unique virtues.
those first days he was our troop doctor, and so the bonds of
friendship and warm feelings for him were ever increasing. He
was filled with a profound spirit of hatred and contempt for
imperialism, not only because his political education was
already considerably developed, but also because, shortly before,
he had had the opportunity of witnessing the criminal
imperialist intervention in Guatemala through the mercenaries
who aborted the revolution in that country.
person like Che did not require elaborate arguments. It was
sufficient for him to know Cuba was in a similar situation and
that there were people determined to struggle against that
situation, arms in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that
those people were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and
patriotic ideals. That was more than enough.
day, at the end of November 1956, he set out on the expedition
toward Cuba with us. I recall that the trip was very hard for
him, since, because of the circumstances under which it was
necessary to organize the departure, he could not even provide
himself with the medicine he needed. Throughout the trip, he
suffered from a severe attack of asthma, with nothing to
alleviate it, but also without ever complaining.
arrived, set out on our first march, suffered our first setback,
and at the end of some weeks, as you all know, a group of those
Granma expeditionaries who had survived was able to reunite. Che
continued to be the doctor of our group.
came through the first battle victorious, and Che was already a
soldier of our troop; at the same time he was still our doctor.
We came through the second victorious battle and Che was not
only a soldier, but the most outstanding soldier in that battle,
carrying out for the first time one of those singular feats that
characterized him in all military action. Our forces continued
to develop and we soon faced another battle of extraordinary
situation was difficult. The information we had was erroneous in
many respects. We were going to attack in full daylight — at
dawn — a strongly defended, well-armed position at the edge of
the sea. Enemy troops were at our rear, not very far, and in
that confused situation it was necessary to ask people to make a
Juan Almeida had taken on one of the most difficult missions,
but one of the flanks remained completely without forces — one
of the flanks was left without an attacking force, placing the
operation in danger. At that moment, Che, who was still
functioning as our doctor, asked for three or four men, among
them one with a machine gun, and in a matter of seconds set off
rapidly to assume the mission of attack from that direction.
that occasion he was not only an outstanding combatant but also
an outstanding doctor, attending the wounded comrades and, at
the same time, attending the wounded enemy soldiers.
all the weapons had been captured and it became necessary to
abandon that position, undertaking a long return march under the
harassment of various enemy forces, someone had to stay behind
with the wounded, and it was Che who did so. Aided by a small
group of our soldiers, he took care of them, saved their lives,
and later rejoined the column with them.
that time onward, he stood out as a capable and valiant leader,
one of those who, when a difficult mission is pending, do not
wait to be asked to carry it out.
it was at the battle of El Uvero. But he acted in a similar way
on a previously unmentioned occasion during the first days when
following a betrayal, our little troop was attacked by surprise
by a number of planes and we were forced to retreat under the
bombardment. We had already walked a distance when we remembered
some rifles of some peasant soldiers who had been with us in the
first actions and had then asked permission to visit their
families, at a time when there was still not much discipline in
our embryonic army. At that moment, we thought the rifles might
have to be given up for lost. But I recall it took no more than
simply raising the problem for Che, despite the bombing, to
volunteer, and having done so, quickly go to recover those
was one of his principal characteristics: his willingness to
instantly volunteer for the most dangerous mission. And
naturally this aroused admiration — and twice the usual
admiration, for a fellow combatant fighting alongside us who had
not been born here, a person of profound ideas, a person in
whose mind stirred the dream of struggle in other parts of the
continent and who nonetheless was so altruistic, so selfless, so
willing to always do the most difficult things, to constantly
risk his life.
That was how he won the rank of commander and leader of the
second column, organized in the Sierra Maestra. Thus his
standing began to increase. He began to develop as a magnificent
combatant who was to reach the highest ranks in the course of
was an incomparable soldier. Che was an incomparable leader. Che
was, from a military point of view, an extraordinarily capable
person, extraordinarily courageous, extraordinarily aggressive.
If, as a guerrilla, he had his Achilles’ heel, it was this
excessively aggressive quality, his absolute contempt for danger.
enemy believes it can draw certain conclusions from his death.
Che was a master of warfare! He was an artist of guerrilla
struggle! And he showed that an infinite number of times. But he
showed it especially in two extraordinary deeds. One of these
was the invasion, in which he led a column, a column pursued by
thousands of enemy soldiers over flat and absolutely unknown
terrain, carrying out — together with Camilo [Cienfuegos] —
an extraordinary military accomplishment. He also showed it in
his lightning campaign in Las Villas Province, especially in the
audacious attack on the city of Santa Clara, entering — with a
column of barely 300 men — a city defended by tanks, artillery,
and several thousand infantry soldiers. Those two heroic deeds
stamped him as an extraordinarily capable leader, as a master,
as an artist of revolutionary war.
now after his heroic and glorious death, some people attempt to
deny the truth or value of his concepts, his guerrilla theories.
The artist may die — especially when he is an artist in a
field as dangerous as revolutionary struggle — but what will
surely never die is the art to which he dedicated his life, the
art to which he dedicated his intelligence.
is so strange about the fact that this artist died in combat?
What is stranger is that he did not die in combat on one of the
innumerable occasions when he risked his life during our
revolutionary struggle. Many times it was necessary to take
steps to keep him from losing his life in actions of minor
it was in combat — in one of the many battles he fought —
that he lost his life. We do not have sufficient evidence to
enable us to deduce what circumstances preceded that combat, or
how far he may have acted in an excessively aggressive way. But,
we repeat, if as a guerrilla he had an Achilles’ heel, it was
his excessive aggressiveness, his absolute contempt for danger.
this is where we can hardly agree with him, since we consider
that his life, his experience, his capacity as a seasoned
leader, his authority, and everything his life signified, were
more valuable, incomparably more valuable than he himself,
conduct may have been profoundly influenced by the idea that
people have a relative value in history, the idea that causes
are not defeated when people fall, that the powerful march of
history cannot and will not be halted when leaders fall.
is true, there is no doubt about it. It shows his faith in
people, his faith in ideas, his faith in examples. However —
as I said a few days ago — with all our heart we would have
liked to see him as a forger of victories, to see victories
forged under his command, under his leadership, since people of
his experience, of his caliber, of his really unique capacity,
are not common.
fully appreciate the value of his example. We are absolutely
convinced that many people will strive to live up to his example,
that people like him will emerge.
not easy to find a person with all the virtues that were
combined in Che. It is not easy for a person, spontaneously, to
develop a character like his. I would say that he is one of
those people who are difficult to match and virtually impossible
to surpass. But I would also say that the example of people like
him contributes to the appearance of people of the same caliber.
we admire not only the fighter, the person capable of performing
great feats. What he did, what he was doing, the very fact of
his rising with a handful of men against the army of the
oligarchy, trained by Yankee advisers sent in by Yankee
imperialism, backed by the oligarchies of all neighboring
countries — that in itself constitutes an extraordinary feat.
search the pages of history, it is likely that we will find no
other case in which a leader with such a limited number of men
has set about a task of such importance; a case in which a
leader with such a limited number of men has set out to fight
against such large forces. Such proof of confidence in himself,
such proof of confidence in the peoples, such proof of faith in
man’s capacity to fight, can be looked for in the pages of
history but the likes of it will never be found.
enemy believes it has defeated his ideas, his guerrilla concepts,
his point of view on revolutionary armed struggle. What they
accomplished, by a stroke of luck, was to eliminate him
physically. What they accomplished was to gain an accidental
advantage that an enemy may gain in war. We do not know to what
degree that stroke of luck, that stroke of fortune, was helped
along, in a battle like many others, by that characteristic of
which we spoke before: his excessive aggressiveness, his
absolute disdain for danger.
also happened in our war of independence. In a battle at Dos
Rios they killed [José Martí the apostle of our independence;
in a battle at Punta Brava, they killed Antonio Maceo, a veteran
of hundreds of battles [in the Cuban war of independence].
Countless leaders, countless patriots of our war of independence
were killed in similar battles. Nevertheless, that did not spell
defeat for the Cuban cause.
death of Che — as we said a few days ago — is a hard blow, a
tremendous blow for the revolutionary movement because it
deprives it, without a doubt, of its most experienced and able
those who boast of victory are mistaken. They are mistaken when
they think that his death is the end of his ideas, the end of
his tactics, the end of his guerrilla concepts, the end of his
theory. For the person who fell, as a mortal person, as a person
who faced bullets time and again, as a soldier, as a leader, was
a thousand times more able than those who killed him by a stroke
how should revolutionaries face this serious setback? How should
they face this loss? If Che had to express an opinion on this
point, what would it be? He gave this opinion, he expressed this
opinion quite clearly when he wrote in his message to the [Tricontinental]
Latin American Solidarity Conference that if death surprised him
anywhere, it would be welcome as long as his battle cry had
reached a receptive ear and another hand reached out to take up
battle cry will reach not just one receptive ear, but millions
of receptive ears! And not one hand but millions of hands,
inspired by his example, will reach out to take up arms! New
leaders will emerge. The people of the receptive ears and the
outstretched hands will need leaders who emerge from their
ranks, just as leaders have emerged in all revolutions.
hands will not have available a leader of Che’s extraordinary
experience and enormous ability. Those leaders will be formed in
the process of struggle. Those leaders will emerge from among
the millions of receptive ears, from the millions of hands that
will sooner or later reach out to take up arms.
not that we feel that his death will necessarily have immediate
repercussions in the practical sphere of revolutionary struggle,
that his death will necessarily have immediate repercussions in
the practical sphere of development of this struggle. The fact
is that when Che took up arms again he was not thinking of an
immediate victory; he was not thinking of a speedy victory
against the forces of the oligarchies and imperialism. As an
experienced fighter, he was prepared for a prolonged struggle of
5, 10, 15, or 20 years, if necessary. He was ready to fight 5,
10, 15, or 20 years, or all his life if need be! And within that
perspective, his death — or rather his example — will have
tremendous repercussions. The force of that example will be
who attach significance to the lucky blow that struck Che down
try in vain to deny his experience and his capacity as a leader.
Che was an extraordinarily able military leader. But when we
remember Che, when we think of Che, we do not think
fundamentally of his military virtues. No! Warfare is a means
and not an end. Warfare is a tool of revolutionaries. The
important thing is the revolution. The important thing is the
revolutionary cause, revolutionary ideas, revolutionary
objectives, revolutionary sentiments, revolutionary virtues!
is in that field, in the field of ideas, in the field of
sentiments, in the field of revolutionary virtues, in the field
of intelligence, that — apart from his military virtues — we
feel the tremendous loss that his death means to the
extraordinary character was made up of virtues that are rarely
found together. He stood out as an unsurpassed person of action,
but Che was not only that — he was also a person of visionary
intelligence and broad culture, a profound thinker. That is, the
man of ideas and the man of action were combined within him.
is not only that Che possessed the double characteristic of the
man of ideas — of profound ideas — and the man of action,
but that Che as a revolutionary united in himself the virtues
that can be defined as the fullest expression of the virtues of
a revolutionary: a person of total integrity, a person of
supreme sense of honor, of absolute sincerity, a person of stoic
and Spartan living habits, a person in whose conduct not one
stain can be found. He constituted, through his virtues, what
can be called a truly model revolutionary.
people die it is usual to make speeches, to emphasize their
virtues. But rarely can one say of a person with greater justice,
with greater accuracy, what we say of Che on this occasion: that
he was a pure example of revolutionary virtues!
possessed another quality, not a quality of the intellect nor of
the will, not a quality derived from experience, from struggle,
but a quality of the heart: he was an extraordinarily human
being, extraordinarily sensitive!
is why we say, when we think of his life, when we think of his
conduct, that he constituted the singular case of a most
extraordinary human, able to unite in his personality not only
the characteristics of the man of action, but also of the man of
thought, of the person of immaculate revolutionary virtues and
of extraordinary human sensibility, joined with an iron
character, a will of steel, indomitable tenacity.
of this, he has left to the future generations not only his
experience, his knowledge as an outstanding soldier, but also,
at the same time, the fruits of his intelligence. He wrote with
the virtuosity of a master of our language. His narratives of
the war are incomparable. The depth of his thinking is
impressive. He never wrote about anything with less than
extraordinary seriousness, with less than extraordinary
profundity — and we have no doubt that some of his writings
will pass on to posterity as classic documents of revolutionary
as fruits of that vigorous and profound intelligence, he left us
countless memories, countless narratives that, without his work,
without his efforts, might have been lost forever.
indefatigable worker, during the years that he served our
country he did not know a single day of rest. Many were the
responsibilities assigned to him: as president of the National
Bank, as director of the Central Planning Board, as minister of
industry, as commander of military regions, as the head of
political or economic or fraternal delegations.
versatile intelligence was able to undertake with maximum
assurance any task of any kind. Thus he brilliantly represented
our country in numerous international conferences, just as he
brilliantly led soldiers in combat, just as he was a model
worker in charge of any of the institutions he was assigned to.
And for him there were no days of rest; for him there were no
hours of rest!
looked through the windows of his offices, he had the lights on
all hours of the night, studying, or rather, working or studying.
For he was a student of all problems; he was a tireless reader.
His thirst for learning was practically insatiable, and the
hours he stole from sleep he devoted to study.
devoted his scheduled days off to voluntary work. He was the
inspiration and provided the greatest incentive for the work
that is today carried out by hundreds of thousands of people
throughout the country. He stimulated that activity in which our
people are making greater and greater efforts.
revolutionary, as a communist revolutionary, a true communist,
he had a boundless faith in moral values. He had a boundless
faith in the consciousness of human beings. And we should say
that he saw, with absolute clarity, the moral impulse as the
fundamental lever in the construction of communism in human
thought, developed, and wrote many things. And on a day like
today it should be stated that Che’s writings, Che’s
political and revolutionary thought, will be of permanent value
to the Cuban revolutionary process and to the Latin American
revolutionary process. And we do not doubt that his ideas — as
a man of action, as a man of thought, as a person of untarnished
moral virtues, as a person of unexcelled human sensitivity, as a
person of spotless conduct — have and will continue to have
imperialists boast of their triumph at having killed this
guerrilla fighter in action. The imperialists boast of a
triumphant stroke of luck that led to the elimination of such a
formidable man of action. But perhaps the imperialists do not
know or pretend not to know that the man of action was only one
of the many facets of the personality of that combatant. And if
we speak of sorrow, we are saddened not only at having lost a
person of action. We are saddened at having lost a person of
virtue. We are saddened at having lost a person of unsurpassed
human sensitivity. We are saddened at having lost such a mind.
We are saddened to think that he was only 39 years old at the
time of his death. We are saddened at missing the additional
fruits that we would have received from that intelligence and
that ever richer experience.
have an idea of the dimension of the loss for the revolutionary
movement. However, here is the weak side of the imperialist
enemy: they think that by eliminating a person physically they
have eliminated his thinking — that by eliminating him
physically they have eliminated his ideas, eliminated his
virtues, eliminated his example.
shameless are they in this belief that they have no hesitation
in publishing, as the most natural thing in the world, the by
now almost universally accepted circumstances in which they
murdered him after he had been seriously wounded in action. They
do not even seem aware of the repugnance of the procedure, of
the shamelessness of the acknowledgement. They have published it
as if thugs, oligarchs, and mercenaries had the right to shoot a
seriously wounded revolutionary combatant.
worse, they explain why they did it. They assert that Che’s
trial would have been quite an earthshaker, that it would have
been impossible to place this revolutionary in the dock.
not only that, they have not hesitated to spirit away his
remains. Be it true or false, they certainly announced they had
cremated his body, thus beginning to show their fear, beginning
to show that they are not so sure that by physically eliminating
the combatant, they can eliminate his ideas, eliminate his
died defending no other interest, no other cause than the cause
of the exploited and the oppressed of this continent. Che died
defending no other cause than the cause of the poor and the
humble of this earth. And the exemplary manner and the
selflessness with which he defended that cause cannot be
disputed even by his most bitter enemies.
history, people who act as he did, people who do and give
everything for the cause of the poor, grow in stature with each
passing day and find a deeper place in the heart of the peoples
with each passing day. The imperialist enemies are beginning to
see this, and it will not be long before it will be proved that
his death will, in the long run, be like a seed that will give
rise to many people determined to imitate him, many people
determined to follow his example.
absolutely convinced that the revolutionary cause on this
continent will recover from the blow, that the revolutionary
movement on this continent will not be crushed by this blow.
the revolutionary point of view, from the point of vie of our
people, how should we view Che’s example? Do we feel we have
lost him? It is true that we will not see new writings of his.
It is true that we will never again hear his voice. But Che has
left a heritage to the world, a great heritage, and we who knew
him so well can become in large measure his beneficiaries.
left us his revolutionary thinking, his revolutionary virtues.
He left us his character, his will, his tenacity, his spirit of
work. In a word, he left us his example! And Che’s example
will be a model for our people. Che’s example will be the
ideal model for our people!
wish to express what we expect our revolutionary combatants, our
militants, our people to be, we must say, without hesitation:
let them be like Che! If we wish to express what we want the
people of future generations to be, we must say: let them be
like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be
educated, we must say without hesitation: we want them to be
educated in Che’s spirit! If we want the model of a person,
the model of a human being who does not belong to our time but
to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a
model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single
stain on his action, without a single stain on his behavior, is
Che! If we wish to express what we want our children to be, we
must say from our very hearts as ardent revolutionaries: we want
them to be like Che!
has become a model of what future humans should be, not only for
our people but also for people everywhere in Latin America. Che
carried to its highest expression revolutionary stoicism, the
revolutionary spirit of sacrifice, revolutionary combativeness,
the revolutionary’s spirit of work. Che brought the ideas of
Marxism-Leninism to their freshest, purest, most revolutionary
expression. No other person of our time has carried the spirit
of proletarian internationalism to its highest possible level as
when one speaks of a proletarian internationalist, and when an
example of a proletarian internationalist is sought, that
example, high above any other, will be the example of Che.
National flags, prejudices, chauvinism, and egoism had
disappeared from his mind and heart. He was ready to shed his
generous blood spontaneously and immediately, on behalf of any
people, for the cause of any people!
his blood fell on our soil when he was wounded in several
battles, and his blood was shed in Bolivia, for the liberation
of the exploited and the oppressed, of the humble and the poor.
That blood was shed for the sake of all the exploited and all
the oppressed. That blood was shed for all the peoples of the
Americas and for the people of Vietnam because while fighting
there in Bolivia, fighting against the oligarchies and
imperialism, he knew that he was offering Vietnam the highest
possible expression of his solidarity!
for this reason, comrades of the revolution, that we must face
the future with firmness and determination, with optimism. And
in Che’s example, we will always look for inspiration —
inspiration in struggle, inspiration in tenacity, inspiration in
intransigence toward the enemy, inspiration in internationalist
after tonight’s moving ceremony, after this incredible
demonstration of vast popular recognition — incredible for its
magnitude, discipline, and spirit of devotion — which
demonstrates that our people are a sensitive, grateful people
who know how to honor the memory of the brave who die in combat,
that our people recognize those who serve them; which
demonstrates the people’s solidarity with the revolutionary
struggle and how this people will raise aloft and maintain ever
higher aloft revolutionary banners and revolutionary principles
today, in these moments of remembrance, let us lift our spirits
and, with optimism in the future, with absolute optimism in the
final victory of the peoples, say to Che and to the heroes who
fought and died with him:
la victoria siempre! [Ever onward to victory]
o muerte! [Homeland or death]
[We will win]