3 – He Wasn’t a Guerrilla Mastermind
Che Guevara is often held up as some kind of military genius because of his role in the Cuban Revolution. It was certainly one of the greatest guerrilla triumphs of all time, and Guevara does deserve credit for playing a major role. His victory over government forces at Santa Clara, where he was severely outnumbered, was a remarkable one. However, his military reputation appears to be built solely on this impressive win.
Guevara was involved in a number of guerrilla warfare attempts after the Cuban Revolution; each of which was an utter failure. His two high-profile failures occurred in the Congo in 1965 and Bolivia in 1967. In the Congo, he allied himself with Laurent Kabila and Pierre Mulele. Relations with Kabila were quickly strained, and Guevara blamed the incompetence of the Congolese rebels for the failure.
Bolivia was another complete disaster; one which resulted in his death. The accounts of his exploits underline just how overrated he was as a commander. As well as being so arrogant that he refused to listen to advice from others, Guevara had a poor grasp of supply and logistics. His failure to identify with the Bolivian peasantry ensured his mission was doomed from the start. Ultimately, his group was cut off from any resupply routes and began to starve in the nation’s jungles. Guevara was reportedly a ‘pitiful sight’ when captured.
Aside from his well-known escapades, there is also the small matter of his failed revolutionary armies in Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. One of Che’s colleagues, Jorge Masetti, embarked on an idiotic scheme to try and start a revolution in Argentina. Masetti was supported by Guevara but proved to be an even less capable leader. With a group of Cuban commandos, Masetti entered northern Argentina but the ‘revolution’ was swiftly put down by provincial police. Masetti probably got lost in the jungle and disappeared in April 1964.
In simple terms, had Guevara remained in Cuba after the revolution, his reputation as an excellent military commander would probably have remained intact. However, he met with nothing but failure once he tried to expand his ‘vision’ around the world. In the end, his legacy is far less impressive than anyone would care to admit.