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‘Che’ spurs debate, Del Toro walkout
Question of the Day
“He took joy in killing counterrevolutionaries and was one of the most hard-edged, most Stalinist, pro-Soviet communists of the whole leadership,” said Ronald Radosh, a Hudson Institute adjunct fellow and author of “Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left.”
Mr. Soderbergh defended his film’s perspective in an interview with The Washington Post at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I’ve had people ask me: ‘How can you make a movie about a murderer? A terrorist?’” he said. “What they don’t understand is that I’m in support of everyone who appears on screen. I have to be. I take the position of everyone who’s on screen. I’m not judging them one way or another.”
At the same time, Mr. Soderbergh seems to harbor few illusions about just who Guevara was.
“I don’t know that there’s any place for a person like me in the society that he was trying to make,” the director said. “I’m the poster child for a lot of the [stuff] that he was trying to eradicate.”
Mr. del Toro doesn’t deny that Guevara’s persona had some darker aspects. “We have to omit a lot of stuff about his life,” he said, “but we’re not omitting the fact that he’s for capital punishment, which is the essence of that.”
In the movie, Guevara is shown executing a man. But the man is executed for raping a child, not for being disloyal to the cause of revolution. Troops are offered a chance to desert, and get nothing more than a scolding for their cowardice.
Mr. Valladares is less convinced of Guevara’s dedication to due process.
“Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty,” he said. “In his own words, he said the following: ‘At the smallest of doubt we must execute.’ And that’s what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabanas.”
“They didn’t do it blindly; they had trials,” Mr. del Toro said. “They found them guilty, and they executed them - that’s capital punishment.”
But Mr. Radosh said it wasn’t as simple as that.
“Huber Matos was guilty of nothing,” he said. Mr. Matos was a commandant under Fidel Castro, one of the revolutionary’s earliest followers and a fervent enemy of the Batista regime. But he was no communist, and when he saw where the country was headed, he wanted out.
“He didn’t even want to go into opposition,” said Mr. Radosh. “He simply said, ‘I don’t like the direction of the government, I don’t want to be part of the government, I’ll voluntarily relinquish my command.’ He was convicted of treason, and after a sham trial that Fidel presided over, was sent to prison for a 25- to 30-year sentence.”
Guevara was instrumental in the creation of Cuba’s forced labor camps, which were used to imprison and extract work from those who had committed no crimes but were thought to be insufficiently revolutionary.
The policy of extrajudicial imprisonment that Guevara favored would later expand to include political activists of all stripes, musicians, artists, homosexuals and others deemed to be dangerous to the maintenance of the Stalinist regime.
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