The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is rattling a left-wing Irish politician who wants to erect a statue to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, one of the most blood-thirsty rebels of the Cuban revolution — the same Che whose iconic image in a beard and beret adorns the T-shirts of starry-eyed fashionistas from Rodeo Drive to the Champs Elysees.
“I am gobsmacked by the reaction this has got in terms of negative coverage in the United States,” Billy Cameron, a Labor Party member of the Galway City Council, told the Galway News.
In Washington, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has kept up a barrage of criticism over Mr. Cameron’s plans for the statue. The Cuban-born conservative Florida Republican, whose family fled the Castro revolution, has even found support from Maureen Dowd, the liberal New York Times columnist who called Mr. Cameron a “lefty” with a “bizarre idea.”
Mr. Cameron says the statue would honor Guevara’s Irish heritage. He is descended from two ancient Irish families, the Lynches and the Blakes, who were among the original 14 tribes of 13th-century Galway.
“We’re honoring one of our own from a distance,” Mr. Cameron told the Irish Times.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen dismissed the Irish connection as a reason to honor a man she called a “blood-thirsty, power-hungry” bigot who ordered the killing of hundreds of Cubans accused of counter-revolutionary actions.
“I find it very troubling and hurtful that supporters of a proposed monument to Che Guevara are going out of their way to manipulate or ignore history in an attempt to find reasons to honor their wannabe icon,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said in her latest broadside after Independence Day. “There is no sugar-coating what Che did, what he stood for or what the brutal dictatorship he helped established has done for the Cuban people.”
She denounced his legacy as one of “hate, murder, violence, bigotry and totalitarianism.”
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, in an article for the New Jersey Star Ledger, quoted Guevara from his own diary. “He exulted ‘hatred as an element of the struggle’ to transform a person into a ‘violent, selective and cold killing machine.’”
Ms. Dowd, who interviewed Mr. Cameron in Ireland, wrote: “Just because Che became a chic brand for the capitalism he tried to destroy, it doesn’t mean he’s worth honoring on Galway Bay. And just because Ros-Lehtinen can be grating, it doesn’t mean she’s wrong this time.”
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
MONDAY — Two delegations from the European Parliament, members of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee: Herbert Dorfmann of Italy, Bas Eickhout of the Netherlands, Arlene McCarthy of Britain, Olle Schmidt of Sweden and Theodor Dumitru Stolojan of Romania; and members of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee: Chairman Malcolm Harbour of Britain, Lara Comi of Italy, Pablo Arias Echeverria of Spain, Edward Kozusnik of the Czech Republic, Morten Lokkegaard of Denmark, Maria Irigoyen Perez of Spain, Vicente Miguel Garces Ramon of Spain, Heide Ruhle of Germany and Andreas Schwab of Germany. They meet with administration officials and members of Congress.
THURSDAY — A Israeli delegation with: Benny Begin, a member of the Israeli parliament; Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister and deputy foreign minister; and Benny Elon, a former tourism minister and now president of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation. They participate in a forum on the failed Oslo peace accords a 9 a.m. in Room 1539 of the Longworth House Office Building.
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