- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

HAVANA (AP) – Two of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s children said Thursday they were tired of seeing their father’s image used to sell everything from T-shirts to vodka, calling the growth of the revolutionary as a global super-brand “embarrassing.”

Aleida Guevara, the eldest of Guevara’s four children by his second wife, Cuban revolutionary Aleida March, said the commercialization of her father’s image contributed to tension between rich and poor in some countries.

“Something that bothers me now is the appropriation of the figure of Che that has been used to make enemies from different classes. It’s embarrassing,” she wrote during an Internet forum sponsored by Cuba’s government ahead of what would have been her father’s 80th birthday on June 14.

Born to a well-to-do family in Argentina in 1928, Guevara helped Fidel Castro overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. But he was executed in 1967 while trying to foment a similar revolution in Bolivia.

He has since become a pop icon, considered a symbol of rebellion even 40 years after his death, thanks to an iconic 1960 portrait by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda. Variations of the image, featuring Guevara with a defiant stare and starred beret, can now be found the world over, on T-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets.

Guevara’s children took Internet queries for two hours, fielding questions from users in Qatar, Argentina and Brazil, as well as Cuba, where both live.

Aleida Guevara was asked about the use of her father’s image to sell British vodka and French soft drinks. She decried those campaigns as well one in Switzerland that uses his likeness to peddle cell phones.

“We don’t want money, we demand respect,” wrote Guevara, who is a trained physician like her father.

Cuba erected a bronze statue of Guevara in the city of Santa Clara, site of his key military victory on New Year’s Eve 1958, which helped prompt Batista to flee the island and usher Castro into power.

A towering likeness of him also adorns Havana’s Revolution Plaza and his picture and quotations are found on billboards across the country.

But Cuba’s communist government also has worked hard to make money off of the revolutionary’s image, stocking tourist shops with T-shirts, postcards and other trinkets bearing his face and three-letter signature.

Despite that, Guevara’s son Camilo said he supported Fidel’s younger brother Raul, who succeeded him as president in February.

The younger Castro waited 49 years to become Cuba’s leader, and Guevara said “it would be stupid not to take advantage of all that experience.”

“The vote of any citizen is secret, (but) I’ll make mine public: YES FOR RAUL,” Guevara wrote.

Actor Benicio Del Toro recently won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s 4 1/2 hour “Che.” Presented as two films, “Che” follows Guevara and Castro’s triumphant guerrilla campaign to overthrow Batista’s government as well as Guevara’s downfall and execution.

Guevara’s son and daughter said Thursday they had not yet seen the films.

“I think Hollywood making its version of his life is positive, as long as they are objective and faithful to real life,” Camilo Guevara wrote.

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