Humberto Fontova

“Steven Soderbergh made certain his movie, “Che," about the life of revolutionary Ernesto “Che" Guevara, couldn't be attacked -- at least on a factual level,” stressed CNN Entertainment, upon the movie’s release in 2009.

“I didn't want was for somebody to be able to look at a scene and say, 'That never happened.' "(Steven Soderbergh CNN Entertainment, January 1, 2009)

Well, Mr Steven Soderbergh (and CNN,) pull up a chair.

Soderbergh’s movie shows Che Guevara steely-eyed and snarling with defiance during his capture (45 years ago this week.) Why, according to Soderbergh, only seconds before his capture, Che’s very M-2 carbine had been blasted from his hands and rendered useless by a CIA-Fascist machine gun burst!

Then the bravely grimacing Guevara jerks out his pistol and blasts his very last bullets at the approaching hordes of CIA-Fascist soldiers!

The (typical) viewer gapes at the spectacle. His very eyes mist and lips tremble at Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro’s impeccable depiction of such undaunted pluck and valor.

OK, but just where did Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro (who starred as Che and co-produced the movie) obtain this version of Che’s capture? Remember they were both utterly obsessed with “historical accuracy.”

Well, the notoriously skeptical towards U.S. businessmen (see Erin Brockovich) director Steven Soderbergh transcribed this sterling account of Che’s capture exactly as penned by Fidel Castro, who apparently cannot tell a lie, according to Hollywood.

The man who mentored Soderbergh’s film for impeccable historical honesty is also on record for the following testaments:

“Again I stress I am not a communist. And Communists have absolutely no influence in my nation!” (Fidel Castro, April 1959)

“Political power does interest me in the least! And I will never assume such power!” (Fidel Castro, April 1959)

As evidenced by Steven Soderbergh’s film, the author of these proclamations merits his version of Che’s capture transcribed on the silver screen as gospel. Fidel Castro, you see, wrote the forward to Che‘s Diaries wherein this Davy Crocket-esque-at-the-Alamo version of events appears. These diaries were published in Castro’s fiefdom by the Stalinist dictator’s very own propaganda ministry. So to guarantee their film’s historical accuracy, Soderbergh and co-producer Benicio Del Toro were scrupulous in repeatedly visiting a Stalinist regime’s propaganda ministers for the unvarnished truth!

Actually they’ follow a fine Hollywood tradition. Robert Redford privately screen Motorcyvle Diaries for Fidel Castro and Che’s widow. Only after the approval of these two Stalinists was the movie released by this adamant proponent of artistic freedom.

On the other hand, a mental defect diagnosed by my physician as “not believing Communist dictators, especially after living under them” led your humble servant here while researching his books, to dig-up and study the actual records of the men actually on the scene of Che Guevara’s capture, and to interview those who today live in places where they need not fear Castro’s firing squads and torture chambers for the crime of telling the truth.

As might be expected, this mental defect led to the discovery of major “discrepancies” between Soderbergh and Del Toro’s Fidel Castro-mentored film and the historical truth.

In fact: on his second to last day alive, Che Guevara ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to the last breath and to the last bullet. “Che drummed it into us,” recalls Cuban guerrilla Dariel Alarcon, who indeed fought to his last bullet in Bolivia, escaped back to Cuba, defected, and today lives in Paris. “Never surrender,” Che always stressed. “Never, never!” He drilled it into us almost every day of the guerrilla campaign. “A Cuban revolutionary cannot surrender!” Che thundered. “Save your last bullet for yourself!”

With his men doing exactly that, Che, with a trifling flesh leg-wound (though Soderbergh’s movie depicts Che’s leg wound as ghastlier than Burt Reynolds’ in Deliverance,) snuck away from the firefight, crawled towards the Bolivian soldiers doing the firing—then as soon as his he spotted two of them at a distance, stood and yelled: "Don't Shoot! I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"

Learning of Che’s whimpering capture with fully loaded weapons after his sissified escape from the firefight started Alarcon’s long road to total disillusionment with Castroism

His captor’s official Bolivian army records that they took from Ernesto “Che” Guevara: a fully-loaded PPK 9mm pistol. And the damaged carbine was an M-1—NOT the M-2 Che records in his own diaries as carrying. The damaged M-1 carbine probably belonged to the hapless guerrilla charge, Willi, who Che dragged along—also to his doom.

But it was only after his (obviously voluntary) capture that Che segued into full Eddie-Hasquell-Greeting-June-Cleaver-Mode. "What's your name, young man?!" Che quickly asked one of his captors. "Why what a lovely name for a Bolivian soldier!"

"So what will they do with me?" Che, obviously desperate to ingratiate himself, asked Bolivian Captain Gary Prado. "I don't suppose you will kill me. I'm surely more valuable alive....And you Captain Prado!" Che commended his captor. "You are a very special person! ...I have been talking to some of your men. They think very highly of you, captain!..Now, could you please find out what they plan to do with me?"

From that stage on, Che Guevara’s fully-documented Eddie Haskell-isms only get more uproarious (or nauseating.) But somehow none of these found their way into Soderbergh’s film.


Humberto Fontova

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.