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Chronology of Che in Bolivia

15 May 1963 The vanguard of a Peruvian guerrilla column, having come back to Peru from Bolivia, was caught and decimated at Puerto Maldonado (among the dead was the Peruvian poet Javier Heraud). The rest of the column managed to withdraw through the Bolivian forest, and settle in La Paz for two years. Thus the Peruvian ELN was formed, under the leadership of Hector Bejar and Juan Pablo Chang.

July 1963 The first visit to Bolivia of Jose Maria Martinez Tamaya, or 'Ricardo', a captain in the Cuban army,* and a close comrade of Comandante Guevara; he travelled under an assumed name, with a Colombian passport.

September 1963- The setting up under Ricardo's aegis of

February 1964 the rearguard of the Argentinian People's Guerrilla Army (EGP) on the Bolivian-Argentine border; it was commanded by Masetti, a friend of Che's, and located in Salta province. Several young Bolivian communist militants were involved: Coco and Inti Peredo, Rodolfo Saldana, Jorge Vasquez Viana, etc.

March 1964 Interview at the Ministry of Industry in Havana between Comandante Guevara and Tamara Bunke, the daughter of German communists who had emigrated to Argentina, and gone back to the GDR after the war. 'Tania', as she was called, received, after a long period of training, Che's first instructions about her mission. She was to get herself accepted in Bolivian high society, and wait to be contacted later.

18 November 1964 Arrival of Tania in La Paz, posing as Laura Gutierrez Bauer, an Argentinian. She got her resident's permit in January 1965.

14 March 1965 Return of Che to Havana, after four months' travelling in Africa.

1 April 1965 Che's farewell letter to Fidel, which the latter was to read in public on 3 October, at the presentation by the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

December 1965 A Cuban revolutionary sent to make contact with Tania in La Paz.

January 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana.

March 1966 Arrival in Bolivia of Ricardo from the Congo, via Europe and Cuba (having acquired the further pseudonyms of Papi and Mbili).

July 1966 Arrival in Bolivia of Pombo (Captain Harry Villegas), and Tuma (Lieutenant Carlos Cuello, Che's bodyguard since 1959). A number of Che's companions-in-arms got their nicknames from Swahili, because of their links with the Congo.

July-September 1966 Military training in Cuba of the group of volunteers chosen to accompany him supervised by Che himself. Preparations and first contacts in La Paz. Several meetings between Pombo and Mario Monje, Secretary General of the Bolivian Communist Party. Several of the Peruvian ELN leaders were taking part in the work in La Paz.

September 1966 Arrival in La Paz of Captain Alberto Fernandez (Pacho), with instructions from Che as to the location of the area of operations and the choice of political contacts. Regis Debray (Danton or el Frances) set out to explore the Alto Beni and the Chapare, and to investigate the arrangements made in La Paz by Moises Guevara, leader of a splinter group of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (itself set up in April after a split with the Communist Party of Bolivia), who had made it known that he planned to join the armed struggle.

Late September 1966 Stormy interview between Pombo and Mario Monje, the latter definitely alarmed by Debray's trip, and by the preparations being made. Strained relations with the Bolivian C P.

October 1966 Meeting of the Party's political commission, and preparation of the Nancahuazu farm with Coco Peredo, Tuma and Ricardo.

4 November 1966 Arrival of Comandante Guevara, via Madrid and Sao Paulo; he travelled as Adolfo Mena Gonzalez, an Uruguayan 'special envoy from the OAS'.

Early December 1966 Visit of Mario Monje to Cuba.

31 December 1966 Interview between Che (Ramon) and Monje in the camp at Nancahuazu. Monje wanted to take over the politico-military leadership of the war, and Che refused. The result was a breach.

8-10 January 1967 A plenum of the Party's Central Committee, meeting in La Paz, ratified Monje's positions.

22 January 1967 ' Instructions to Urban Cadres' sent out; the text by Che taken to La Paz by Loyola Guzman, the network's treasurer.

Late January 1967 Interview between Che and Moises Guevara.

1 February 1967 Departure of the main body of the guerrilla force (twenty-seven of them - fifteen Cubans and twelve Bolivians) to explore the northern region, towards the Rio Grande. This march was intended to take a fortnight, but in fact took six weeks, amid enormous difficulties.

8 February 1967 Crossing of the Rio Grande in spate; two people were drowned in this endeavour.

Early February 1967 Arrival at the camp of eight of the expected twenty Bolivians from Moises Guevara's group.

Late February 1967 The leadership of the Young Communists expelled all members who decided to remain with the nascent guerrilla movement.

6 March 1967 Unforeseen contact by the vanguard of the column led by Marcos (Comandante 'Pinares') with a civilian, Epifanio Vargas, who followed the column back to Nancahuazu, and made their presence known to the Camiri Fourth Division.

10 March 1967 A military detachment occupied the casa calamina, 'the house with the zinc roof, a few miles from the guerrilla camp. The farm, which had remained undetected until then, was the guerrillas' first base of operations.

11 March 1967 Desertion of two Bolivians, who went straight to the military authorities. One of them had worked as an informer for the Ministry of the Interior.

20 March 1967 Che returns to the central camp.

23 March 1967 The first fighting. The guerrillas held off a military offensive in the Nancahuazu gorges; seven of the army's men were killed, and there was a commandant and a captain among the prisoners.

24 March 1967 Tania's jeep, containing her personal papers, found by the army in a Camiri garage. (Tania, who had brought Giro Roberto Bustos, Pelado and Debray to the camp in February, was intending to return to La Paz as soon as possible, and get on with her own work there.)

Late March 1967 Four Bolivians from Moises Guevara's group expelled but, even though disarmed, they had to stay with the guerrillas until further orders.

4 April 1967 The army, guided by the two deserters, found and occupied the central camp. There they discovered an insufficiently buried diary kept by Braulio (Lieutenant Israel Reyes) on the march. Che consequently changed his pseudonym from Ramon to Femando.

10 April 1967 Successful ambush at Iripiti: ten soldiers killed, two of them officers, and thirty captured by the guerrillas. Death of Rubio (Captain Suarez Gayol, formerly Vice-Minister of the Sugar Industry in Cuba).

17 April 1967 By accident, the rearguard under Joaquin (Commandant Vilo Acuna Nunez), numbering seventeen, one of whom was Tania, lost contact with the rest of the column.

20 April 1967 Arrest in the village of Muyupampa of Giro Roberto Bustos (Pelado) and Regis Debray (Danton), together with an English journalist, George Andrew Roth. A Bolivian journalist, chancing to be in the village, took a photograph of the as yet unidentified prisoners in the police yard. That photo, published in Presencia a few days later, contradicted the official military statement that the two first-named were dead.

25 April 1967 Death in battle of Rolando (Captain Eliseo Reyes Rodrfguez), 'the finest man in the guerrilla force'.

27 April 1967 Arrest of Loro (Jorge Vasquez Viana, a Bolivian), found carrying his weapons, and wounded on a reconnaissance mission. He was taken to Camiri hospital, interviewed by a pseudo-journalist claiming to be a friend, and 'disappeared' from the hospital on 7 May 1967, murdered.

7 May 1967 Juan Lechin, workers' leader and former Vice-President, arrested in the Chilean port of Arica, with a false passport.

Early May 1967 Desertion of Pepe - one of the four rejected Bolivians - from the rearguard.

15 May 1967 In fighting, the rearguard loses Marcos (Comandante Sanchez Diaz) and Victor (a Bolivian guerrilla).

6 June 1967 Demonstration by the Huanuni Miners' Assembly in solidarity with the guerrillas.

7 June 1967 Declaration by the government of a national state of siege.

10 June 1967 Che, in his search for Joaquin's rearguard, moved north again, towards Santa Cruz, and crossed the Rio Grande.

15 June 1967 A state of alert declared by the trade unions.

19 June 1967 The guerrillas reached the village of Morocco; Che set up as a dentist; three military spies disguised as commercial travellers were captured, and later set free; a young peasant recruit, Paulino, from the village, was sent to Cochabamba as a courier to make contact with the urban network, but shortly afterwards captured by the army.

23 June 1967 A new defence pact between miners and students. The workers declared the mining areas 'free territory'.

24 June 1967 Massacre of St John's Day. The armed forces occupied the major tin mines near Oruro.

26 June 1967 The guerrillas ambushed, as a result of information given by the three soldiers they had released. Tuma was killed.

6 July 1967 The guerrillas occupied the town of Samaipata, on the main road from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz, where they replenished their stocks of food and medical supplies. They then moved on to seek refuge further south, in a virtually impenetrable area.

14 July 1967 A crisis in government: two political parties withdrew from the ruling reactionary coalition. The armed forces in direct control.

20 July 1967 The rearguard in battle near Ticucha, in the Nancahuazu area; two more of the rejected Bolivians (Eusebio and Chingolo, both very young and with neither political nor military training) deserted.

27 July 1967 Successful ambush mounted by Che's column.

30 July 1967 Three days later, the column taken by surprise in camp, by the army. Ricardo was mortally wounded while covering the retreat.

4 August 1967 The two deserters, arrested soon afterwards, led the army to the 'strategic caves' concealed in the area around the central camp. The evidence found there (photos, notebooks, passports, files, etc.) made it possible for the authorities to disband the urban network (Loyola Guzman was arrested), and prepare a case for the ' Camiri trial ' which had up to then hung fire.

31 August 1967 The Vado del Yeso ambush. Joaquin's rearguard reached the shore of the Rio Grande some distance from Masicuri, and were guided by a peasant, Honorato Rojas, towards a ford (vado) where a company of infantry of the Manchego regiment - informed a few hours earlier - were waiting in hiding on the riverbank. Seven fighters were killed crossing the river: Joaquin, Alejandro (Comandante Gustavo Machin), Braulio, Tania, Moises Guevara, Walter and Polo (Bolivians). Not long afterwards El Negro (Jose Restituto Cagrera Flores, a Peruvian doctor) and Freddy Maimura, were also captured and killed. One survivor, Paco, was taken prisoner. Che heard this on the radio, and abandoned his search for the rearguard. (Honorato Rojas, who betrayed them, was executed by the ELN on 14 July 1969.)

3 September 1967 Skirmish between a squad of guerrillas and a military detachment on the banks of the Masicuri river. Che's column numbered twenty-two. They started returning northwards, in search of a more favourable area.

22 September 1967 The column halted in the village of Alto Seco. In the village school, Che and Inti Peredo appealed to all the local people - their first political meeting. Almost at once, the mayor betrayed their presence to the near-by garrison of Vallegrande.

26 September 1967 With the army on their tail, the guerrilla vanguard were ambushed near the village of Higuera. Coco Peredo, brother of Inti, and a pillar of the underground preparations since 1966, Miguel, leader of the vanguard (Captain Manuel Hernandez) and Julio (Mario Gutierrez Ardaya, a Bolivian university leader) were killed. There remained nineteen men, one wounded (Benigno) and one seriously ill (Moro, a doctor).

28 September 1967 The army captured two deserters from the column, one of whom had left during the fighting, Camba (Orlando Jimenez) and Leon, the group's cook (Antonio Rodriguez Flores). They were now reduced to seventeen.

Sunday, 8 October 1967 In the Yuro ravine, now far from the Rio Grande, the column was located and encircled. Four guerrillas died in the fighting: Antonio (Captain Orlando Pantoja), Pacho (Captain Alberto Fernandez), Arturo (Lieutenant Rene Martmez Tamayo, Ricardo's brother) and Aniceto Reynaga (a Young Communist militant). Three were taken prisoner and murdered: Che Guevara, El Chino (Juan Pablo Chang, a Peruvian) and Willy (Simon Cuba, a Bolivian, formerly a miner in Potosi). The ten survivors were divided into two groups.

12 October 1967 The first group of four survivors was captured where the Mizque flows into the Rio Grande, and executed immediately. They were El Moro (Lieutenant Octavio de la Conception, a Cuban army doctor), Chapaco (Jaime Arana, former Young Communist militant), Eustaquio (Lucien Galvan, the group's radio technician, and a Peruvian ELN militant) and Pablito (Francisco Huanca, a young Bolivian peasant).

12 October 1967 The other group of six broke through the tactical encirclement and set out on a long march, pursued hotly by the army and the police.

13 November 1967 El Nato (Julio Luis Mendez, a Bolivian from a peasant family, formerly a guide in the Peruvian ELN guerrilla column) was killed during an encounter with the army.

December 1967 and January 1968 Inti Peredo and Urbano (Captain Leonardo Tamayo Nunez) arrived in Cochabamba. Preparations were made for the gradual departure from the country of the last survivors: Pombo, Urbano, Benigno (Captain Daniel Alarcon) and the Bolivian Dario.

22 February 1968 Having crossed the Andes on foot, the guerrillas got to the Chilean border, 125 miles south of Arica. The Chilean socialist senator, Salvador Allende, made it his business to welcome them, and went with them as far as Tahiti


*The Cuban military hierarchy included three basic ranks: teniente, capitn and comandante - equivalent to lieutenant, captain and major.


From Rgis Debray "Che's Guerrilla War", 1975


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