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Bolivian Diary

Ernesto Che Guevara

DECEMBER, 1966

December 1

The day went by without news. By night Marcos and his comrades arrived; they made a bigger detour than was specified, keeping to the small hills. At two in the morning I was informed of the arrival of Coco and another comrade; I'll see to it tomorrow.

December 2

El Chino arrived early, very outgoing. We spent the day talking. The important points: he will go to Cuba and personally tell them of the situation; within two months, that is to say when we have gone into action, five Peruvians will be able to join us; for the time being, only two will come, a radio technician and a doctor who will stay some time with us. He asked for weapons, and I agreed to give him one BZ, some Mausers and grenades, and to buy an M-l for them. I also decided to give them support by sending five Peruvians to establish a link for getting arms to a region near Puño, on the other side of Lake Titicaca. He told me about his troubles in Peru; he also spoke of a very bold plan to free Calixto which I think is a bit of a fantasy He believes that some of the guerrilla survivors are operating in the zone, but no one knows for sure, as no one was able to get to the zone.

We spent the rest of the time exchanging anecdotes. He left for La Paz with the same enthusiasm, taking with him some photographs of us. Coco has instructions to set up contacts with Sanchez whom I'll see later and to get in touch with the president's chief of information, who is Inti's brother-in-law and has offered to keep us informed. The network is still in its infancy.

December 3

No news. Being a Saturday, there is no exploration. The three peons went to make purchases at Lagunillas.

December 4

No news. Everybody is quiet because it is Sunday. I am giving the men a talk about our attitude to the war and to the Bolivians who will soon come here.

December 5

No news. We thought of going out, but it rained heavily all day. There was a false alarm when Loro fired some shots without warning.

December 6

We went out to start work on the second cave at the first stream. The group was composed of Apolinar.1 Inti, Urbano. Miguel and me. Miguel is replacing Tuma who hasn't recovered yet from his fall. Apolinar says that he is joining the guerrillas, but he wants to settle some private matters in La Paz; he's been given permission, but he will have to wait a little. We arrived at the stream at about eleven; we made a camouflaged track and explored the ground to find a suitable place for the cave, but there are stones everywhere, and the stream dries up on its course through a gorge of solid rock. We put off the exploration until tomorrow. Inti and Urbano set out hoping to hunt deer, because we are very short of food and our stores have got to last out until Friday.

1 Also called Polo.

December 7

Miguel and Apolinar found a suitable site and started digging the tunnel; the tools aren't good enough. Inti and Urbano came back empty-handed, but by evening Urbano had killed a turkey with an M-1; as we had already had something to eat, we left it for breakfast. Today really completes the first month of our stay here, but for reasons of convenience, I will give my analysis at the end of each calendar month.

December 8

We went with Inti up to a patch of solid ground at the top of the stream. Miguel and Urbano continued digging the tunnel. Apolinar replaced Miguel in the afternoon. By evening, Marcos arrived with Pombo and Pacho, the latter a long way behind and very tired. Marcos asked me to remove him from the advance party if he didn't improve. I marked the way to the cave which is on Plan II. I left them to do the most important tasks during their stay. Miguel will remain with them and we will return tomorrow.

December 9

We went slowly back in the morning, arriving round noon. Pacho has orders to stay behind when the group returns. We tried to make contact with Camp No. 2, but we could not. There wasn't any other news.

December 10

Day without news, except that we had the first bread baked in the house. I talked with Jorge and Inti about some of the most urgent tasks to be done. There wasn't any news from La Paz.

December 11

The day went by quietly, but by evening Coco turned up with Papi. He brought Alejandro and Arturo and a Bolivian, Carlos. The other jeep remained on the road as usual. Later they brought the Doctor. Moro1. and Benigno and two Bolivians, both ' Cambas '2 from Caranavi's farm. We spent the night commenting as usual on their journey and on Antonio's and Félix's3 absence, for they ought to be here by now. We decided with Papi to make two more trips to bring Renán4 and Tania. We will dispose of the houses and depots, and give $1,000 to help Sanchez. He will keep the van and we will keep one jeep and sell the other to Tania. We still have to make one trip for weapons, and 1 ordered everything to be loaded in one jeep to avoid a switchover which can be spotted more easily. El Chino left for Cuba, apparently very enthusiastic and meaning to join us here when he returns. Coco stayed with us to go and look for food in Camirí. and Papi went to La Paz.

There was one dangerous incident: a hunter from Vallegrande saw some of our footprints and tracks, apparently spotted somebody. and found a glove lost by Pombo. This changes our plans and we must be very cautious. The man from Vallegrande will go out with Antonio tomorrow to show him where he set his tapir traps. Inti told me of his reservations about Carlos, the medical student, who, shortly after arriving, stated his views about the role the Cubans were playing and had said before that he wouldn't fight unless the Party fought. Rodolfo told him off because, he said, it was all due to a misunderstanding.

1 Also called Morogoro. Muganga or the Doctor.

2 Native of the eastern zone of Bolivia.

3 Also called el Rubio

4 Also called Iván.

December 12

I spoke to the group,' reading aloud from the instruction manual.' about the realities of war I underlined the need for unity of command and discipline and I warned the Bolivians of their responsibility in breaking their Party discipline to adopt another line. I distributed the ranks as follows: Joaquín, as second-in-command; Rolando and Inti, as commissars; Alejandro, as chief-of-operations; Pombo, chief-of-services; Inti, finances; Ñato, supplies and weapons; for the moment. Moro is in charge of medical services.

Rolando and Braulio went out to warn the group to lie low, to wait for the man from Vallegrande to set his traps or make an excursion with Antonio. They returned by night; the trap is not far away. They got the man from Vallegrande drunk, and he went away by night, very happy with a bottle of singani inside him. Coco went back to Caranavi's where he bought the necessary provisions, but he was seen by some people from Lagunillas who were amazed by the quantity of his supplies.

Later Marcos arrived with Pombo. Marcos had cut his eyebrow-while chopping a piece of wood and had to have two stitches.

December 13

Joaquín. Carlos and the Doctor went to join Rolando and Braulio. Pombo is going with them and has orders to return today. I ordered the track to be closed and another one to be made starting from the same place towards the river; we made it so well that Pombo. Miguel and Pacho got lost on their way back.

We spoke with Apolinar who will go back to his home in Viacha for a few days; we gave him some money for his family and reminded him of the need for absolute discretion. Coco said goodbye in the evening, but at about three in the morning there was an alarm because we heard noises and whistling and the dog barked; it was Coco who had lost his way in the forest.

December 14

Day without news. The man from Vallegrande passed by the house to inspect the trap, because he had set it yesterday, despite what he had said before. We pointed out the new jungle path to Antonio so that he may take the man from Vallegrande through it to avoid any suspicion.

December 15

No news. We started preparations for eight of us to go out and install ourselves permanently in Camp No. 2.

December 16

In the morning, Pombo, Urbano, Tuma, Alejandro, Moro, Arturo, Inti and I left for the camp, heavily loaded. The journey took us three hours.

Rolando stayed with us, and Joaquín, Braulio, Carlos and the Doctor went back. Carlos has proved to be a good walker and a good worker. Moro and Tuma discovered a cave near the river with quite large fish in it and they caught seventeen, which will give us a good meal; Moro wounded his hand on a catfish. We looked for a place to make a second cave, since we have finished with the first one. and all other activities have been stopped until tomorrow. Moro and Inti tried to hunt for a tapir and went out to spend the night looking for one.

December 17

Moro and Inti only caught a turkey. We Tuma, Rolando and I spent the day digging the second cave which will be ready by tomorrow. Arturo and Pombo looked for a site to install the radio set and mended the entrance path which was in rather bad condition. It rained heavily throughout the night until the morning.

December 18

It rained heavily all day but we continued digging the cave; it is almost two and a half metres deep now, which is what we need. We explored a hill where we plan to install the radio set. It seems quite satisfactory, but we will have to test it.

December 19

It rained again and we didn't go out. but at about 11:00. Braulio and Ñato arrived with news that the river, although deep, could be crossed. As we left, we met Marcos and his advance party who were coming to install themselves. He is to remain in command and he has been ordered to send three to five men. depending on the circumstances. We made our way there in a little more than three hours. At midnight. Ricardo and Coco arrived, bringing Antonio and el Rubio (they couldn't get a ticket last Thursday) and Apolinar, who is coming to join us definitively. Iván also arrived to deal with certain matters.

I spent practically all night without sleeping a wink.

December 20

We discussed various points and we were getting everything straight when the group from Camp No. 2 arrived, led by Alejandro, with the news that in the road near the camp there was a shot deer with a cord round its leg. Joaquín had passed through there one hour before, but hadn't said anything. We supposed that the man from Vallegrande had taken it there and for some reason had left it, and then escaped. We decided to post sentries at our rear and we sent two men to intercept the hunter if he appeared. A short while later the news came that the deer had been dead for a long time and was infested by worms. And later Joaquín came back and confirmed that he had seen it. Coco and el Loro brought the man from Vallegrande to see the animal and he stated that he had wounded it several days ago. This closed the incident.

We decided to speed up contacts with the man in the information bureau whom Coco has neglected and to speak with Megía so that he can serve as a contact between Iván and the man in the information bureau. He will keep in touch with Megía, Sanchez. Tania and the man from the Party who has not vet been nominated. He could be someone from Villamontes. but it has not yet been decided. We received a telegram from Manila indicating that Monje is coming via the south.

They have invented a contact system, but I am not very pleased because it clearly shows distrust of Monje by his own comrades.

At one in the morning we will get information from La Paz if they have already gone to fetch Monje.

Iván has the chance of doing some business, but his forged passport does not let him; the next stage is to improve the document and he must write to Manila to speed it up with our friends.

Tania will come next to receive instructions; I will probably send her to Buenos Aires.

We have definitely decided that Ricardo. Iván and Coco will leave from Camirí by plane and the jeep will remain here. When they get back, they will telephone to Lagunillas to say that they are there; Jorge will go by night to see if there is any news and he will fetch them if there is anything positive. At one in the morning we were unable to pick up any news from La Paz. At dawn they left for Camirí.

December 21

El Loro has not left me the plans made by the scout so I am now left without knowing what sort of road there is from here to Yaqui. We went out in the morning and made our way without any incident. We will try to have everything here for the 24th, the day we have planned a party.

On our way we met Pacho, Miguel. Benigno and el Camba going to fetch the generator. At five in the afternoon, Pacho and el Camba came back without the generator, which they had left hidden in the forest, because it was so heavy. Tomorrow five men will go and get it. We finished the cave for the goods: tomorrow we will start the one for the radio.

December 22

We started the cave for the radio: at the beginning it was in loose earth and extremely easy, but soon we hit some hard stone which prevented us from going on.

They brought the generator, which is very heavy, but we have not tried it vet because we have no petrol. El Loro announced that he was not sending any maps because he had verbal information and he would come tomorrow to give it.

December 23

We went out with Pombo and Alejandro to explore the ridge on the left. We will have to open a way through it. but it gives the impression that we can walk over it easily. Joaquín arrived with two comrades, announcing that el Loro was not coming because a pig had escaped and he had gone to look for it.

There is no news about the expedition made by the man from Lagunillas.

By evening we got the pig back; it is quite big but we have nothing to drink. El Loro is incapable even of getting these things and seems pretty disorganized.

December 24

Day devoted to Christmas Eve. Some people made two trips and were a bit late but in the end we all got together and had a good time. Some of us had a few too many drinks. El Loro explained that the journey of the man from Lagunillas had not been very successful and had achieved only the few. imprecise results contained in the note.

December 25

Back to work; there were no trips to the first camp. We have decided to call it 26 as proposed by the Bolivian doctor. Marcos, Benigno and el Camba went out and made their way up the ridge on the right. They came back in the afternoon with the news that they had seen a plain, two hours' walk from here; they will get to it tomorrow. El Camba came back with a fever. Miguel and Pacho made decoy routes on the left bank of the river and an access path to the radio cave. Inti, Antonio, Tuma and I continued with the radio cave which is very difficult as it is all stone. The rear party made their camp and found a look-out overlooking both sides of the access river; it is a very good place.

December 26

Inti and Carlos went out to explore the point called Yaqui on the map; the trip is estimated to last two days. Rolando. Alejandro and Pombo continued the laborious work on the cave. Pacho and I went out to explore the paths made by Miguel; it is not worthwhile continuing the one along the ridge. The access path to the cave is quite good and difficult to find. We killed two vipers today and also one yesterday. Apparently, there are quite a lot of them. Tuma, Arturo, el Rubio and Antonio went hunting, and Braulio and el Ñato stayed on guard at the other camp. They came with the news that el Loro had overturned his jeep, and with a note announcing Monje's arrival. Marcos. Miguel, and Benigno went out and tried to improve the path along the ridge; they did not come back all night.

December 27

We went out with Tuma to try and find Marcos: we walked for two and a half hours up to a gorge coming down on our left flank to the west. We followed the footprints there, down rather steep cliffs. I was hoping to reach the camp that way. but hours went by and I did not get there. After five in the afternoon we got to the Ñacahuasu, about five kilometres below camp Number 1 and at about 19:00. we got to the camp. We learned that Marcos had spent the previous night there I did not send anyone to warn the others, assuming that Marcos had told them where I probably was. We saw the jeep which was quite badly damaged; el Loro had gone to Camirí to fetch some spare parts. According to el Ñato, he had fallen asleep while driving.

December 28

When we were setting out from the camp. Urbano and Antonio came looking for me. Marcos had gone with Miguel to make a path along the ridge to the camp and had not arrived: Benigno and Pombo went out looking for me on the same road we had taken. When I got to the camp, I found Marcos and Miguel, who had slept on a ridge, as they were unable to reach the camp. The former complained about the way I had been treated. Apparently, the complaint was against Joaquín, Alejandro and the Doctor. Inti and Carlos returned without having come across anybody; they only found one abandoned house, which presumably is not the point marked as Yaqui on the map.

December 29

We went with Marcos, Miguel and Alejandro to the barren hill to take a better look at the situation. It seems to be the start of the Pampa del Tigre, which is a chain of bare hills of uniform height situated at about 1.500 metres. The ridge to the left must be rejected because it curves towards the Ñacahuasu. We came down and arrived at the camp in an hour and twenty minutes. We sent eight men to fetch the supplies, but they could not bring them all. El Rubio and the Doctor replaced Braulio and Ñato. The former made a new path before coming; this path starts with some stones by the river and leads into the forest on the other side over more stones, which means no footprints are left. There was no work done on the cave. El Loro left for Camirí.

December 30

In spite of the rain, which flooded the river, four men were sent to dispose of things left in Camp Number 1; it is now cleaned out. There is no news from outside. Six men went to the cave in two trips and put away everything that was supposed to be hidden.

We could not finish the oven because the clay was too soft.

December 31

At seven-thirty in the morning, the Doctor came with the news that Monje had arrived. I went with Inti, Tuma, Urbano and Arturo. The reception was friendly, but tense. The question hung between us: What have you come for? ' Pan Divino ' 1, the new recruit, was with him. so was Tania, who came to receive instructions, and Ricardo, who is now staying.

The conversation with Monje started with generalities, but soon came to his fundamental points, summed up in three basic conditions:

  1. He would resign from the leadership of the Party, but he would at least obtain the Party's neutrality and would take cadres from it. for the struggle.
  2. The political and military leadership of the struggle would go to him while the revolution was confined to Bolivia.
  3. He would handle relations with the other South American Parties, trying to get them to support the Liberation Movements (he used Douglas Bravo as an example).

I answered that the first point was up to him as secretary of the Party, even though I considered his attitude completely wrong. It was vacillating and accommodating and protected the reputation in history of those who must be condemned for their weak stance. Time would prove me right.

I had no objection to his third point, nor to him trying to carry it out, but it was bound to fail. To ask Codovila to support Douglas Bravo was like asking him to condone an insurrection within his own Party. Time would also be the judge.

I could not accept the second point on any grounds. The military commander would be myself and I would not accept any ambiguities about this. Here the discussion ended and we talked in a vicious circle. We decided that he would think it over and talk to the Bolivian comrades. We went to the new camp and he spoke with all of them and gave them the alternative of either staying or supporting the Party; they all chose to stay and this seemed to be a blow to him.

At noon we drank a toast to mark the historical importance of the day. I answered, using his own words and marking this moment as the new Grito de Murillo of the continental revolution, and I stressed the point that our lives did not mean a thing, faced with the fact of the revolution.

Fidel sent the enclosed messages.

1Also called Pedro.

Analysis of the month

We have completed the team of Cubans with great success; morale is good and there are only small problems. The Bolivians are good, although few in number. Monje's attitude can slow down our development on one side, but it may contribute on the other side by freeing me from any political compromise. The next steps, apart from waiting for more Bolivians, are to talk with Moisés Guevara and with the Argentinians, Mauricio1 and Jozami (Massetti and the dissident Party.

1 Also called Pelado, el Pelao or Carlos.

 

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