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Don’t Be Like Che

Jean-Paul Sartre called him the era’s most perfect man.  The students of 1968 used his name as the watchword for their revolution.  He was Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the communist revolutionary who was executed 40 years ago by CIA-led Bolivian rangers after trying to start another Vietnam in South America.  Since he died, his image has endured as a symbol of proud idealism and youthful rebellion.  Today, Che’s example is extolled by leftist governments throughout Latin America, and his famous photograph by Alexander Korda is constantly being reproduced and worn by college students, rock stars, and runway models.

The enduring popularity of this Argentine vagabond and Marxist true believer remains an enigma.  Why was Che considered a great guerrilla fighter despite bungling most of his campaigns?  (He botched his last adventure in Bolivia from start to finish.)  Perhaps the very ineptitude of Che has helped his image: The beautiful loser is prominent in Latin iconography.  He joins the child heroes of Chapultapec and José Martí on his white charger in the Pantheon of Noble Failure.

Humberto Fontova, in Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, has pitilessly boiled Che down to his essence: a committed totalitarian—he sometimes signed his correspondence “Stalin II”—who organized and led Fidel...

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