Thursday, 20 September 2012

Aleida Guevara's Oxford talk a huge success

Oxford CSC welcomed Dr Aleida Guevara and long-term friend Luis Marron to a special public meeting on 19th September as part of her ‘Remembering Che’ speaking tour.

Aleida spoke to well over 100 people at the Tingewick Hall in the John Radcliffe Hospital about life in Cuba and how they had to buy powdered milk from New Zealand because of the US blockade and because Cuba's environment  cannot sustain a dairy industry. She spoke eloquently and passionately about the plight of the Miami Five and called for them to be repatriated.

Aleida then went on to do a book-signing at Waterstones’ in the City Centre following an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail. The queue was long but people were very patient and wanted to talk to Aleida about her family. Aleida was offered courtesy and kindness by everyone involved.
Pictures and report courtesy of Oxford CSC 

Guevara's daughter visits Oxford

The following article appeared in the Oxford Mail following Aleida’s visit to Oxford as part of the ‘Remembering Che’ tour.

Aleida Guevara, the eldest daughter of the iconic Argentinian revolutionary, visited Oxford yesterday on the last stop of her Remembering Che tour.

As well as signing books and taking a whistlestop tour of Oxford, she used the trip to raise awareness of the situation in Cuba, which has been under blockade by the United States for 50 years.

In an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail, she said: “The main purpose is to speak about the Cuban reality today, the struggle we wage in Cuba against the American blockade.

 “In the first place the United States has to lift the blockade. That will make life for Cubans much easier. Then it would be necessary to achieve a greater unity among Latin American countries.”

She spoke about her father, who was executed in Bolivia when she was seven years old, with great admiration, and said she had seen a massive demonstration of respect for him and his beliefs in Britain.

She said: “I didn’t get to live for a long time with my father, it was only through the love that my mother had for him that I learned who he really was.”

Fans of Dr Guevara and her family packed the Waterstones store in Broad Street to have copies of her mother’s book Remembering Che and other texts signed.

And Leighton Gibbins, 41, from Thame, pictured with Dr Guevara, said: “I came because of my interest in Che. He was a hero of mine.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Aleida Guevara tells Miami Five Vigil to “break the blockade of silence imposed on the truth”

Hundreds of activists, trade unionists and campaigners lay siege to the US Embassy in London yesterday to protest against the ongoing unjust treatment of the Miami Five by the United States. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s annual Vigil for the Miami Five has become an integral part of the British campaign in support of the Five and, this year, fell a week after the 14th anniversary of their arrest.

The sixth annual vigil for the Miami Five welcomed speakers from across the trade union and labour movement, enjoyed performances from actors and musicians and heard from Aleida Guevara, daughter of iconic Argentine revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. 

The trade union movement has been fundamental in growing the campaign to Free the Five. As usual, this support was visible on the night as trade union flags and banners were festooned throughout the audience and the platform boasted speakers from a number of the 24 national unions affiliated to CSC. These included Frances O’Grady (TUC), Len McCluskey (Unite), Eric Roberts (Unison), Christine Blower (NUT), Billy Hayes (CWU), Manuel Cortes (TSSA), Jonathan Ledger (Napo) and Carolyn Simpson (SERTUC).  All agreed that – whilst it was sad to continue the struggle for justice – their unions would continue to do all they could in support of the Miami Five and their estranged families.

New TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady “brought the support of the whole TUC” and declared “we want immediate and unconditional release now”. Frances was, “delighted that the first rally I’m speaking at as General Secretary of the TUC is in support of the Miami Five”. She highlighted the irony that the Miami Five remain imprisoned for defending Cuba against terrorism in a country famous for inventing the “so-called War on Terror”. As she remarked, the hypocrisy of the US “knows no bounds”. 

One of the biggest champions of the Miami Five in recent years has been Unite the Union and – in the last year – they have welcomed the mothers of the Five and the wives of the Five to their Sector and National Policy Conferences. General Secretary Len McCluskey sent a clear message to the American Embassy – and the US government – that they “are not just dealing with 11m Cubans, they are dealing with the whole of the working class movement throughout the world. We will not allow you to bully and intimidate our Cuban comrades”. He placed the persecution of the Miami Five within a history of aggressive US policy towards Cuba and emphasised, in particular, the ongoing blockade.

Cathy Jamieson MP made an important contribution as she urged the assembled crowd to lobby their MP to sign EDM 497. The EDM was tabled by Michael Connarty MP and calls for visitation rights to be granted to Olga and Adriana – wives of Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez – who have been unable to see their husbands for 14 years. In little over a week, the EDM has accrued nearly 30 signatures from parliamentarians representing eight different parties.

Progressive legal firms have been crucial in the ongoing legal struggle in support of the Five. Doug Christie and Steve Cottingham spoke on behalf of two firms – Thompsons and O.H. Parsons respectively – that have led the field in the UK. Doug and Steve gave an update on the legal situation – including reference to recent revelations that the U.S government paid journalists at the time of the trial to write prejudicial articles – and contextualised the treatment of the Five within a history of state collusion and conspiracy. 

Moving musical accompaniment was provided by Omar Puente and Rebecca Thorn with a wonderful rendition of Hasta Victoria – which got the audience singing along – whilst actors Adjoa Andoh and Andy de la Tour performed an emotive reading of letters exchanged between Rosa Aurora Freijanes and her imprisoned husband Fernando Gonzalez.

As darkness descended and candles flickered in the wind, Aleida Guevara entered the stage to rapturous applause.  Aleida echoed previous contributions that we struggle, not just for the Five, but for their brave mothers, wives, children and families. She lamented that their trial and incarceration “violates the legal norms of the United States”.

Aleida thanked those in attendance – and those in support of the campaign – for their solidarity. “Thank you for your resistance – but we still have to do more. We need to multiply our force. Let’s break the blockade of silence imposed on the truth. As Jose Marti said, bad people triumph when good people sleep.”

BBC interview with Aleida Guevara

In September 2012, Dr Aleida Guevara - daughter of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - visited the UK as a special guest of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. She attended the TUC Conference in Brighton as part of her 'Remembering Che' tour and conducted this interview with BBC South East.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Aleida Guevara tells parliamentary meeting that “solidarity is the best expression of tenderness of the people”

Over 150 people – alongside a number of parliamentarians – crammed into a packed meeting at the House of Commons to hear an inspirational talk by Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che Guevara. She spoke about her father, the ongoing blockade of Cuba and the Miami Five’s continuing struggle for justice.

On the blockade, Aleida said that Cuba understands the America’s “right not to trade with us, but what is unacceptable is that the US tries to stop other countries from trading with us”. Denying Cuba the right to trade with its closest neighbour significantly increases the cost of imports and means that Cuba often has to travel around the world to do business with third countries.

“We have to go all the way to New Zealand to get powered milk for our children, and you can imagine how expensive this is. To go all that way, we have to charter a ship – but blockade legislation means that any ship that goes to Cuba is prevented from docking in any American port for 6 months. So ship owners will often charge us three times as much.”

“Since the blockade has not been enough to destroy the unity of the Cuban people and the revolutionary process, the US administration has tried a mixture of military and biological warfare against Cuba,” said Aleida. Furthermore, Cuban-Americans in Florida have been used to undermine Cuba’s sovereign government.

“If someone poisons the water of a nursery, is that a terrorist action? If an artificial disease is introduced to kill an animal population, is that a terrorist action? If a bomb is exploded on a civilian aircraft, is that a terrorist action?”

“How can we put an end to these activities?” asks Aleida. “The only option we have is through information. If you have adequate information, you can work to prevent these terrorist attacks.”

It was precisely for these reasons that Cuba sent the Miami Five to collect information on terrorist groups operating out of Florida. Aleida condemned their trial and their ongoing imprisonment.

“As a law, no trial should take place where there is bias and impartiality. This trial took place in Miami, in the same place where these terrorists are. What type of justice can you expect? We now have information that the media in Miami was financed before and during the trial by the government to spread information against the Miami Five.”

Despite struggling against economic blockade, biological warfare and terrorism, Cuba has built a society founded on the principles of free education, healthcare and unparalleled internationalism. It is able to send tens of thousands of doctors abroad and has led literacy campaigns across the under-developed world.

“Cuba is not perfect, we are aware of that,” said Aleida. “No society created by humans can ever be perfect. We make mistakes, but we defend the right we have to rectify those errors. No Cuban will ever go anywhere else to tell people what to do. We have learnt to respect other human beings.”

Aleida questioned why Cuba – a small country blockaded for 50 years – has contributed so much to under-developed countries whilst wealthy nations have done relatively little. “Cuba has proven that when a people rules over its own destiny, there’s no power on earth that can stop it. We have undoubtedly shown that there is another way in which you can live. We cannot give you special recipes – but if we can do it – why can’t you?”

A number of politicians spoke alongside Aleida as they welcomed her to parliament. Michael Connarty MP reflected on his long-standing affinity with progressive movements in Latin America and Che Guevara in particular. “When I was young, I grew my hair and had a beard to feel like I look like Che Guevara. Looking back, I looked more like Rasputin,” he quipped.

He praised ordinary Cubans and their commitment to social justice in the face of Western intervention. “The commitment and determination of the people – despite being crushed by blockade led by capitalist nations – is incredible. They are still determined to see the revolution through to create a better world”.

A number of years ago, Michael Connarty became the first MP to sponsor an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of the Miami Five and last week tabled EDM 497 which calls for visitation rights to be granted to Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva to see their husbands, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez.

“What was the crime of the Miami Five? To protect their country. We give people medals for that,” Michael lamented.

“They weren’t being violent, fomenting revolution, or planting bombs – they were trying to collect information on terrorists.”

Michael declared that the continuing denial of visitation rights represents a breach of human rights – rights which America “claim they are founded on”. He urged constituents to write to their MPs asking them to sign EDM 497 but also said, “write to the Prime Minister, write to William Hague, write to Obama, write to the European Commission on Human Rights, write to anyone supposedly interested in human rights. Never give up. Keep fighting, and I will fight with you.”

Cathy Jamieson MP spoke about her experience of being involved in a CSC local group before entering parliament and – once elected – how she felt it was her “duty to do what I could to highlight the issues around Cuba, particularly the blockade which has lasted 50 years”.

Cathy spoke about how she has helped to re-establish the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba and the recent IPU parliamentary delegation to the Caribbean island which “signal that parliamentarians from lots of parties are interested in Cuba and the issues facing the island”. The delegations was reminded of Robert Owen as they learnt about the co-operative movement in Cuba and the process of common ownership.

She emphasised that there is a “committed group of politicians in the Commons and the Lords who will continue to raise concerns around the blockade and the Miami Five” and echoed Michael Connarty by urging all those in attendance to write to their MPs to sign EDM 497.

Baroness Angela Smith, Chair of the APPG on Cuba and Vice-Chair of CSC, thanked Aleida for her attendance and called on the solidarity movement in the UK to increase pressure in support of the Miami Five and in opposition to the blockade and, in particular, the EU Common Position. Angela reflected on the recent parliamentary delegation to Cuba where the UK solidarity campaign is widely recognised as “the best in the world”.

Aleida thanked CSC members and affiliates for their continuing support. “Some have said, I don’t know if it’s true, that Che Guevara once said that solidarity is the best expression of the tenderness of the people. Men and women’s tenderness makes solidarity possible. When a person admires another person, it’s because that person has the same values. That’s why it’s great to see your solidarity and as a Cuban woman, doctor and mother, I have to say thank you very much. Thank you for your resistance, let’s all struggle together for a better world. Hasta Victoria Siempre!”

Monday, 17 September 2012

Aleida Guevara leads campaign to Free the Five on visit to Scotland

Aleida Guevara visited Scotland as part of her ‘Remembering Che’ tour. Her visit began with a short protest outside the Scottish Parliament on the Miami Five, coinciding with the 14th anniversary of their arrest.

Addressed by Aleida, MSPs, Elaine Smith, Sandra White, Neil Findlay, Jamie Hepburn, and STUC Deputy General Secretary, Dave Moxham, it called for an end to the silence around the case, and for their immediate release.

This was the first activity on the Miami Five at the Scottish Parliament, following May's historic debate on the case of the Five, around Elaine Smith's motion.

Later the Cross Party Group on Cuba met, and was addressed by both Aleida Guevara, and Luis Marron. A packed meeting heard Aleida speak movingly, not only of her father and mother, but of her own solidarity work as a doctor in Latin America, and what she had learned from it.

Referring to the Miami Five as her brothers, she reiterated the call for their freedom, and insisted that all that was required was for the USA to follow their own laws.

Elaine Smith, MSP Deputy Presiding Officer of the Parliament and Convener of the Group, who had lodged a motion welcoming Aleida's visit to the Parliament closed the meeting, promising that supporters of Cuba in Scotland would continue to redouble our efforts to bring and end to the illegal Blockade, and win Freedom for the Five.

Report and photo courtesy of SCSC

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Che's daughter calls for more countries to follow Cuba's lead on health and education

The following review of Aleida Guevara’s talk in Brighton was written by Leo Garib for the Camden New Journal.

BRIGHTON was abuzz last Sunday. From outside the TUC conference, near the seafront, London Metropolitan University students barracked union leaders, demanding strikes over education cuts and expulsions of foreign students.

Among the dozens of protesters from the London Met, in Islington, were half-a-dozen working-class boys and girls, clearly dressed with the scorching hot weather in mind. They were reluctant to talk about themselves but were hoarse from letting rip at the TUC leaders.

About half-a-mile up the road another more modestly dressed woman was also speaking about the future of working-class boys and girls.

Che Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara, was speaking about Cuba’s heroic struggle for survival in the face of the US blockade.

Like her father, the icon of the Cuban socialist revolution, 52-year-old Aleida is a doctor. A paediatrician, a spokeswoman for Cuban women and an author, she is in Britain to mark the 14 years since five Cubans were jailed in Miami after trying to bust a terror group with US political links.

Stocky, and with her father’s soft face and twinkling brown eyes, she spoke for almost two hours, pausing only to pour water for an elderly woman in the audience.

She explained how the Caribbean island has to pay through the nose for powdered milk imported from as far away as New Zealand because the US blacklists firms trading with it.

But Cuba has developed a health and education system that is the envy of the world, she said, sending 60,000 health workers to poorer countries – many times more than the US or any European country ¬- and offering 5,000 medical training scholarships to hard-up US students.

“If a country of 11 million people can do this there is no reason why other countries cannot,” she said. “What’s the difference between Cubans and other people? We may laugh more, but we face the same situations, we have the same needs. The only difference is the social system we have.”

Cuban scientists are working with Swiss experts to research vaccines against lung, breast and prostate cancer, she revealed.

Mobbed by the audience afterwards, Aleida broke away to throw her arms around a young disabled boy, her eyes misting over as she beamed down at him.

If Cuba gives up, she said, “Who has the most to lose? Young people.”

Aleida Guevara will speak at the House of Commons on September 17 (Grand Committee Room) at 7pm, and at a vigil outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square at 6pm on 18 September.

Guevara: Now is the time for action

This report of Aleida Guevara’s talk in Scotland appeared in the Morning Star.

A crowd of hundreds filled the main hall and an overflow room, and yet more people gathered in the first and second floor galleries of the STUC Centre to hear and be inspired by the remarkable Aleida Guevara, speaking about Cuba and her father Che.

Aleida was in Glasgow on a British visit, campaigning to win justice for the Miami Five and to end the illegal US blockade.

"Most of you will know the essential story of the Cuban revolution and the strides we have made since then," she said."But sometimes you might take your eyes off the situation. Living the blockade is a real struggle, every day."

Cubans had suffered 500 years of oppression and then 50 years of blockade, she said, but the most painful problem was the lack of vital foodstuffs and medicines.

Appealing for justice for the Miami Five political prisoners held in the US, Aleida added: "We are not asking the USA to do anything special, just to follow their own laws.

"If they did that, the five would be back in Cuba tomorrow."

Dr Guevara, a paediatrician, said Cuba was training doctors for other poor countries and drew some hard practical lessons for supporters in Britain and the developed world.

"Solidarity is sharing what you can see other people need," she said. "Not sharing what you already have too much of. It boils down to something very simple - we have to work together. There's a lot of talk about support for us, but we need action. You might be worried about us, but we are very worried about you too," Aleida quipped.

"You worked for many years get free public services like education and health - and now you're allowing them to privatise it all!"

Saturday, 15 September 2012

My father Che: Guevara's daughter Aleida on growing up in her father's shadow

The following article appeared in the Daily Mirror.

To some he’s a cold-blooded executioner. To millions, he’s the revolutionary whose face has come to symbolise their own struggles against oppression.

And to others, he’s just an image – the epitome of cool, exploited by brandmakers and fashionistas alike.

But for one woman, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was simply “Papi” – a beloved father whose dedication to the South American revolution stole him from her far too soon.

Dr Aleida Guevara, the eldest of Che’s four children with his second wife, was nearly seven when her dad was assassinated by CIA-backed agents in Bolivia 45 years ago.

Growing up in his shadow, the widespread adulation for him confused her at first.

 “Up to the age of 16 I wondered, ‘Why should I love my father?” she says. “He was never beside me.’ Then I went through all the memories I have of him and realised he was a man who knew how to love.”

She shrugs: “I had to love him back.”

Aleida, now 51, is speaking in Brighton ahead of a talk she was giving at a fringe meeting at the TUC conference.

Named after her mother, she bears a strong resemblance to her father, with warm eyes, ready smile and fierce passion evident in her hand gestures.

A series of motorcycle tours through impoverished parts of South America in the early 1950s – since made into films based on his diaries – fuelled Argentinian-born Che’s opposition to inequality.


He rose to prominence with Fidel Castro in the successful guerilla campaign to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the late 50s.

But Che left Cuba when Aleida was just four to continue his mission to spread revolution in Latin America and beyond. He was killed almost three years later in October 1967, deep in the Bolivian jungle, aged just 39.

Che kept diaries and wrote poignant letters to his family, which he used to maintain his role as a father in a way he couldn’t physically. He made up stories to keep them in check.

When Aleida’s younger brother Camilo got in trouble for swearing at school, Che wrote to him saying he must stop otherwise Pepe the Caiman – a character he invented - “would bite off” Che’s leg.

Che disappeared from Cuba after upsetting the Soviets who backed Castro, but occasionally he would sneak back to visit his family, disguised so his children wouldn’t recognise him and give the game away.

It is those visits that form most of the scant memories Aleida has of her father. She smiles as she describes one favourite visit: “Beautiful because it’s all my own memory, not distorted by other people.

“I was about four-and-a-half, in a dark bedroom. My mother was holding my youngest brother Ernesto, a month old. There was a man behind her in military fatigues, and I saw his huge hand stroke my brother’s head and hair so delicately, just like I remember he’d do to me.

“It was my Papi. I remember that as though it was yesterday.”

A mother herself, to daughters Estefania, 23, and Celia, 22, divorced Aleida now appreciates her father’s dilemma. Tears come to her eyes as she says: “I’m a mother now, and I understand what it means to say goodbye to a baby. I cannot imagine what went through his head about this baby my father barely knew when he left Cuba.

“The most beautiful thing for a child is to know you’re loved by your parents – and there was a lot of love in this image I have in my head.”

As much as Che has been remembered for his fierce intellect and romanticism, he wrote of executing “traitors” and “spies”.

These include farmer Eutimio Guerra, who admitted betraying the revolution.

Of his death, Che wrote: “I fired a .32 calibre bullet into the right hemisphere of his brain which came out through his left temple. He moaned for a few moments, then died.”

How does Aleida reconcile her loving father with this killer? “Yes, my father killed – but revolutions are almost always violent. If you live in a country where the police are always killing and torturing its people, there will be clashes. If the enemy doesn’t give you what you want, you must take it. My father simply carried out justice decided by tribunals according to the laws of Cuba at the time.”

While she says she is not political, Aleida has dedicated herself to different causes. Part of her tour, organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, UK, included a vigil in London for the Miami Five – a long-running effort to free five men the CSC say were jailed by America for infiltrating anti-Castro terrorist groups.

Aleida is also a paediatrician, following in her medic father’s footsteps, to “give back all the love the Cuban people have always shown to me”, and has been instrumental in setting up children’s homes in the Cuban capital Havana.

She has also worked as a doctor in other countries, particularly Angola, and like her father, her experiences bolstered her passion for equality.

On her travels she often wears a T-shirt bearing the famous image of Che taken by Alberto Korda Díaz at a funeral rally in March 1960 that has become the most reproduced image in history. While often used to represent a fight against oppression, it has also been hijacked by fashionistas and used for commercial gain.

Aleida says if her father’s face is used “on a poster in the house of somebody who loves him, or on T-shirts worn by young people protesting about injustice”, she feels happy.

“But if his image is economically exploited, it angers me. I hate it and I’ll fight,” she said.


Among others, Che’s image has been printed on a bikini, used to advertise a German optician and on a vodka bottle.

She continues: “I don’t want money out of it – just respect for my father.”

It was the sudden appearance of Che’s image on posters in the streets of Havana that first alerted Aleida to his death.

She says: “I asked why so many photos of my daddy, but nobody answered.

“Uncle Fidel suspected my father had been killed and wanted to prepare me and my sister for the worst. He told us he’d received a letter from our daddy, saying if he died the way he wanted to die, we shouldn’t cry for him.

“The next day, I was told to take some soup to my mother. She was crying.

“She told me to sit down and read me a letter. It started, ‘If you are reading this letter, it means I am no longer around’. That final letter was when I realised I didn’t have a father any more.”

Aleida is an outspoken critic of the US blockade of Cuba, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. She acknowledges poverty faced by Cubans and is “disappointed” in the Obama administration that she had faith in to remove it.

And as Britain prepares for a TUC demonstration on October 20 against the Conservative-led coalition’s cuts on the NHS, Aleida offers her support.

“Defend your rights. Don’t let anybody take what belongs to you,” she says.

“All that you have achieved through so many years of trouble and hard work is the right of the British people – and I hope you defend it.”

'Che Guevara was just Papi to me': Daughter of icon revolutionary talks of her beloved father for the first time

Che with his second wife, Aleida March
The following article appeared in the Daily Mail.

The daughter of iconic South American revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara has told for the first time of her love for the man she called 'Papi'.

Dr Aleida Guevara was almost seven years old when her father was executed in the Bolivian jungle in 1967 by agents working for the CIA.

She recalls how he would occasionally visit her and her brother in disguise after vanishing from Cuba when he fell out with the Russians who backed his close confidante Fidel Castro.

Now 45 years after his death, Dr Guevara told the Daily Mirror: 'Up to 16 I wondered, "Why should I love my father?"  He was never beside me.

'Then I went through all the memories I have of him and realised he was a man who knew how to love. I had to love him back.'

The eldest of Che's four children from his second marriage, Dr Guevara is in Britain to speak at a fringe meeting at the TUC conference.

She is campaigning for the Miami Five, who were jailed in 1998 in the U.S. for allegedly infiltrating anti-Castro terrorist groups.

Her father's face has been exploited on millions of T-shirts, catwalk fashions, posters, a vodka bottle, and even a bikini worn by superstar model Gisele Bundchen.

Dr Guevara, 51, said she is happy for his image to be used by fans, but admitted she gets angry if her father is 'economically exploited.

She told writer Melissa Thompson: 'I don't want money out of it - just respect for my father.'

He left Aleida - named after her mother - when she was four but kept in touch by letter and tried to be a parent, inventing fantasy characters to keep the children under control.

She only learned he had died when posters bearing his picture started appearing on the streets of Havana where she lived with her siblings.

It was Castro himself who prepared her for his death when he told her she should not cry for her father because Che had written to the Cuban leader saying that he had died the way he wanted to.

The next day her mother read out a letter from her father which began: 'If you are reading this letter it means I am no longer around.'

Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

As a young medical student, Guevara travelled throughout Latin America and was radically transformed by the endemic poverty.

Later, while living in Mexico City, he met Raúl and Fidel Castro and joined their movement to overthrow the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the victorious two-year campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Aleida accepts her father killed but told the Daily Mirror: 'Yes my father killed, but revolutions are almost always violent. If the enemy doesn't give you what you want you must take it.'

Friday, 14 September 2012

Minibus given to Che Guevara's daughter in memory of Gateshead union leader

The following article appeared in The Journal to coincide with Aleida Guevara’s visit to Newcastle as part of the ‘Remembering Che’ tour. 

THE daughter of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara has accepted a minibus presented in memory of union leader Kenny Bell.

Dr Aleida Guevara was in the region to receive the 16-seater bus in remembrance of the Unison deputy convenor, who tragically died last year.

For decades Mr Bell fought for the rights of workers, and continued to do so through a year when he knew his cancer was terminal.

The 62-year-old spent the last months of his life fighting coalition Government spending cuts despite being told that he had an aggressive form of throat cancer, which had sadly spread despite chemotherapy.

He also led the team of fundraisers who encouraged Unison branches to donate money to purchase the minibus, computers and medical equipment, which will be shipped to Cuba.

The minibus, named the Kenny Bell Minibus for Cuba, was handed to Dr Guevara at a ceremony at Newcastle’s Civic Centre.

Regional convener for Unison, Clare Williams, said: “Unison Northern Region were delighted to welcome Dr Aleida Guevara, the daughter of legendary Cuban hero Che, to Tyneside to talk about her experiences in International Health Brigades, and her father.

“This minibus project was inspired by our deputy convenor Kenny Bell, who died a year ago, and who was an inspirational figure with a tremendous commitment to international solidarity and encouraging young members.”

Mr Bell passed away on August 14 at his home in Blackhall Mill, Gateshead. He leaves behind his partner Joyce and their sons Patrick, Jack and Joseph.

'My dad Che was true to his beliefs'

The following article appeared in the Nottingham Post after Aleida’s visit to Nottingham as part of her ‘Remembering Che’ tour.

ABOUT 200 people turned out to see the daughter of Che Guevara speak in Nottingham city centre.

Aleida Guevara gave a lecture at the Square Centre, in Alfred Street North, on Tuesday night as part of a UK tour.

Che Guevara was an Argentinian Marxist who played a key role in the 1959 Cuban revolution which overthrew the country's military government.

Aleida Guevara was seven when her father was killed in Bolivia in 1967, aged 39, while trying to launch a revolution there.

After his death his name and image were immortalised by many young people and used as a rallying point for left-wing politics.

Ms Guevara told the audience: "I was angry, of course, growing up without a dad, but my mother always says, love your father for who he was, a man who had to do what he did.

"My father died defending his ideals. Up to the last minute he was true to what he believed in. This is what I admire."

Ms Guevara also spoke at the TUC conference in Brighton on Monday, and also visited Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Che Guevara's daughter tells of her anxiety for the future of Britain's health service

The following article appeared in the Derby Telegraph following Aleida Guevara’s visit to Derby as part of her ‘Remembering Che’ tour.

THE daughter of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara says any changes made to the NHS must be "for the better" – as it would be "very sad" if the system was lost.

Dr Aleida Guevara made the comments yesterday ahead of a workshop for health professionals at Royal Derby Hospital. She was invited to speak about the role Cuban doctors perform working overseas. There are 20,000 in more than 70 different countries worldwide.

But Dr Guevara – who also visited Derby in 2009, when she described the NHS as "one of the best healthcare systems in the world" – said: "I have been reading about the NHS being in danger or in a dodgy situation because of a tendency to privatise things.

"But it is a system which has been achieved and gained by this country and changes to it have to be for the best, otherwise they make no sense at all. It is one of the best systems in the world and it would be very sad to lose it."

Dr Guevara, who has previously stated that her father influenced her to train as a doctor, also said coming to talk about the work of her country was important.

The 51-year-old said: "I'm getting older now but I still find it is always beautiful to come and speak about the reality of Cuba, which is often silenced by mainstream media.

"It's crucial that people know what we do. The sharing of information is also very important."

Last chance for justice for the Miami Five?

Fourteen years ago today, five Cubans were unjustly imprisoned in US jails for trying to stop violent attacks against their country.

The Miami Five, who were infiltrating US-based terrorist groups when seized on September 12 1998, have since won the support of human rights, legal and religious organisations - but they have received scant justice from the US legal system.

And Martin Garbus - lawyer for one of the five, Gerardo Hernandez - says far more than their freedom is at stake if the latest appeal on their behalf fails.

Numerous previous appeals have failed and it had seemed that their only hope was a presidential pardon. But new information, not available at the time of the trial, provides a last opportunity to take their fight for justice back to the courts.

In an affidavit filed on August 31 the renowned lawyer argues that the US government's unprecendented payments to journalists during the original trial threatens not only the integrity of the case against the five, but the integrity of the US legal system itself.

Sixty-six pages of evidence calls for Hernandez's conviction to be set aside - or if this is refused for the US government to at least disclose information it is withholding from the defence team and for an oral hearing.

Evidence in the affidavit demonstrates that a US government agency deliberately hired and paid secret propagandists to influence the jury to convict Hernandez, who faces the harshest prison sentence of the group - double life plus 15 years - and the real prospect of never leaving prison unless his conviction is overturned.

"The government's successful subversion of the Miami print, radio and television media to pursue a conviction is nearly incomprehensible. It is unprecedented," the submission states.

As Cuba's National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon pointed out recently, this would mean the US government had conspired with the media to "condemn the accused beforehand and render a fair trial impossible" - a serious violation of the US constitution.

"The nature of the conspiracy was to use the media to unleash an unprecedented propaganda campaign of hatred and hostility," Alarcon says.

"To this end they used a large group of 'journalists' - in fact government cover agents - who published articles and comments time and again, day and night, to produce a flood of misinformation."

In just one example of this relentless media onslaught, the affidavit shows that between November 27 2000, when the trial started, and July 8 2001, when the five were found guilty, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald alone had published 1,111 articles on them - an average of more than five a day.

"It was impossible to escape the permanent flow of propaganda anywhere in south Florida," Alarcon adds. "If all this were not enough, the 'journalists' also harassed witnesses and jurors. The latter complained to the judge that they were frightened because they were followed with cameras and microphones."

Ironically, it was a journalist from one of the biggest offenders, the Miami Herald, who first exposed the illegal payments in 2006.

This action was not without consequences for the reporter, Oscar Corral. Shortly after his article was published his editors were forced to move him and his family to a safe house after he was, in his own words, "subject to a campaign orchestrated to intimidate, harass and silence. It was heavy artillery fire.

"Some threats were very specific and mentioned my family."

But Corral's exposé was just the tip of the iceberg. Subsequent freedom of information requests have brought new names to light, but the full numbers are still unknown.

The affidavit argues that the US government should release a complete list of payments and contracts, a request that has unsurprisingly been vehemently resisted so far.

The names uncovered to date have dubious journalistic credentials to say the least.

According to Alarcon, "all of them, without exception, were members of or had close links with organisations in Miami that cultivate violence and terrorism. Some of them are themselves convicted and confessed terrorists."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of US taxpayers' money paid for these people to write hate-fuelled propaganda about the five and Cuba before and during their trial. The US public was kept in the dark.

Such secret propaganda is forbidden by the country's constitution and for this reason Alarcon stresses that the recent affidavit is of "exceptional importance - especially for true journalists, those who perform with honesty a profession some others corrupted and turned into an instrument to kidnap five innocent men."

The affidavit concludes: "Every dollar for every article, image, radio or television show that was spent on this secret programme violated the integrity of the trial.

"Every person who decided to pay, paid, took funds or covered up those payments in this secret programme violated the integrity of the trial."

Alarcon notes that the media's role in the case of the Miami Five was the "great irony" of their predicament.

"In Miami the media was a decisive tool to condemn them. Outside Miami, they are punished with silence."

Help us break the silence on the Miami Five

To help break this silence in Britain and mark the 14th anniversary of the arrest of the Miami Five, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign is organising a candle-lit vigil outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square on Tuesday September 18 from 6pm.

Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che, will speak alongside leaders from the British trade union and labour movement.

Aleida will also speak on the Five as part of CSC's Remembering Che tour, which begins with a public meeting at the House of Commons on Monday September 17 at 7pm and goes on to Nottingham, Derby, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Oxford. Full details here

This article originally appeared in the Morning Star

Aleida Guevara draws huge crowd in Nottingham

Aleida’s visit started at the University of Nottingham where pure serendipity meant that she was able to charm and sing to assembled academics at the bi-annual Cuba Research forum. She made reference to the human effects of the blockade and rich mix of cultural and ethnic heritage that the Cuban people share, including the statistic that 70% of the population has an element of indigenous genetic make-up.

A brief visit to the Robin Hood statue followed as this had been a dream of hers from childhood to visit Nottingham, the home of the mythical hero.

So to the meeting, held at the Refugee Forum, it had attracted much interest and by 6:15 it was clear that the room would be full, about 250 in a room meant for 70. About 50 at least got turned away or had to wait for some time to get in. The first thing Aleida did was give away her chair so someone with a greater need could use it.

Luis Marron spoke first, encouraging everybody who had not already done so to join Cuba Solidarity and get their organisations to affiliate. He spoke too about the solidarity work he had been involved with particularly in the trade union movement while posted here.

Aleida spoke without notes and with humour, clarity and passion for her cause, that of the revolution, the return of the Miami Five and for Cuban sovereignty. For instance on the blockade she said it was easy to speak on this but it is more difficult to experience it especially when a child needs medicine that Cuba could pay for but cannot get because a patent is held by the US.

On terrorism (let’s remember that the meeting was on 11th September, the anniversary of not just terrorism in the US but also the bloody coup against the popular Allende-led government in Chile) she asked whether or not bombing a civilian airline was terrorism or similarly poisoning water supplies or introducing infectious diseases or launching seaborne invasions. This was why Cuba had to infiltrate and get information on terrorist groups operating from the US. So on the Miami 5 she simply demanded that the US obeyed its own laws and followed a proper judicial process. However, progress on this and on the blockade would only come from pressure of people and international solidarity. On intervention and regime change she asked, who gave the right to western nations to intervene and interfere in the internal affairs of developing nations.

She ended by surprising us once again by singing beautifully from a poem from Jose Marti: to a dear friend you must give a white rose but also to an enemy a white rose should be cultivated from the heart.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Aleida Guevara tells TUC fringe trade union support helps Cuba extend internationalism

Aleida Guevara – daughter of Che Guevara – received a standing ovation after delivering a powerful speech against the US blockade of Cuba at a CSC fringe meeting at TUC conference on Monday.

Over 250 delegates attended what Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey called “the biggest fringe meeting at the TUC” as Aleida spoke about a “blockade which marks everybody”. 

“In health, the blockade is felt very strongly,” she said. “For instance, there was a child diagnosed with a heart condition but we didn’t have the necessary equipment to treat. We have the know-how and the money to buy the equipment – but no-one will sell it to us because it is licensed by an American pharmaceutical company.”

Despite struggling under a fifty year-old blockade, Cuba has made exceptional advances in the field of healthcare and the development of medicines and vaccines. As Aleida noted, “Cuba is producing a vaccine to treat lung cancer, but the US government won’t allow EU pharmaceuticals to buy it. Why should we allow this to happen?”

Aleida thanked the trade unions for their continuing solidarity and said that this support “has allowed us to extend solidarity to the rest of the world. There are more than 24,000 health professionals working in 66 countries around the world, and this doesn’t include the projects we have in the ALBA countries like Venezuela where we have 10,000. All this is possible because your solidarity exists”

Len McCluskey, said he was proud of the role Unite has played in support of CSC, the Cuban people and the Miami Five. “If there is a still a branch in this room that isn’t affiliated to CSC, then please do. Our solidarity links are very important to what happens in Cuba.” 

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said that his union stood with the Cuban people – not just against the blockade – but because of the example which Cuba provides. “Why do the RMT believe that Cuba is such a beacon? Because they have decided to go down a different route. They have shown that there is a different world out there not based on the size of your wallet.”

“We have to decide what sort of a world we want to live in. The Cuban people don’t have a problem with the American government, it’s the American government that has a problem with them. Cuba is fighting for a different world that lives in peace, a world with housing, education and health. Viva Cuba!”

In his last TUC as General Secretary, Brendan Barber said he was “honoured to be the first TUC General Secretary to visit Cuba” and “proud of the links and relationships we have built up with trade unions in Cuba”. He urged the movement to intensify its support for the Miami Five on the fourteenth anniversary of their arrest. 

As Aleida concluded, “no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fidel taught the Cuban people that if the people unite, there is no power in the world that can stop it. We are united, only 90 miles away from the US, and we have been able to maintain a socialist society. We have many problems, but we have heart.”

“Thank you for your resistance. In my country, it is very easy to be a revolutionary, but for you to keep going with solidarity, this gives us a lot of strength.”

Click here for full details of Aleida Guevara's speaking tour. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Why Che's daughter fights to preserve his image as idealistic revolutionary

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara with Aleida
The following article appeared in the Observer ahead of Aleida Guevara's 'Remembering Che' tour.

She has the eyes of her father, a gaze that became an emblem for the 20th century. She also has his deep sense of social injustice, but Dr Aleida Guevara has always had to share her "papi" with the world.

While she doesn't mind the posters, the flags, the postcards, graffiti paintings and T-shirts, Dr Guevara and her family are trying to clamp down on "disrespectful" uses of her father's famous photo, taken by Alberto Korda in 1960. Not easy when it is the most reproduced image in the world.

"It's not so easy, we do not want to control the image or make money from it, but it is hard when it's exploited," Dr Guevara smiles. "Sometimes people know what he stands for, sometimes not. Mostly I think it is used well, as a symbol for resistance, against repression."

Che on a bikini was one they couldn't stop, but Che, a teetotaller, on a vodka bottle was a battle won for the family with the help of the UK Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

Next month marks the 45th anniversary of the killing of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the guerrilla who helped lead the Cuban revolution and became an icon of rebellion. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the US "blockade", the ongoing commercial, trade and travel embargo which has stifled Cuba's economy. The cold war era-style standoff still sees America spend millions beaming propaganda radio and TV stations into Cuba. Cubans remain the only immigrants the US encourages in with automatic citizenship.

An underdeveloped country offering world-class education and healthcare for all, Cuba maintains anti-dissident policies, imprisoning journalists and anti-government activists. Despite a mass prison release of dissidents in 2011, Cuban authorities, says Amnesty International, "do not tolerate any criticism of state policies outside the official mechanisms established under government control. Laws on 'public disorder', 'dangerousness' and 'aggression' are used to prosecute government opponents. No political or human rights organisations are allowed to obtain legal status."

Dr Guevara is in the UK for another anniversary, the 14th year since the Miami Five – spies entrusted with infiltrating anti-Castro terrorist groups operating from Florida – were jailed by the US. The 51-year-old Havana paedriatician will lead an evening vigil in London outside the US embassy on 18 September. "I'm not political," she insists, "but I care about injustice."

Aleida was seven when Che was killed in a remote Bolivian hamlet by a group of Bolivian soldiers and CIA operatives. With only shadowy memories of her father, she has got to know him through his diaries and the reminiscences of others, including the man she calls "Uncle" – Fidel Castro.

"Fidel has told me many beautiful stories about my father, but I cannot ask him too much, he still gets very emotional at the thought of Che. For example, my father had terrible handwriting, so my mother was asked to transcribe his diaries. When Raúl Castro came to our house to collect the manuscript, my mother knew that Raúl and Fidel also kept diaries, so she said 'if there are accounts in the diaries that differ then you must go with Che's, because he is not here to defend himself'. Raúl got very angry and said 'No, while Fidel and I are alive, Che is alive. He is always with us.' They were crying then.

"If Che hadn't died in Bolivia, he would have died in Argentina trying to change things there," she says. "Maybe it would be a different continent today. My mother always says that if my father had lived we would all have been better human beings."

Che was a medical student in Argentina when, on a motorcycle tour around Latin America in 1952, he became incensed by the poverty he saw. He took up political theorising and then arms, joining the revolution that overthrew Cuba's vicious Batista regime.

It was then, as the middle class and wealthy fled Cuba for Miami, that a bitter chasm opened between the two nations, and it has deepened from president to president. The promise of President Obama to tackle the Cuban issue has come to nothing so far. "We had great hopes, but we are disappointed in Obama, maybe things have even got worse for us," Dr Guevara says.

Revolution, she believes, simmers on in Latin America, where the gulf between rich and poor is escalating and she blames, as Che did, creeping American-led industrialisation. "This economic crisis is even more dangerous than any before for Latin America. It's not only about oil now, the US want water too. Brazil is destroying its rainforest to mine out iron, Mexico is a dumping ground for unwanted waste. This time the land is being destroyed as well."

Critics of Che claim the photogenic young man in battle fatigues who wrote poetry overshadows the brutality of his revolution. Guevara showed no qualms about killing. "It was a revolution," says his daughter. "Of course, I would rather there was no bloodshed but that is the nature of revolution. In a true revolution you have to get what you want by force. An enemy who doesn't want to give you what you want? Maybe you have to take it. My father knew the risk he took with his own life.

"I was angry, of course, growing up without a dad, but my mother always says, love your father for who he was, a man who had to do what he did. My father died defending his ideals. Up to the last minute he was true to what he believed in. This is what I admire."

But she says she would like to have been able to argue with him. "When I was six he sent me a letter. In it he said I should be good and help my mother with household chores. I was angry because my brother's letter said 'I will take you to the moon' and my other brother's read 'We will go and fight imperialism together'. I was annoyed – I wanted to go to the moon, why couldn't I fight imperialism?"

Dr Guevara is the eldest of Che's four children with his second wife, Aleida. "We didn't have privileges growing up as Che's children. My colleagues didn't know who I was until I first talked on Cuban TV in 1996. But it's important not to keep silent, because there is injustice being wrought."

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Che Guevara's doctor daughter coming back to Derby

Preview of Aleida Guevara’s visit to Derby as part of ‘Remembering Che’ tour as appeared in the Derby Telegraph.

THE daughter of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara is to visit Derby for the second time in three years.

Dr Aleida Guevara works as a doctor of children's medicine and is taking part in a national workshop for health professionals in the city on September 11.

She will be speaking about the role Cuban doctors perform working overseas. There are 20,000 doctors in more than 70 different countries worldwide.

In 2009, she also took part in an international workshop on children's health and medicine at the then Derby City General Hospital and praised the NHS, describing it as "one of the best healthcare systems in the world".

Imti Choonara, professor in child health at the University of Nottingham and based at Derbyshire Children's Hospital, said: "I am delighted that Aleida Guevara was happy to come to Derby again.

"The university's academic division of child health has strong links with Cuba and has published joint research together looking at the side effects of medicines in children. It also has a bilateral agreement with the University of Havana and joint workshops are frequently held between the two universities."

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Che Guevara's daughter recalls her revolutionary father

A two-year-old Aleida Guevara in the arms of Fidel Castro, and her father, Che, holding a cigar
Aleida Guevara will tour the UK in September in a special ‘Remembering Che’ speaking tour organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Full details here.

The following interview was written by Libby Brooks for the Guardian in 2009.  

Aleida Guevara talks about having to share her 'Papi' with the world – and her dislike of the commercialisation of his image

Aleida Guevara was four and a half when her father left Cuba. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, iconic Argentine guerrilla leader, Marxist theorist and second-in-command of the Cuban revolution, departed the island for Africa in 1965 after falling out of political favour with Fidel Castro. She saw him only once again, before his execution by the CIA-backed Bolivian government two years later.

Castro granted the visit on condition that it was clandestine. Guevara, concerned that the children's chatter about "Papi's" re-appearance might endanger his family, arrived back in Havana heavily disguised. He was introduced at supper as a friend of their father.

"After supper, I fell and hit my head," Aleida recalls. "He was a doctor, of course, so he treated me, but then he picked me up and cuddled me. I remember a feeling of complete protection and tenderness. Later I said to my mother, 'I believe that this man is in love with me.'" She laughs at her childish grandiloquence. "I was only five. But I knew that this man loved me in a very special way. I didn't know that it was my father, though, and he couldn't tell me."

Aleida, now 49 and with two daughters of her own, has come to Britain as a guest of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to promote a year-long festival of Cuban culture. A committed Marxist and medical doctor, just as her father was, the thick, bobbed hair, broad features and deep-set eyes are immediately reminiscent of the face without which no student common room is complete. "When I see [his face] commercialised, or used for advertising," Aleida intones sharply, "I don't like it."

Ensconced in a functional committee room at Unison's north London headquarters, Aleida tugs a fine red shirt across her solid shoulders. She has inherited her father's charisma and mellifluous exposition, but exercises it more intimately. Talking about politics, she employs the language of emotion rather than that of arid ideology.

Guevara's legacy, she tells me, is his life. "My father knew how to love, and that was the most beautiful feature of him – his capacity to love." She touches my arm. "To be a proper revolutionary, you have to be a romantic. His capacity to give himself to the cause of others was at the centre of his beliefs – if we could only follow his example, the world would be a much more beautiful place."

So why is it that Cuba, an island that throughout its history has been coveted, bullied and demonised by mightier nations, continues to draw worldwide fascination? Her answer may seem simplistic, but it is instant: "Because of Cuban men and women. We're a cultured, educated people – and possibly one of the only ones in the world to say no to the United States."

That "no", of course – regardless of whether it was dictated by an iron regime, as some would argue, or articulated by the populace – has manifested devastating consequences. The vicious embargo imposed on Cuba by the US the year after its revolution continues to suffocate the country. And as a practising paediatrician, Aleida is all too familiar with the daily realities of the blockade.

"There was a case of a girl, six months old," she says. "She had a condition where the digestive system would flood with blood, and the only treatment available is patented by the US. Cuba had the money to pay, but not one company in the whole global medicine market would offer it." She presses together her thumb and forefinger in a gesture of frustration. "Any pharmacological distributor daring to deal with Cuba would be investigated by the FBI. The government can pull out investment or boycott their goods. We couldn't get the medicine and the baby was dying. The only sin of that girl was the fact that she was born in Cuba."

There has been much speculation about how Barack Obama intends to alter US policy towards Cuba, following his announcement of "a new beginning" to their relationship at a recent Americas summit, and his easing of travel restrictions on Cuban Americans wishing to visit their homeland. Aleida is sceptical. "What Obama has done is to return to the policy that existed under the Clinton administration. There's nothing new here. He promised to close Guantánamo, but that hasn't been done. There is a lack of continuity between what he says and what he does. So far we haven't seen anything that would indicate a change of course.

"If the blockade was lifted, things would change immeasurably. The Cuban economy would flower. That's the missing link."

Coincidentally, in advance of Aleida's visit, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign has unearthed what are believed to be the earliest colour photographs of her father, taken by a British international brigade volunteer who travelled to the island in 1960, the summer before Aleida was born. The elderly woman unearthed her slides in a shoebox full of mementoes, never having realised the significance of the man she snapped on her colour camera. So how did Aleida feel when she first saw the photographs? "It was beautiful," she says. "The woman who took the photos actually worked in Cuba building a school. So even in the old days there were people giving their solidarity. That's the value of the photos to me."

Her father looks like he always did, she says; natural and with people surrounding him. "I'm very grateful to this woman for giving me a piece of him that I knew existed but had never seen. But what I am most grateful for is that she remains in solidarity with Cuba."

Her mother will be pleased to see them too, she adds. Aleida March was a member of Castro's guerrilla army when she met her future husband in the Cuban bush, and impressed him with her knowledge of the local terrain (Guevara was previously married to exiled Peruvian revolutionary Hilda Gadea). Now in her 70s, March has published a memoir about her life with Guevara, and how she raised their four children after his death. "You can buy it in any language you want except English," her daughter teases. "Do you read Turkish?"

The ideals of both parents inevitably influenced Aleida's own consciousness, but you can't impose ideals on children, she cautions. "You can only show by example."

It sounds far-fetched that a man intent on fomenting leftwing revolution in post-colonial Congo would find the time to make up animal stories for his faraway children, but Aleida says he did just that.

"My father didn't have the opportunity to enjoy our childhoods. But when he was away, which was most of the time, he would send us stories and drawings on postcards. My brother Camilo was told off at nursery school for using swearwords, and my mother confronted Che because he had a habit of swearing – as all Argentinians do," she notes archly. "He was in Africa and he wrote to Camilo telling him that he couldn't swear at school, or Pépé the Caiman [a reptilian character invented by Guevara] would bite off Che's leg." She grabs my calf. "So he had to stop swearing to protect his father."

Domestic as these reminiscences are, Che has, of course, never been solely Aleida's Papi or property. Alberto Korda's iconic portrait, taken at a funeral service in 1960 – jaw clenched, eyes to the horizon, unkempt locks under a red-star beret – has been reproduced on posters, T-shirts and advertising hoardings ever since. His image, if not his ideals, has entered the lexicons of adolescent rebellion and creative subversion. Last weekend, I spotted a teenager swinging a Che bag down Oxford Street and asked him why he'd bought it. Che was this cool guy who talked about revolution, he said. What revolution meant, he found harder to articulate.

"When you see a child carrying his image on a march and the child says to you, 'I want to be like Che and fight until final victory', then you feel elated," Aleida says. "But the most surprising thing is that this event happened in Portugal, not in Cuba."

But how does she feel about the use of his image in the El Commandante pub in Holloway, London, and the Che memorabilia crowding every proto-conscious market stall? She frowns. "I saw him used to advertise an optician's in Berlin. A fashion designer showed his underwear designs in New York reprinting his face." The thumb and forefinger connect once again. It all depends on the context. "But if a young person wears the T-shirt and starts to understand who this person was, then that's fine."

Aleida is similarly ambivalent about Hollywood's recent obsession with her father. Walter Salles's Motorcycle Diaries, which traced Guevara's early, transformative travels throughout Latin America, was a magnificent film, she enthuses, that showed a young person learning about poverty and refusing to turn his back on it. The more recent two-part biopic Che, starring Benicio Del Toro, was disappointing. She had expected a more complete presentation of the revolution.

The vocabulary of struggle, consciousness and sacrifice that Aleida uses may feel anachronistic to a British audience versed in the minor political narratives of personality conflict and fiddled expenses. But there is another story about Cuba, still to be told. As the west waits eagerly for further dispatches about Castro's failing health, for Aleida, his demise can only usher in a new beginning.

"The US propaganda machine has dedicated itself to telling everybody that the revolution depends on just one person. But there is an inner conviction among the Cuban people. So, when the time comes when Fidel isn't with us physically any more, they will find a way forward. And if they can't do that, they will disappear. Pablo Milanés said once it is preferable to sink in the sea than to betray the glory that once lived. And for us that rings true."

Trade Unions for Cuba eNewsletter – Issue 3

The third issue of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s eNewsletter ‘Trade Unions for Cuba’ is now available online. The newsletter aims to celebrate collaboration between CSC, British trade unions and trade unions in Cuba. It brings up-to-date news on trade unionism in Cuba, reports on CSC’s work with unions domestically, mobilises campaigns and promotes events, brigades and tours.

The Summer 2012 editions reviews the recent visit of the wives of the Miami Five to the UK and reports on CSC’s trade union conferences throughout the Spring.

It also features previews of exciting events coming up at TUC Conference, Labour Party Conference, the Vigil for the Miami Five and Aleida Guevara’s ‘Remembering Che’ speaking tour.

The newsletter can be viewed here. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, share on social networking sites or print-off and distribute around notice boards and offices. If you would like to receive future copies, please email CSC Campaigns Officer Dan Smith.