Friday, 9 September 2011

Che's Murderer and Operation Miracle

Che and Fidel
Mario Terán, a retired noncom notorious for having executed the legendary guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara on Oct. 9, 1967, at a little school in La Higuera in Bolivia, lived in the deepest anonymity in Santa Cruz. Steeped in indigence, he lived on his miserly pension as a former soldier and had lost his sight to cataracts that he had been unable to cure, for lack of resources.

In 2004, Cuban President Fidel Castro launched a broad humanitarian campaign throughout the continent, named Operation Miracle. Supported by Venezuela, it consists in operating – at no personal cost – on those low-income Latin Americans who suffer from cataracts and other eye diseases. In 30 months, about 600,000 people from 28 countries, including U.S. citizens, recovered their eyesight thanks to the altruism of the Cuban doctors. The avowed objective is to operate 6 million people by 2016.

The election of Evo Morales as President of the Republic of Bolivia in December 2005 and his willingness to establish social policies that will improve the wellbeing of some of the poorest people in the continent have allowed Bolivians to gain access to the humanitarian program launched by Cuba. About 110,000 Bolivians have regained their eyesight without paying a single penny.

Among them is Mario Terán, who was rid of his serious illness by the Cuban doctors. Pablo Ortiz, a Bolivian journalist who works for the newspaper El Deber of Santa Cruz, told the story: "Terán had cataract problems and was cured in Operation Miracle by Cuban doctors at absolutely no cost."

Then he gave more details: "The fellow is a perfect unknown. Nobody knows who he is. He is destitute and when he appeared at the hospital hosting Operation Miracle nobody recognized him; he was then operated. The story came from his own son, who came to the newspaper to express his gratitude in public... It happened last August [2006]."

Sometimes, history keeps some surprises in reserve. Thus, the murderer of Che was cured by doctors sent by Fidel Castro, the most faithful and intimate companion of "the heroic guerrilla." Terán owes his eyesight to the emissaries of health that follow the internationalist example of the man he killed.

According to the former CIA agent Félix Rodríguez, who participated in Che's capture, Terán volunteered to execute the rebel leader. Earlier, he had murdered in cold blood all the other prisoners. But his valor failed when he faced Che.

"When I entered the classroom, Che was seated on a bench. When he saw me, he said: 'You've come to kill me.' I felt inhibited and lowered my head without answering.

"Then he asked me: 'What did the others say?' I told him they had said nothing, and he commented: 'There were brave men!'

"I didn't dare to shoot. At that moment, I saw a big Che, very big, enormous. His eyes shone with intensity. I felt that he was overwhelming me and when he looked at me fixedly I felt woozy. I thought that, if he moved quickly, Che could take away my weapon.

"'Stay calm and aim carefully,' he told me. 'You are going to kill a man.'

"I took a step backward, toward the door, closed my eyes and fired the first burst... I regained my composure and fired the second burst, which struck him in an arm, a shoulder and the heart. He was already dead."

Che, despite the execrable media campaign designed to stain the image of one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th Century, remains "big, very big, enormous" and continues to shine "with intensity" thanks to the sacrifice of tens of thousands of Cuban doctors who, from the anonymity of their heroic action everywhere, continue to believe that another, less cruel world is possible.

Article by Salim Lamrani

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