Irony bites!

Doesn’t it just?

Cuban doctors working in Bolivia have saved the sight of the man who executed revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967, Cuban official media report.

Mario Teran, a Bolivian army sergeant, shot dead Che Guevara after he was captured in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands.

Cuban media reported news of the surgery ahead of the 40th anniversary of Che’s death on 9 October.

Mr Teran had cataracts removed under a Cuban programme to offer free eye treatment across Latin America.

The operation on Mr Teran took place last year and was first revealed when his son wrote to a Bolivian newspaper to thank the Cuban doctors for restoring his father’s sight.

Interesting that fate chose to only just spare the triggerman who drew the shortest straw, but not the bastards who gave him his orders. Karma caught up to them all, according to Eduardo Galeano:

Rene Barrientos, the dictator, had given the order to kill him. He ended up enveloped in the flames of his helicopter, a year and a half later. Colonel Zenteno Anaya, commander of the troops that surrounded and trapped Che in Nancahuazu, transmitted the order. Much later, he got entangled in conspiracies. The dictator of the moment found out. Zenteno Anaya was shot to death in Paris, one spring morning. The Ranger commander Andres Selich prepared Che’s execution. In 1972, Selich was beaten to death by his own functionaries, the Ministry of the Interior’s professional torturers. Mario Teran, sergeant, executed the order. He shot the round of machine gun fire into Guevara’s body, which was lying in the little schoolhouse in La Higuera. Teran lives in an asylum: he babbles and answers nonsense. Colonel Quintanilla announced the death of Che to the world. He exhibited the body to photographers and journalists. Quintanilla died of three gunshot wounds in Hamburg in 1971.

(from “Introduction to Law”, Days and Nights of Love and War. Emphasis added.)

As you can see, Galeano’s account of the people who killed Che is considerably more fleshed-out than the Beeb’s dry bones.

Galeano also notes that a journalist, Carlos Widmann, who had recently been to Bolivia and witnessed the miners being slaughtered by Barrientos’s army, had an opportunity to cast a curse on any villain he wished at a voodoo ceremony in a Brazilian terreiro. He could think of no other name to write down and put in the frog’s mouth but that of Barrientos! By the time his latter to Galeano arrived, describing the night’s events, “the Bolivian dictator had already been burnt alive in the Canadon del Arque, swallowed up by the flames of a helicopter given to him by the Gulf Oil Company.”

In Open Veins of Latin America, Galeano elaborates a bit further on the fatal event:

…Rene Barrientos’s helicopter had tangled fatally with telegraph wires in the Arque ravine. Human imagination could not have conceived of a more perfect death. The helicopter was a personal gift from Gulf Oil; the telegraph wires belong to the state. Burned up along with Barrientos were two suitcases full of money he was taking to distribute among the peasants, as well as some machine-guns which began spraying bullets around the flaming helicopter, preventing anyone from coming tot he rescue as the dictator was roasted alive.

Barrientos was very compliant to the wishes of foreign oil companies, as the gift of the helicopter shows. The state–which is another way of saying, the people of Bolivia–had ideas as to what they wanted their president to do; selling the country and its resources off at fire-sale prices was not one of them. So the organ of their communication–the wires–became the noose that snagged Gulf Oil’s helicopter, and by extension, the instrument of Barrientos’s karma. Galeano doesn’t say for whom the guns were intended, but I think it’s safe to say that Barrientos was not going to arm peasant militias fighting against CIA imperialism!

Perhaps Teran got off alive because he was not in a position of command, but “just obeying orders”, as the odious saying goes. But I think his survival (in insanity) was also a kind of karma. As was his operation–conducted by Cuban doctors. Che was a doctor himself, and of course, a key figure in Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution.

Yeah, tell me karma doesn’t happen.

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