MerCHEdes? Of atrocities and apologies (still owing) from Mercedes-Benz

Yes, the above is an atrocity, and a gross violation of rights. But not for the reasons the gusanos of Miami claim. Cubadebate explains what’s really horrible about it:

The luxury-vehicle company Mercedes-Benz apologized this week for having used the image of Che Guevara in a publicity campaign. Its apology, however, is for the wrong reasons.

The controversy arose last week, after the head of Mercedes-Benz, Dieter Zetsche, presented with much fanfare, in Las Vegas, a series of commercials for the luxury cars. One of these ads included a gigantic blow-up of the famous photo of Che Guevara in Havana, taken in 1960 by the Cuban photographer, Alberto Korda.

Zetsche’s idea was to promote a new Mercedes carpooling project, called CarTogether. The idea is to stimulate sales of the expensive cars with the idea that the owners transport multiple passengers, using the Mercedes as a kind of ostentatious free taxi.

The Mercedes-Benz director said in his presentation: “Some people think that car sharing is like communism. If that’s the way it is, long live the revolution.”

And at that point, he projected on a large screen the image of Che between two of the most luxurious cars offered to the consumer.

The use of the image of Che touched off a ferocious political campaign against Mercedes-Benz, led by a small group of Cuban-US citizens.

For example, a certain Ernesto Ariel Suárez launched a Facebook page, in which he wrote: “Tell Mercedes-Benz that it’s wrong to use the image of a mass murderer”. The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation joined the fray, characterizing Che as “a psychopath…who killed for fun”. Miami-based publications and blogs also joined the crusade.

The criticisms worked. Mercedes-Benz apologized.

A company communiqué explained: “We were not supporting the life or the actions of this historic personage, or the political philosophy he was defending. We apologize to anyone who may have felt offended.”

To be sure, Mercedes-Benz has much to apologize for, but not because of the criticisms of the enemies of Che, that brave and pure revolutionary who gave his life so that others could live better. No.

The German car company must apologize for the unauthorized use of Korda’s iconic photograph. It should also apologize to the widow and children of Che Guevara for having associated his image with the buying and selling of luxury goods. The political philosophy Che defended with his life said that “man truly reaches his full human stature when he produces without the compulsion of physical necessity of selling himself like merchandise.”

It is a well known fact that the German auto company collaborated with the Nazi régime, and that its most famous employee was Adolf Eichmann, during the latter’s years of exile in Argentina. It is not so well known that the same company also collaborated closely with the Argentine military dictatorship during the Dirty Wars in the Southern Cone. The families of some of its victims, the disappeared workers of Mercedes-Benz in Buenos Aires — Oscar Alberto Alvarez Bauman, Miguel Grieco, Diego Núñez, Esteban A. Reimer, Alberto Francisco Arenas, Alberto Gigena, Fernando Omar del Conte, Jorge Leichner and Héctor Belmonte — have launched a lawsuit against the company in a US federal court.

The relatives allege in their suit that Mercedes-Benz had the unionists kidnapped in order to break a strike. The suit also includes the names of other unionists from the factory who survived the repression — Héctor Ratto, Eduardo Alasiregui, Ricardo Martín Hoffman, Eduardo Estivill, Alfredo Manuel Martín, José Barreiro, and Alejandro Daer. They alleged that they were kidnapped, held in secret prisons, and tortured with electroshock by the Argentine state security forces under the direction and control of Mercedes-Benz.

The crimes of Mercedes-Benz in its Buenos Aires plant took place between 1976 and 1977. Following an internal investigation, the parent company, Daimler AG, concluded in December 2003 that the factory directors in Argentina had given the names of the “subversive” workers to the military junta, and that the objective was, beyond any doubt, to break a strike in the plant that had paralyzed the production of automobiles.

Without the information given by Mercedes-Benz, the security forces could not have kidnapped, tortured and “disappeared” the unionists. Evidently satisfied with the extra-official methods used by state security in collaboration with Mercedes to break the strike of ’77, the company executives wrote an internal memorandum, dated March 22, 1977, in which they conclude: “The result of the government’s methods was favorable, and opened for us a good perspective for the development of the country.”


The “methods” praised by Mercedes Benz’s executives are those of crimes against humanity: Torturing, kidnapping and murdering those who dare to demand a just salary, better working conditions, and the end of social inequality.

The lawsuit alleges that Mercedes-Benz of Argetina violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Constitution, the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention Against Torture, the Victims of Torture Protection Act, the Alien Tort Claims Act, and numerous Argentine and international laws, statutes and regulations.

It is true that Mercedes-Benz owes apologies, but not to those who hate Che and slander his name in the corporate media.

The apology is owed to Korda, Che’s widow Aleida, their children, and especially the families of the Argentine factory workers, whom Mercedes-Benz tortured, disappeared and killed during the 1970s. The lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz has been before Judge Ronald M. Whyte in the federal court of San Francisco for more than 7 years. The defense’s tactic is to slow down and delay the process as much as possible. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs continue to wait for justice to be done.

What would Che say to all that?

Translation mine.

Oh, I have a fair idea what he’d say, but I don’t think it would be printable, even on this potty-mouthed blog. Just translating that makes me feel soiled, and ashamed of my German ancestry. And especially embarrassed of the fact that my mom, before she met and married my dad in Northern Ontario, worked in New York City…for the local Mercedes importer/reseller and his wife; she was their au pair and governess. All this almost makes me feel as if *I* owed someone an apology, because if that despicable motor company didn’t employ a certain German-descended US executive, who in turn employed my mother because he wanted his kids to have a German governess, I probably wouldn’t be here.

Yes, that IS fucked up.

But what’s even more fucked up is the Argentine junta, and every bloody thing it ever did. And so is this blatant abuse of Che’s image, with the Mercedes logo in place of the red star on his beret. I mean yeah, his face IS practically synonymous with the whole concept of revolution. But the revolution he stood for was one blatantly at odds with the junta, with Mercedes-Benz’s Buenos Aires plant, and the fascist crackdown against auto workers everywhere.

And it is a revolution blatantly at odds with the use of Che’s face to sell a vehicle which he, on well-founded principle, would NEVER have driven.

So, Daimler-Benz bastards? You know what you have to do. Don’t make me cuss you out in my mother tongue. It sounds even nastier than Che swearing a blue streak in Spanish. Trust me.

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One Response to MerCHEdes? Of atrocities and apologies (still owing) from Mercedes-Benz

  1. John Jones says:

    Very well said Sabina. Truthfulness always rings out loud and clear.

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