“Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.”
So said Ernesto “Che” Guevara before his capture on the day before his execution. Guevara is now a communist martyr — the Argentine doctor staring into the distance on many a T-shirt and dorm-room poster who devoted himself to Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, then tried to export it South America and Africa. He may be better known to some as the romantic character played by Antonio Banderas in the film version of Evita.
On Oct. 9, 1967, Guevara, 39, was executed by Bolivian soldiers — soldiers trained and equipped by the U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives, according to declassified documents at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Now, more than 40 years after Guevara’s death, new pictures of his body have resurfaced in Ricla, a town in northern Spain.
WARNING: The images below may be disturbing because of their graphic nature.
The photos were found among the belongings of Luis Cuartero, a former missionary in Bolivia who died in 2012. His nephew, Imanol Arteaga found them after his death. According to Agence France-Presse, Cuartero was given the photographs by a French journalist. “They were in boxes with a load of photos of Bolivia,” Arteaga told AFP.
“I remembered he had photographs of Che Guevara and my aunt said, ‘Yes, I know where they are,’ Arteaga said.
Before his secret burial, Guevera’s body was laid out by Bolivian soldiers and put on display for the press in the village of Vallegrande. Among media present that day was AFP correspondent Marc Hutten, whose color photographs of the lifeless, bare-chested guerrilla were published internationally.
One picture discovered by Arteaga appears to have been taken at a different moment than others previously published. In the photograph Guevara is wearing a jacket, and his hair appears “matted,” as AFP reported. The images look similar to pictures of Guevara’s body before his body was washed and presented to the press.
After finding the photographs, Arteaga searched the Internet for “French journalist Che dead,” AFP reported. He discovered Hutten’s photographs of Guevara, and believes the pictures he found were taken by Hutten and given to his uncle, he told AFP: “He asked my uncle to take the photos because he was the only European leaving Bolivia at that moment.” Hutten died in 2012.
Sylvain Estibal, the head of photography for Europe and Africa for AFP, said that “Hutten told us he had sent four or five reels of photos to AFP in Paris.” A few months later, Hutten found only a few from the batch had made it. “Where the others ended up is still a mystery,” Estibal said.
Arteaga said his uncle never mentioned the pictures.
“What matters to me is that these photos were my uncle’s. They have sentimental value … But now I realize they have historical value too,” Arteaga said.