It Had Been Inaugurated 10 Days Earlier
For a man who lived in a glass house all his adult life, throwing stones at the innocent until one finally rebounded on him, what could be more appropriate than a monument which invites the re-enactment of his final hour? This is precisely what happened to the glass monument to "Che" Guevara which Hugo Chávez caused to be erected in the state of Mérida, at the highest point in the Venezuelan Andes. The 8 feet (2.4 meter) glass monument, dedicated on October 8 to mark the 40th anniversary of Guevara's death, was shattered by six gunshots 10 days later, on the morning of Oct. 19. The local mayor blamed the act on "outsiders," by which we suppose he means persons living outside his municipality, not "outsiders" in the sense of mercenaries like Guevara himself.
The Páramo Patriotic Front, an anti-Communist clandestine movement, took credit for the monument's destruction. A communiqué left at the scene proclaimed: "We don't want a monument to 'Che' Guevara, who is not an example for our children to emulate: he was Minister of Industry in Cuba and finished off all Cuban industries; he was chancellor and isolated Cuba from the rest of the world; he was chief of the Cuban National Bank and bankrupted the country. So, Jorge Rodríguez [the Venezuelan vice-president who inaugurated the monument] let your sons be like 'Che' and Chávez's too; but as for our children, we don't want them to be anything like 'Che.'"
The monument was erected at the highest elevation in Venezuela, Pico Aguila (Eagle Peak), the name of which was changed earlier this year by the local legislature to "El Collado del Cóndor" (Hill of the Condor), since the eagle (bald or not) has fallen out of favor among the chavistas. The guest of "honor" at the inauguration ceremony had been Cuba's ambassador to Venezuela, Germán Sánchez Otero, who declared that "'Che' belongs today to all Venezuelans, because he was undoubtedly the most outstanding Bolivarian of the 20th century, and, with Fidel, he was the initiator of the Bolivarian and Martinian Revolution which is now being heroically fought on this Continent."
Venezuelans, apparently, don't want to have anything to do with this peculiar "Bolivarian-Martinian" Revolution which negates the life and work of Simón Bolívar and José Martí.
I reproduced the communiqué from the Páramo Patriotic Front as printed yesterday in the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. In the unattributed version quoted in the Comments, the final clause of the anathema of Guevara reads "and he was a cold-blooded murderer." Now the indictment sounds right and is complete. The author, who obviously has a good grasp of Cuban history and Guevara's role in it, would surely not have failed to mention the real basis of "Che's" fame and consummation of his career as an internationalist terrorist.
In omitting that clause from the published communiqué, El Universal may have recoursed to self-censorship, but, more likely, it was the local authorities in Mérida, fearful of reprisals, who did not dare release the full version of the communiqué.
I should not be surprised if Mérida's 8-foot monument were to be rebuilt as an 80 feet or even an 800-feet one. Chávez's idea to build "stations of the cross" to "Che" wherever he set foot in Venezuela, or whizzed by on his motorcycle, reminds me of Idi Amin's monument to Adolph Hitler in Uganda, which, since Germany (and much less Hitler) came nowhere near Uganda in World War II, he was obliged to place at a site traversed by some German troops in World War I.
Chávez's monument to "Che" shares something else with Idi Amin's monument to Hitler: it will be just as ephemeral no matter how many times he erects it.
Expect the next one, by the way, to have a 24-hour "honor" guard.