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'Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead,' said Che before being executed

Monday marks 50 years since the death of Latin American revolutionary and leftist icon Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Web Team Delhi, India Oct 09, 2017, 01.23 PM (IST)

Today on October 9, the world celebrates 50 years since Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, known worldwide as "Che", died. 

His early life

Born on June 14, 1928, in a middle-class family in Rosario, northeast Argentina, he became a famous name in the ranks of influential revolutionaries. 

He became famous for his left-leaning views before beginning his studies in medicine at Buenos Aires University in 1948. He completed his medical degree in 1953.

Che, soon left his career in medicine to pursue a political future --that features revolutions from Cuba to the Congo. He is known for his role in the Cuban revolution of 1959 which led to Fidel Castro taking the reigns from Fulgencio Batista as the country's head of state.

Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro, photographed by Alberto Korda in 1961. (Source: Wikipedia) (Others)

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Guevara rose to become a key figure in the revolution and was appointed as president of the National Bank of Cuba and minister of the industry. He guided the Castro government towards closer links with the Soviet Union through his diplomacy, which proved to be a crucial relationship for Cuba throughout the Cold War. He, however, left Cuba in order to spread Marxist revolt elsewhere.

He arrived in the Congo in 1965 and attempted to mobilise armed rebels forces there against the Congolese central government. His efforts failed within seven months. 

Che shifted his attention towards Bolivia after Cuba and started a revolutionary movement against the government there. However, less than a year later he was captured by US-backed Bolivian forces on October 8. He was executed the next day at the age of 39.

His death

According to several media reports, Che's death remains one of the most carefully carried out operations by the US-backed Bolivian forces. It is believed that Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian troops during the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia.

According to 2007 documentary titled "My Enemy's Enemy," it is alleged that Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie advised and possibly helped the CIA orchestrate Che's capture. 

One day prior to his planned killing, an informant told the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Che's guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine. On the morning of October 8, the personnel encircled the entire site with 1800 soldiers. Che was reportedly wounded and taken prisoner. He had then apparently shouted: "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead."

On the evening of the same day, he was tied and taken to a mud schoolhouse in the nearby village of La Higuera. Che was then interrogated for the next half day. 

Che was then shot through his right calf and questioned some more. It was only when he wouldn't answer, was he finally executed on the morning of October 9. Reportedly, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara should be killed. 

The day after his execution on October 10, 1967, Guevara's corpse was displayed to the world press in the laundry house of the Vallegrande hospital. (Source: Wikipedia) (Others)

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After death

It is widely reported that a military doctor amputated his hands after the execution and Che's body was transferred to an undisclosed location. Until a long time after the killing, it was not revealed whether his remains had been buried or cremated. The hands were preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. They were later sent to Cuba.

In July 1997, a team of Cuban geologists and Argentine forensic anthropologists discovered the remnants of seven bodies in two mass graves, including one man with amputated hands. Bolivian government officials with the Ministry of Interior later identified the body as Guevara when the excavated teeth "perfectly matched" a plaster mold of Che's teeth made in Cuba prior to his Congolese expedition.

An Argentine forensic anthropologist Alejandro Inchaurregui inspected the inside hidden pocket of a blue jacket dug up next to the body and found a small bag of pipe tobacco.

On October 17 1997, Che's remains with those of six of his fellow combatants, were laid to rest with military honours in a specially built mausoleum in the Cuban city of Santa Clara. 

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