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Che Guevara on 'Face the Nation'

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Published on Mar 4, 2009

BECAUSE SO MANY PRO- AND ANTI-CASTRO PARTISANS IGNORED MY WARNINGS NOT TO USE THIS CHANNEL AS A BATTLEGROUND, I'VE DISABLED THE COMMENTS SECTION -- PL.

Argentina-born Cuban Commandante Ernesto (Che) Guevara on "Face the Nation," CBS, Dec. 13, 1964.

Major Guevara, then socialist Cuba's minister of industries, arrived at New York four days earlier to represent his adopted island nation at the United Nations General Assembly. From the moment that he arrived at Kennedy International Airport, Cuban exiles opposed to the revolutionary government of President Fidel Castro made the former medical doctor the target of demonstrations, verbal threats, an aborted knife attack and even a failed effort to shoot a homemade rocket at the UN while he was speaking on Dec. 11.

According to an Associated Press (AP) wire service report, upon his arrival at the CBS studios at 524 West 54th St., in mid-Manhattan, he was met by about 150 anti-Castro Cubans, some chanting "Assassin, assassin." "The New York Times" reported chants of "carnicero," Spanish for "butcher."

The demonstrators, some carrying signs reading "Cuba Will Be Free," attempted to breach wooden police barricades, but were held back by officers standing shoulder to shoulder along the sidewalk and behind the barriers. Additionally, as "The New York Times" reported, "policemen [were] placed on roofs and at high windows. ..."

"As Guevara arrived at the studio ... one of the demonstrators threw a cigaret [sic] lighter in a vain attempt to hit him. The lighter hit the pavement several feet from the car carrying Guevara," the AP reported. Inside the studio, which has been swept by a police bomb squad, CBS put on extra guards and admitted only persons displaying special passes.

Major Guevara, "puffing on a cigar, his olive-green fatigue shirt open at the neck," as the "Times" noted, spoke in Spanish. His remarks were translated by Pedro Alvarez Tabio, first secretary of the Cuban mission to the UN, where Major Guevara stayed during his first and last visit to New York City.

He was questioned by three newsmen: Richard C. Hottelet and Paul Niven of CBS News and famed correspondent Tad Szulc of the "Times."

"The Cuban Minister's tone did not indicate any immediate expectation of improved relations with the United States," which had imposed an economic embargo on Cuba, the "Times" reported. "He said that Cuba would not accept imposed conditions, and 'if we have to kneel in order to live in peace, they will have to kill us before.'"

An additional half-hour interview was filmed, but not broadcast.

"Guevara, as he left the studio," noted the AP, "smiled and waved at the demonstrators, intensifying their shouts." Four days later, Major Guevara left for a three-month tour of newly independent African nations.

In this clip, Major Guevara responds to the charge that Cuba was seeking to "export" revolution thruout Latin America. His answer was featured as the "Quotation of the Day" in the "Times" on Dec. 14.

Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro recreated this interview in the 2008 motion picture "Che: Part One," directed by Steven Soderbergh.

(Sources: AP, "Guevara Asks U. S. Parts for Sick Cuban Industrial Plants/Police Hold Off Mob of Angry Refugees," The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 14, 1964, p. 3; Peter Kihss, "Guevara Expects Latin Uprisings/Says Socialism Is Road to 'Liberation of Peoples," The New York Times, Dec. 14, 1964, pp. 1, 17; William Borders, "100 Cubans Picket Guevara TV Show/Governor Hails Them on Line -- Guevara Closely Guarded," Ibid., p. 16; "Quotation of the Day," Ibid., p. 37.)

NOTE: I'd like to thank my friend Barry Grauman, who, on April 4, 2010, kindly corrected my mistaken identification of this video as being on NBC's "Meet the Press." It was, in fact, on CBS' "Face the Nation."

(CBS News video clip courtesy eFootage.com)

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