Felix Rodriguez, pictured above on the left next to Che Guevara, is a Cuban exile turned U.S. Citizen, and a personal friend of President George H.W. Bush. Rodriguez is also a highly decorated former U.S. Soldier and CIA Operative. He is perhaps best known for his role as the CIA operative responsible for the capture of Che Guevara. Rodriguez successfully fled Cuba during the blood bath following Communist dictator Fidel Castro’s violent overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista. However, most of Rodriguez’s family, including his father and two brothers, were murdered by Castro’s Communist henchmen in Cuba. It’s likely that Che Guevara played a role in most, if not all of the Rodriguez family executions. In the end, like many others, they were murdered merely for being wealthy.
Seeking revenge for the murder of his family and many friends, Mr. Rodriguez soon joined and became a leader in the CIA backed “Operation 40” and “Brigade 2506.” These groups were part of the United States plan to overthrow the Castro regime by training and equipping a Brigade of Cuban exiles to invade their homeland – later becoming known as the “Bay of Pigs invasion” during the Kennedy administration. Felix Rodriguez played a key role in the ill-fated invasion as he volunteered for the highly dangerous assignment clandestinely infiltrating Cuba a couple of weeks prior to the actual invasion in order to gather critical intelligence which was used in the planning and preparation for the invasion. Unfortunately, his bravery was for not as President Kennedy would later backtrack on using U.S. combat aircraft for the crucial air support which was needed for the invasion to succeed.
In addition to those killed, some 1200 Cuban exiles were taken prisoner and virtually all were tortured – some executed. Again, the driving force behind the executions and torment was Comrade Che. Felix Rodriguez could never have imagined then, that some six years later, he would be in a unique position to settle scores with the Red Butcher, Che Guevara.
The Chickens Come Home to Roost
Che was never an accomplished battlefield tactician during the Cuban revolution. After that revolution, when given the task of industrializing Cuba, he failed miserably. His subsequent revolutionary adventurism in Africa was equally ill fated. The only thing Guevara was really accomplished at was murdering others. During the revolution, Castro promoted him not for his brilliance as a military strategist or for his leadership abilities but rather, because Che had no qualms with murdering those who Castro asked him to kill. Whenever a local peasant refused to cooperate with Castro’s men or objected to the guerillas taking his crops or, for that matter, was suspected of talking to government forces, Comrade Che was always more than happy to do the dirty work that most of the others in Castro’s rag tag army would not do. Even after Che was promoted to a leadership position in the guerilla movement, he left the tactical planning of operations to some of his otherwise more competent subordinates.
As mass executions in Cuba began to slow to to a trickle, Che began to contemplate his future. His failures in other administrative duties of state caused Castro to lose confidence in his ability to play a significant role in the new Communist government. With little future in Cuba, Che decided it was time he lead a new revolution in South America. He picked Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America, because it bordered five other countries which, so he thought, would afford an insurgent force like his own the opportunity to train and set up camps just outside of Bolivian territory. He foolishly assumed that because Bolivia was lacking in natural resources, the United States would be less inclined to assist the Bolivian government. His assumptions were wrong.
By 1967, Felix Rodriguez was rising star in the CIA’s Special Activities Division. He was considered the agency’s top field operative for Central and South America. It was, in a sense, poetic justice of sorts when Rodriguez was chosen to be the CIA’s point man in the search for Guevara. When intelligence reports indicated that the Red Butcher was operating in Bolivia, Rodriguez was sent down to coordinate the effort to find and take him out. As a cover, Rodriguez wore a Bolivian Army uniform and assumed the rank of a Major in that Army. Rodriguez, along with Bolivia’s 2nd Ranger Battalion, which had been trained by U.S. Special Forces, moved into action near the Yuro ravine on October 7, 1967 after a deserter from Che’s guerilla force went to the authorities and informed them of Che’s whereabouts.
In a glaring violation of Operational Security, Che failed to relocate his force of some fifty rebels from their encampment after knowing that one of his men had deserted. Accordingly, Che and his men, whom Che had positioned in a depression with high ground on all sides of them, were attacked the next day by the Bolivian Rangers and Alex Rodriguez. In addition to placing his men in the worse possible tactical position, with no means of escape, Che failed to position sentries on the perimeter of his encampment. As a result, Che’s group was taken completely by surprise while finding themselves without any prospect of retreat, thanks to Guevara’s shocking incompetence. It was a turkey shoot for the Bolivian soldiers who rained hot lead down upon Che and his hapless followers.
While Guevara lacked the competence to adequately train or lead his doomed rebels, he had successfully engrained onto their impressionable
psyches that they must never surrender. Che repeatedly urged his followers to “fight to the last breath” and to “save the last bullet” for themselves. When the Bolivian Rangers attacked them on October 8, 1967, that is exactly what his men did.
Despite being poorly equipped and led, Guevara’s men fought on in an impossible situation. As Guevara’s rebels courageously followed his directive to “fight to the last drop of blood” and while being mercilessly gunned down, Che made a run for it! Guevara simply bolted away from his men in the heat of battle. While his men bravely fought on, Guevara managed to climb out of the depression and dart out into the open. As two Bolivian Rangers leveled their weapons at him, Guevara dropped his own fully functional rifle, with a near full magazine, and begged, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead!” As his small guerilla force was being decimated below, in the very trap he had led them into, Guevara’s only concern was for himself as he continued to plead with the Bolivian Rangers not to kill him.
Separating Che Fact from Che Fiction
Che’s life as a Marxist Revolutionary has been romanticized by the American Left for decades. The Left, while conveniently overlooking his well documented history as a bloodthirsty mass murderer, has chosen to present him as a courageous type of Robin Hood who gallantly took up the fight for the poor against those who he perceived as the exploiters of the poor. This revisionism has been quite successful. Hollywood movies extol Che’s noble struggle against these so called oppressors of the weak. It is now chic to wear clothing which displays his image. Also, certain pseudo historians have tried to portray Che as a selfless, ultra-brave, larger than life military genius. The problem is that none of it is true.
Che, it is said by some of his admirers, only surrendered after being “wounded in both legs and having his rifle rendered inoperative by an enemy bullet.” The truth is that at the time of Che’s cowardly and hypocritical surrender, he had only a minor flesh wound from a bullet that passed cleanly through a small portion of his lower left calf muscle. This superficial wound, more akin to a nick, likely occurred while he was running away and only caused him to limp slightly as he surrendered to the Bolivians. He was later seen walking that day by others and again, the next day, in village of La Higuera. He also apparently had no problem walking outside of the schoolhouse, that he was being kept in, the following day where he posed with Rodriguez, for the photo above. The minor wound on his calf was dressed and treated with a bandage. The “seriously wounded in both legs” story is a fiction promulgated by his Leftist, crypto-Marxist admirers within American academia and media circles.
Perhaps even less credible is the odd fiction of Guevara’s rifle having been “rendered inoperative by an enemy bullet.” Statements from the Bolivian Rangers indicated that not only was Guevara’s rifle fully operational but he had a near full magazine of ammunition. If these facts were not enough, upon surrendering to his Bolivian captors, they found a fully loaded Walther PPK pistol on his person – also with a full magazine of ammunition. As Guevara cooperated fully with his captors, by offering his hands up to be tied by the soldiers, his erstwhile comrades were fighting on and dying – following his admonishment to “fight to the last breath.”
Yet, what shocked the Bolivian soldiers and Felix Rodriguez more than Che’s sissified desertion of his men and surrender was the strange whimpering and ingratiating manner he took on with his captors after surrendering himself.
“What’s your name,” a cooing Guevara asked of one of the young Bolivian Rangers after his capture. “What a lovely name for a Bolivian soldier,” Che said with a smile.
After meeting Captain Prado, a company commander in the Bolivian Rangers, a chatty and overly ingratiating Guevara beamed, “you are a very special person Captain. I have been talking to some of your men and they think very highly of you.”
Che, the medical school dropout, inquired of his captors, upon seeing a wounded Bolivian soldier, “Shall I attend to (medically treat) him?” The Red Butcher, suddenly humbled and keenly aware that he was not the man portrayed in the fawning news clippings written by his liberal admirers, began chatting away through a nervous smile to anyone who came near him. “What will you fine and brave men do with me? I don’t think you want to kill me as I am much more valuable to you alive,” Che whimpered to Rodriguez.
“Now please tell me what you intend to do with me? I can be quite helpful to you!” Guevara continued to whine, beg and persuade the Bolivians and Felix Rodriguez to spare his life. While doing this he never once expressed any interest in or concerns regarding the fate of his guerilla comrades- those foolish and naïve souls who agreed to follow him and who ultimately died for him.
Che Goes Out with a Whimper
Che spent the evening tied up inside a school house in the village of La Higuera as his fate was being decided by the civilian and military leadership of Bolivia. On October 9, 1967, the coded order came in on the radio. Che was to be executed. Surprisingly, Felix Rodriguez, who lost most of his family at the hands of Guevara, magnanimously argued that the bumbling revolutionary’s life should be spared. Rodriguez wanted him taken to Panama where he could be questioned by the CIA. Yet, the Bolivians would have nothing of it. The Red Butcher was to receive his comeuppance and the world would be free of this bloodthirsty terrorist.
When the call for a volunteer to execute Guevara was made throughout the ranks of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, virtually ever Bolivian soldier stepped up to perform the task. In the end, the honor was given to a Sergeant who saw three of his soldiers killed in action during the battle.
There have been many different fictitious accounts floated as to what happened when that Sergeant entered the school house to execute Guevara. Most of these have Guevara defiantly and courageously taunting his executioner. Some of these accounts have included fabricated quotes and descriptions which are alleged to have come from the Sergeant. These purport to be what he heard and saw immediately before Guevara’s swift and humane execution.
In reality, Guevara’s executioner had spoken very little as to what transpired in that school house. He believed that even the death of a monster like Che deserved at least a modicum of dignity. What has been made clear for decades is that in the moments before his execution, Guevara was a broken, teary eyed, whimpering man who silently lowered his head the moment before the trigger was pulled. In an instant, Guevara was no more. His was a quick and painless death. It was the merciful type of ending that was denied most of the many thousands of his victims. Knowing that Rodriguez’s family had murdered by Che, the Bolivian Army officers at the scene, presented Felix with Guevara’s Rolex wristwatch. He still proudly wears it on his wrist to this day.
Rodriguez Continues in his Service to America
Felix Rodriguez went on to a distinguished career in the CIA. Two years after the death of Che he would volunteer for combat duty in Vietnam. There he flew over 300 combat missions and was shot down five times. His awards and decorations are numerous and include the very rarely awarded CIA Intelligence Star for Valor and nine Crosses for Gallantry by the South Vietnamese Government among many others. Rodriguez continued to serve in the CIA through most of the 1980s. Today, he lives in Miami and is a respected leader in the Cuban American Community.