Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
Translated by Michael Pearlman for NY Transfer News
Santa Cruz, Bolivia, June 24 (PL) -- The Nancahuazu guerrilla movement, led by Che Guevara, is again tramping the Bolivian countryside, reawakening hopes of unearthing episodes from 29 years ago.
The recovery and exhumation this past weekend of the body of Cuban fighter Carlos Coello, known as El Tuma, established a new precedent in the search for the remains of Che Guevara and his comrades, which began at the end of 1995.
The town of Tejeira, 135 kilometers from the regional capital of Santa Cruz, was the scene of the exhumation last Friday of El Tuma, who died in a confrontation with the Bolivian army on June 26, 1967, in the Piray zone to the north of the Rio Grande river.
Regarding this event, Che wrote in his campaign diary, "A black day for me. It had seemed that everything was going peacefully when I sent five men to replace those who had been ambushed on the Florida road. Then I heard shots...We delayed our withdrawal and news came of two wounded: Pombo in the leg and Tuma in the stomach."
The Argentine forensic anthropologists Patricia Bernardi and Dario Olmo took four hours to exhume the body, while local residents and the press discussed the details of the struggle, the life and the recovery of the body of the Cuban guerrilla fighter. Their identification came last Saturday.
Laguna Seca, the old and abundantly wooded plain where the burial site was discovered, was the locale for a unique gathering of representatives of Bolivian government, the district attorney of Santa Cruz and the Association of Relatives of the Martyrs and Disappeared.
Also assisting were the Cuban historian and psychologist Maria del Carmen Ariet and Jorge Gonzalez, the director of Cuba's Forensic Medicine Institute, representing the families of Che, Tamara Burke and the other Cuban fighters.
This is the fifth discovery of guerrilla graves due to the testimony of local residents who have given information to researchers.
The peasant who located Coello's grave had made eight previous attempts to locate the burial site, aided by his exceptional memory of events that occurred when he was barely 16 years old.
El Tuma received mortal stomach wounds that destroyed his liver and perforated his intestines.
"He died during the operation. I lost a comrade who was inseparable from me over these last years, completely faithful, one whose absence I am feeling like the loss of a son," Che remarked in one of his notebooks.
Coello was born on December 19, 1940, was connected to Che Guevara since the revolutionary struggle in the Sierra Maestra, accompanied him on his internationalist mission in Africa and was one of the organizers of the Bolivian front.
For the Cuban investigator Ariet, who is currently participating in compiling the historical data on the Nancahuazu events, this discovery lends greater credibility to the official presidential commission searching for Che's remains.
From the human point of view, she underlined, it contributes to eliminating tensions over the search for the disappeared and allows family members to give a Christian burial to their loved ones.
Moved by the events, Ariet commented, "It's very significant for the Cuban people, so they can render homage to those who have carried out internationalist missions and, as Che said, chose the most difficult but most beautiful path, that of revolution."
(c)1996 Latinamerican News Agency Prensa Latina, S.A.
Translation (c) 1996 NY Transfer News Collective.
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