Bones in Cuban mausoleum are not Guevara's, claims magazine

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Four decades after he was executed by Bolivian troops and 10 years after scientists claimed to have discovered his remains, doubts have been raised over whether the bones and skeleton interned in the mausoleum in Cuba are really those of Che Guevara.

An investigation carried out by a Spanish-Mexican magazine claims that Cuban specialists were not telling the truth when in, 1997, they said that they had discovered the revolutionary's remains, along with those of six of his fighters, buried alongside an airstrip in the remote jungle village of Villagrande, Bolivia.

The magazine, Letras Libres, argues that the specialists were under pressure from Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader, who wanted his comrade's remains identified for political reasons and to "relaunch the country's revolutionary fervour".

Che Guevara, whose real name was Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, was executed in the schoolhouse at La Higuera in October 1967 after he and a small group of revolutionaries were captured by Bolivian troops. The Argentine-born 39-year-old and his group of Cuban fighters had been trying to foment an insurgency against the government of Rene Barrientos, the Bolivian dictator.

In turn, Barrientos received the support of the CIA in his effort to put down the insurgency.

For many years it was believed that the corpse of "El Che" - his hands having been cut off - was burned and his ashes scattered. But in the mid-1990s a number of retired Bolivian military officers said they had buried the remains alongside a nearby airstrip; the authorities had kept it secret to avoid the location becoming a site of pilgrimage.

Following those claims, a team of Cuban, Bolivian and Argentine experts launched a search that located the remains in Villagrande. The remains were flown to Cuba and, in October 1997, President Castro led a ceremony at which the remains were interred in a mausoleum in Santa Clara, a city captured in January 1959 by rebels led by Guevara in a battle that proved decisive for the revolution.

"Thank you, Che, for your history, your life and your example," the Cuban leader said during the ceremony. "Thank you for coming to reinforce us in the difficult struggle in which we are engaged today to preserve the ideas for which you fought so hard."

But following an investigation in Bolivia and Cuba, Letras Libres claims there are many inconsistencies in the reports of the Cuban forensic archeologists, who discovered the remains on the final day they had been given by the Bolivian authorities to complete their search. It also questions the authenticity of DNA tests performed by the Bolivians to authenticate the remains and says that a shirt and a belt, supposedly Guevara's, could not have been his.

The Miami Herald newspaper noted this week that one its reports from 1997 also raised questions about the discovery. It said that Gustvao Villoldo, a Cuban exile and CIA operative who advised the Bolivian troops hunting Guevara, claimed to have personally supervised the secret burial of Guevara and two other guerrillas in an unmarked grave. The discovery of seven corpses made no sense to him, it said.