But rather a full reshuffling of the social deck

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but rather a full reshuffling of the social deck, pulling down the well- to-do and powerful who had enjoyed their privileges for so long in the presence of misery—worse, at the expense of misery—and redis- tributing the wealth among everybody. Social revolutionaries did not hesitate to confiscate fortunes extracted from generations of slaves and indebted peons. And they believed that US multinationals were only a new version of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, siphoning riches from what one influential book called The Open Veins of Latin America . Aspirin would not cure this cancer, believed the Marxist revolutionaries. The situation called for major surgery. An Argentine medical student, later famous as “Che” Guevara (his real name was Ernesto), reached this conclusion in the early 1950s. Rebellion ran in Che’s family. His mother before him had gained a radi- cal reputation by brazenly smoking cigarettes in public. Che thought that Latin American poverty was linked to, and maintained by, an im- perialist international economic system of awesome power. The victims of that system, among whom Che included all the countries of Latin America, could free themselves only by acting together. He began to show his “internationalist” vocation by cycling for thousands of miles to see for himself the poverty and oppression of the indigenous peoples of the Andes. Then, hearing of inspiring reforms underway in Arbenz’s Guatemala, Che went to participate. From Guatemala, he escaped to Mexico when US-backed army officers toppled Arbenz in 1954. Che was now a bona fide Marxist revolutionary, “a soldier of America,” as he told his father when he left home, and he considered the battle against capitalist imperialism his battle, anywhere in the world. In Mexico, Che met Fidel Castro, a different kind of revolu- tionary, an intense nationalist immersed in the political traditions and struggles of his own country, Cuba. Castro was the son of a
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C H A P T E R 9 | R E V O L U T I O N 284 sugarcane-growing family who, as a law student in the late 1940s, was inspired by the idealistic, mildly socialist, and above all, keenly anti-imperialist themes of the student movement. In Cuba, as in Latin America as a whole, 1950s anti-imperialist attitudes focused almost exclusively on the United States, and nowhere were anti-imperialist feelings stronger than among Cuban nationalists. When US diplomats orchestrated the formation of the OAS in 1948 in Bogotá, Colombia, Castro traveled there to attend a parallel anti-imperialist meeting of student activists. In opposing the United States, the internationalist Che and the nationalist Fidel saw eye to eye. The two met in Mexico because Fidel, along with his brother Raúl and others, had been exiled from Cuba. Their crime was resisting the US-backed military dictatorship of yet another of “our bastards,” Fulgencio Batista. In 1953, shortly after an elected Cuban government was overthrown by Batista, the Castro brothers led a disastrous attack on the dictator’s army. But their gesture of defiance, which cost the student rebels many lives, proved popular with the Cuban people. Fidel
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