The Bolivian general who captured the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and became a national hero has died aged 84.
In 1967 Gary Prado Salmón led a military operation in Bolivia, backed by US secret service agents, that defeated a communist insurrection organised by Che Guevara.
At the time Bolivia had a right-wing military government. An army officer executed Argentina-born Guevara a day after his arrest.
The Cold War between the US and Soviet Union was at its height and Washington was extremely concerned about communist influence in Latin America, including Che Guevara’s activities.
He had left Cuba after the triumph of the 1959 revolution there, to lead guerrilla movements in other countries. He was a key ally of Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro and became a hero for communists worldwide.
Gen Prado’s son described his father as “an extraordinary person”, who left “a legacy of love, integrity and courage”.
The Bolivian officer who shot and killed Che Guevara was Mario Terán, who died last year.
After ambushing Guevara’s guerrilla group Gen Prado was made a national hero for having defended the Bolivian military regime.
He had led US-trained Bolivian Rangers in a remote jungle region where Che Guevara’s group, originally numbering about 120, had declined to just 22.
Since 1981 Gen Prado had been a wheelchair user, after a bullet fired accidentally hit him in the spine. He wrote a book about his 1967 triumph, called How I Captured Che.
According to his son, “for him capturing Che was not the most important thing he did in his life – rather, it was to contribute to making the armed forces a democratic institution that would respect the constitution and laws”.
Che Guevara was executed in the Bolivian village of La Higuera, 830km (516 miles) south of La Paz, and his body was buried in a secret location. In 1997 his remains were discovered, exhumed and returned to Cuba, where he was reburied.