The Quebrada del Yuro, deep in the stifling Bolivian jungle 75 miles north of Camiri, is a steep and narrow ravine that is covered with dense foliage. There, early last week, two companies of Bolivian Rangers totaling more than 180 men split into two columns and quietly stalked a handful of guerrillas. Shortly after noon, the troops spotted their men, and both sides opened up with their rifles and automatic weapons at a withering, point-blank range of 150 feet. After a lengthy fight, four Rangers and three guerrillas lay dead, and four other guerrillas had been captured.
One of the prisoners was no ordinary guerrilla. He was Ernesto (” Che “) Guevara, 39, the elusive Marxist firebrand, guerrilla expert and former second in command to Fidel Castro whose name had be come a legend after his disappearance from Cuba 2 1/2 years ago. Since that time, much of the world had thought Che dead (perhaps even at Castro’s hands) until his presence in Bolivia was dramatically confirmed a short time ago…
Dressed in a dusty fatigue shirt, faded green trousers and lightweight, high-top sandals, Che caught a bullet in his left thigh as he advanced toward the government troops; another bullet knocked his M-l semiautomatic carbine right out of his hands. In Che ‘s rucksack, the Rangers found a book entitled Essays on Contemporary Capitalism, several codes, two war diaries, some messages of support from “Ariel”—apparently Castro—and a personal notebook. “It seems,” read one recent notebook entry in Che ‘s tight, crisp handwriting, “that this is reaching the end.”
At Quebrada del Yuro, Che was loaded onto a stretcher and carried five miles to the town of Higueras. Informed of his capture, army leaders in La Paz, the capital, pondered what to do with him. Since Bolivia has no death penalty, Che , at worst, would go off to prison—perhaps only after a long, noisy trial, a propaganda outcry from the whole Communist bloc and the threat that other guerrillas might streak into Bolivia and make a cause of him. The next day, orders came down to Higueras to execute Che . He was shot two hours later.