Che’s Last Soldier: Chato Peredo’s Legacy Comes to the United States

“A revolutionary is nowhere a foreigner and is a patriot everywhere.” This is what Osvaldo “Chato” Peredo, one of the great figures of Bolivian history taught us. One year after the death of this idealistic leader, known as Che’s Last Soldier, on January 12, 2021, we remember his legacy with events at Texas A&M University in the United States.

We live in very difficult times for democracy. In the United States, hordes animated by former President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol exactly one year ago. The Republican Party is in the hands of anti-democratic groups that are almost personal instruments of Trump, a right-wing populist caudillo.

In Bolivia, since 2019 there have been very difficult times for democracy, which only now with the advances of President Luis Arce, stabilizes little by little. Democracy is fragile, and sometimes it is on the verge of collapse because violence is always a threat. This violence can come with coups d’état or with mercenaries, as it happened between June and November 2020.

Under these circumstances, where democracy is always in danger, we must remember figures like Chato Peredo, who, like Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, Domitila Chungara, and Luis Espinal gave everything for popular sovereignty in Bolivia. They sacrificed their lives without any personal interest or for profit. More than ever, Bolivia and the world need to remember this kind of heroism, very different from the populist caudillos of the right or the left who cling to power. Just as when night falls and the sun becomes just another star, in his death Peredo did not disappear but became permanently tied to the firmament.

That’s why, from this semester on, at Texas A&M University, where there is a recruitment center of the Central Intelligence Agency, we decided to spread Chato Peredo’s ideas. We assign his book “We Go Back to the Mountains.” The students, many of them of Latin American origin, were surprised by the capacity for dedication and sacrifice of Peredo, his brothers, and other comrades of the guerrillas of Ñancahuazú and Teoponte.

Many other students are from large cities such as Houston, Dallas, and Austin, cities of great wealth, and for them to learn about Bolivian and Latin American social reality was like opening their eyes for the first time to something very distant. Many of the students decided to make visual presentations about Chato Peredo’s legacy in the course “History of Latin American Political Thought.” Young Americans must learn about Latin America and its ideas, but also about heroes like Peredo, who was a synthesis of the political and the moral.

Chato Peredo should not be remembered only as “Che’s last soldier.” It is true that Peredo greatly admired the Argentine guerrilla. But Peredo, with his clear ideals and firm ethical conduct, presents an alternative model of the fighter for popular democracy. He was a mentor without personal ambitions, who had to become a leader for historical needs. He made enlightened decisions at key moments, such as when the MAS party was heading down an uncertain course. He returned to the party when it returned to the right path.

It is precisely in places like the US Capitol or central Texas, where there is a governor who is blind to important issues such as the seriousness of covid-19 and the voice of Latino immigrants, where we need the example of Peredo, like a beacon in the fog of anti-democracy.

Diego von Vacano is a professor in political science at Texas A&M University USA.