US power player asks Taoiseach to reject plans to erect Che Guevara statue in Galway
A MAJOR diplomatic row is brewing over plans by Galway County Council to erect a statue to Che Guevara in the city.
The powerful chairwoman of the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has written personally to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, requesting that a statue to the Cuban revolutionary should not be erected in Ireland.
In the letter, she expresses her concern "regarding the proposal by the city council of Galway to build a monument in honour of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and respectfully request that the Government of Ireland instead lend its support to and honour the enslaved Cuban people who seek to be free from the dictatorship that Che helped impose upon them".
The diplomatic missive notes that, in the eyes of the Cuban community in the United States, "Che Guevara was a mass murderer and a human rights abuser" and claims "the romanticising image that this proposed monument portrays would serve to diminish the brutality that was committed by Che".
The powerful American politician warns that "now is a crucial time for responsible nations to stand in solidarity with one another in order to protect universal human rights and demonstrate their support for democracy in Latin America''.
The Taoiseach may, however, face some political difficulties, should he attempt to accede to the respectful final request by Ros-Lehtinen, that "your government honour the victims of Che and the Castro dictatorship by rejecting this proposal" because one of the main protagonists for the statue is Labour councillor Billy Cameron.
Another Republican congressman, Mario Diaz Balart, whose aunt Mirta Diaz Blurt was Castro's first wife, also condemned this celebration of a "murderous executioner who revelled in the murder of men women and children in cold blood".
It is believed that the city council has sites in mind in Eyre Square in the centre of the city or on the promenade at Salthill.
Businessman and Libertas founder Declan Ganley has said that the statue is "completely misguided" and will hit the city's tourist industry.
Two senior Yale professors are also believed to have criticised the decision in a letter sent to The Irish Times that, intriguingly, has not been published in spite of the missive having been "sent over on Yale-headed paper".
Guevara was an Argentinian-born Marxist revolutionary, and close ally of Fidel Castro and was apparently related to the Lynch family, one of the 'tribes' of Galway city. He was shot by government forces while waging a guerrilla war in the mountains of Bolivia.
Meanwhile, the organisers of a 'Che' festival in Kilkee, Co Clare have announced that Guevara's eldest daughter, Almeida, will be a guest of honour in the town for this year's event in September.