There were planes flying overhead today and the sound of artillery fire in the hills. We got armed and Joaquin’s group joined us, ready for leaving tomorrow. Not much was happening today so I had a chance to read more of Debray’s book and, though it was difficult at times, I was amazed to see how he could explain things clearly about being a guerrilla. I told Pombo how impressed I was by Debray, who seems an unassuming kind of man really, not a guerrilla certainly, and Pombo said I should read Che’s ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ which he has in his knapsack. Of course Che can tell us it all face to face, but Pombo carries the book anyway and I said I will swap Debray’s for his once I’ve finished reading it. You wouldn’t think there are many books that are useful when you’re in the middle of a guerrilla struggle, but these books are. It’s not just theory or ideology, it’s an explanation of how and why we are here and what we need to do to keep alive and to keep the revolution alive. Che told us our goals now are to clear the enemy off the roads around us and win support of the peasants. We need that in order to establish a rural base. He said we must not steal from peasants but pay for what we take because theft is not compatible with socialism or the principles of the guerrillas. He also meant the milk that some of the men stole from the cache. He said that in future anyone caught stealing will be punished – by death if necessary. I think that woke a few people up. No one wants to die.
We left at about seven in the morning the middle of three groups. We won’t be back here any time soon that I can see. We need to keep at least one step ahead of the soldiers. Tania is in our group and she and Alejandro have temperatures and are unwell so they slowed us down. We had to leave them behind for the others to pick up. We got to a settlement with four peasants. They were frightened despite us trying to reassure them . We had a good meal and Che talked to us about the struggle. I am calling him Che now in my diary because the radio has made it clear that everyone knows he is here and if we are caught it will not be a surprise to anyone.
One of the peasants escaped in the night and may have gone to tell soldiers. Che was annoyed that they were not guarded properly but said we’ll go on anyway, because he really wants to get Debray and Carlos out. Tania was supposed to go with them but she is sick and might not be up to the journey. Che sent for Joaquin and the four uncommitted men, who are to bring up the rear and stay around the area waiting for three days to draw troops away from us while we go on. Tania is to stay with them and Moises because he is also sick. We will meet up with them again and see what can be done to get her out. There is a fair group of stragglers now in the rear group. I’m glad I’m not with them.
We left in the night and walked most of the night. After we’d made about ten kilometers we stopped for a sleep, but even though I was tired I couldn’t sleep. I kept guard.
We had walked through the night and all the next day. We came across a man on a horse and took him prisoner. It’s hard to trust the peasants round here. It is crazy, we seek to liberate them but we cannot trust them. I suppose they cannot trust us, and it’s hard to explain to them that we want to set them free when they are afraid of the soldiers. I need to read more so that I can talk to them – at present I leave the talking to others and I don’t want this to look like I’m not committed – I just don’t know what to say. I don’t want to scare the peasants, but Pombo says we have to scare them a bit to stop them from informing on us. Rain was back with a vengeance today and so we went to shelter in the house of a peasant. He was very afraid. We were waiting for Tania and Alejandro to catch up with us, but they didn’t come.
We hung around all day, still waiting for Tania and Alejandro and every time a peasant came past we captured him. So we ended up with a lot of prisoners. We have to be a lot more careful not to let them escape. We have to talk to them, explaining our purpose and that we are not here to hurt them but to set them free. They don’t seem to believe us. What a surprise today when an English journalist turned up. Che was suspicious of him and his motives. He said he had been at the camp and shown Braulio’s diary. Che told us we had to be very careful with what we write – and most importantly that we keep them close to us at all times. I don’t think anyone would be interested in my diary – rain, food and boots – but I will make sure I guard it well. I will not stop writing because it gives me something to do when it is boring and it is good discipline. Che told us Cuban’s to avoid speaking the English journalist if possible. He doesn’t want to give anything away. Pombo says we need to be better at discipline and this is one thing I can do to prove that I am serious. Inti asked the Englishman to help Debray and Carlos get out and he said he would. Che didn’t seem keen on the idea. He doesn’t trust the Englishman. Nor do I. It seems like there are troops all around us and I hope the Englishman is not going to lead us into a trap.
In the afternoon the forward group came across some troops, but they surrendered without a shot being fired.
Late in the day we released the English journalist. We had confiscated his camera and documents but these were given back to him. Debray and Carlos went with him. I was sorry to see the Frenchman go, but I still have his book. I wish him well.
We walked in the night again and in the morning arrived at the house of a peasant who had offered us coffee if we came to his house. But he was gone and the house shut up. We went in anyway and had a meal. In the middle of the day some men arrived waving a white flag. They said they came on a peace mission. I didn’t trust them. One was a priest. One was German.
They brought some cigarettes with them (I don’t smoke so I didn’t care) and news the English journalist, Debray and Carlos have already been captured. They said the army is in charge of the town and they refused to bring us more stuff this evening. They wanted to wait until the morning. We refused.
Then came bombs. Right on the house we were cooking our dinner. It was very loud and very frightening but no one was hurt apart from Ricardo who took a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder.
After this we left and took two horses with us. We walked until the middle of the night and stopped to sleep. I was exhausted and I slept like a baby despite being on the ground.
We arrived at the house of another peasant. Everyone is scared. The peasants are scared of the soldiers, and of us. The soldiers are mostly scared as well. I think everyone is afraid to die. None of them really want to be fighting. They do not have principles as we do.
We listened to the radio and it said that A Frenchman, an Englishman and an Argentine had been killed. We cannot know if it is true, but I hope not.
We came to a place with more peasants and they welcomed us. But they told us there are also informers in the village. We can trust no one.
As evening fell, we began walking again.
When I go back to Cuba, I will buy a horse or a car and I will never walk again!