It took us all day and we still didn’t get to Bear Camp. We stopped at the little house for the night. We got a partridge which Benigno ate since he had been hacking the path with the machete. He shared it with me and Urbano because we were directly behind him in the line. It was nice but not much meat. Other than that we had very little to eat. We listened to more about Debray on the radio. Our communique of May 1st has been published so everyone knows about the ELN and what our goals are. I don’t know if this will help us gain support but I hope so. We still have had no sign of Joaquin’s group. I hope they might be at Bear Camp waiting for us.
Finally got to Bear Camp and had cans of milk! Also some coffee. We also got more weapons out of the cave including a Mauser. When we got here, there were tracks that suggest soldiers have been here. No sign of Joaquin. There was no other food, apart from some lard in the cave. So we ate the last of our meat and soup. Benigno, Urbano, Leon, Ancieto and Pablo were sent off scouting for some food but they came back with only news. The soldiers are at the farm and they have cut down the corn. No food for us here apart from lard. That’s not food! Tired and hungry. I started reading Guerrilla Warfare.
We were bringing lard down from the cave when we heard firing at the ambush site. It was Pacho who shot two unarmed soldiers. He said he told them to stop and they didn’t. He wounded them and they said they’d not heard him shout. We were sent to reinforce the ambush site. A while later two more soldiers were captured. Without shooting them. Pombo was in charge. He likes to save ammunition (and lives) if we can. The soldiers had been looking for food. From the four prisoners we got corn, sugar, coffee and cans of onions. At least this meant we had something to eat, but we mixed the corn and onions with lard and that made me sick (not just me, others too).
Back on duty we could see soldiers going back and forward along the edge of the river. They opened fire on us and Inti shot one dead. I shot as well and two other soldiers were killed. It was getting dark so we advanced on them and captured another six soldiers. The rest ran away. We captured a lot of weapons, ammunition and some food which we ate – again with lard. Sick again. We also captured a diary from the Lieutenant Laredo who Inti had killed . In his diary he was rude about the soldiers, calling them lazy and saying that there were those who cried when they were told there were guerrillas nearby. They are cowards. There was also a personal letter from Laredo’s wife which was horrible. It asked him to bring ‘the scalp of a guerrilla’ home with him to put in the living room. They will never get my scalp! Che took Laredo’s notebook and kept it in his knapsack. I would never write such things in my diary.
I didn’t sleep because I felt sick and we got up around four in the morning. Che gave a speech to the soldiers before we released them. We took their clothes and shoes. I didn’t need a new pair of boots as mine are still okay. They were sent back to the farm in their underclothes and took their wounded with them.
We carried on to the other camp by the cave and stored the weapons and ammunition. We haven’t got any food apart from lard. We made very slow progress as everyone felt weak and sick. When we stopped we ate lard soup. That doesn’t help but it’s all we have to eat. Some of the men who got new shoes are struggling because their feet are swollen and some are finding it hard to carry their guns because their hands are swollen too.
We passed Rubio’s grave. I never thought we would be back here again. At the camp there was some dried meat, but it was pretty rank. We took it anyway. No sign of soldiers at least. Then we crossed the Nacahuazu river. I was too tired to be frightened and the river wasn’t as high as a couple of months ago. It was Pombo’s birthday but there wasn’t much to eat in celebration. We ate the meat and some tallow which had been meant for candles and was even more disgusting than the lard. It fills the belly briefly – then it comes out again. I hope we get some proper food soon. I tried to read to take my mind off my stomach, but couldn’t concentrate. I felt guilty not being able to read Che’s words but he said it was okay. He talked to me for a bit about what we are trying to achieve and made me feel that it was worth the effort. He said that people get the wrong idea about guerrilla warfare. They think the life is one of sitting in a camp, sleeping on a hammock, eating food, then the odd battle. It’s true, in some ways this is part of the experience. But anyone expecting that easy a life is in for a shock. The reality is that there is constant work, heavy work carrying things and struggling to keep upright. The hunger, no one expects that and the fear of constant attack from soldiers. Che says that all these aspects impact on the minds of the politically weak, which is why it is important that we study and remind ourselves of our political objectives. He ways I am doing well. He only selects the finest to be the vanguard force and he is proud to have picked me. I felt glad that he recognises that I am trying my best and reassured that he understands how hard it is. Nevertheless I slept badly. Dreaming of soldiers.
We listened to the radio. It’s the same news as always. They lie about how many of us they have killed, and they say they have us surrounded. Benigno and Urbano killed a peccary. They wanted to build a fire to cook it. Che took them to task. He pointed out that they were ill-disciplined about food. He says that Benigno ate a can of food on the day of the last battle and later denied it. And apparantly Urbano ate some of the preserved meat at the camp by Rubio’s grave. I didn’t see this – I was probably too busy vomiting from the lard. But today we at least had some meat to eat, though it wasn’t a lot to go round. At the moment for many the hunger is the worst thing – but for me I think the fear of when we will next come across soldiers is worse. And the fear that I will not come up to standard when tested is the greatest fear of all.
We moved on today, looking for food as much as anything. We are all moving slowly and most of us feeling really sick. We followed an old trail along the lake and came to a cornfield. It was like heaven. We made food with lard and corn (how I hate lard) and then the scouts who had gone on ahead came back. They’d stopped at a farm, detained a few peasant farmhands. We went there, the owner of the house still wasn’t there so we killed a pig and we cooked it with rice as well as some fruit I’d not seen before. It’s called calabash. We can’t find water outside the house though so though our bellies are full we are very thirsty. We paid for the food we’d taken and left.