We had an exercise today, practising for what might happen if we were attacked or discovered. Ramon talked to us about it afterwards and said that there was a lot of work still to be done. We were particularly poor, he said, at the withdrawal and we need to learn all these skills before we have to employ them for real – or men will die. We spent the rest of the morning after the exercise creating paths and testing the radio equipment (which I got to work pretty well today). But the rain was making everything impossible to see.
Good news is that Coco arrived with Pedro and some other recruits. These were Benjanmin (a Bolivian who has been studying in Cuba) Eusebio and Walter. They all called Benjamin a ‘boy’ because he is in his twenties. He’s still nearly ten years older than me, however. Ah, he’s a boy but you are a Jejenito’ Inti said. I could tell he was relieved that Coco was safe. Turns out that there would have been more men but Monje spoke to them and talked them out of joining us. Ramon read us a letter Monje wrote to Fidel Castro and the main thing he said was that the Bolivian revolution and the armed struggle must be planned and led by Bolivians. He wrote ‘Our leadership does not evade its responsibility in this sphere and takes it seriously.’ He is trying to undermine us. Inti was right when he said how dangerous Monje is. I felt sorry for the Bolivians among us who are honest men.
We are picking up the pace on the gondola now, trying to move all the supplies. Rubio had a really incredible fall in the afternoon, nearly into the water, but he survived unhurt. He was very lucky. I want to stay as far away from the river as possible. I don’t want to die of course but if I do, drowning is not how I would choose. I will die, if I must, in battle, fighting for freedom. But I plan to live. That’s why I study hard and listen to all the experience of the older and wiser men. Some of the younger men, especially the Bolivians, don’t seem to take things too seriously. Pombo says they’ll learn when things start to get tough.
There is still plenty of malaria going around. Miguel is nearly better but Carlos is now running a high fever. Lucky there are a number of doctors in our group, not just Ramon, and of course we have enough medicine at the moment but we don’t want to be wasteful with it. Malaria can strike anyone at any time.
I went out on a scouting party with Inti, Rolando and Arturo. We were detailed to look for a hiding place for any wounded or sick men so that if necessary El Medico could stay with them. It looks like we are getting ready for a fight. I don’t know how I will respond to that situation. I’m sort of excited but I know that this isn’t a game. I spoke to Pombo about how I felt and he said I would understand how to feel once we have had the first encounter. He told me to be calm and to remember why we are here. I want to make sure I act like a man, not a boy, when it comes to the fight.
I was on the gondola today and we brought the rest of the supplies and some corn. Joaquin fell in the water this time. He lost his weapon, but luckily managed to recover it. I held on to my weapon tight. I’m not going to fall in the river and I’m not going to drop my gun. I’m determined but it means I have to be vigilant at all times because it’s really easy for something to go wrong if you stop concentrating for just a minute. If it can happen to Rubio and Joaquin it can certainly happen to me. We are just waiting for Moises. Coco has gone to meet him but there’s no sign of them yet. I can’t wait to move.
When we got back Ramon showed us how the work had progressed on paths so that if we have to defend positions we can surround any soldiers who approach. At night Ramon went over the recent exercise again, telling people where they had come up short. Luckily for me, I was praised because I had worked the radio well.
Paths are now ready for any attack so that we can ambush soldiers if we need to. I went with Ancieto and Benjamin to test the radio transmitter from a hill which overlooks Arganaraz’s house. He has caused us a lot of trouble that man, and I was cursing him as I carried the radio equipment up the hill. We got lost and never found the place at the top of the hill where we were supposed to do the test. It is so easy to get lost around here, even when you think you know what you are doing. And I will confess, Ancieto and Benjamin weren’t paying full attention, they were chatting a bit too much. I tried to stay quiet and focus on the job, and I didn’t feel I should tell them to turn this way or that. But I think on reflection, when I know I am in the right, I should speak up. Ramon said that just because I’m young doesn’t mean I don’t know things and it was not my error that got us lost. He was tough on the others saying that we don’t have time to waste and that the whole exercise will now have to be repeated. More climbing up the hill!
Loro came and said that he’d spoken to Arganaraz and warned him. Of course he denied that he had told the police but we don’t trust him. Still no sign of Guevara though. I had been marking off the days till we moved and now it’s not going to happen. I want something to happen. I feel we need to be tested. I need to be tested. Only then will this seem real. Until then, as Ramon says, it’s as if we are just a bunch of guys stumbling around in the forest and we might as well be cocaine smugglers for all the good we are doing.
We were set to build a new cave today. I thought that meant that plans to move were all off and that we’d be staying here a while longer. Then Pombo came and told us that Guevara had arrived. We all went to meet them at the middle camp. A woman came with Guevara. She’s called Loyola and is the only woman I’ve seen here since Tania left. She works in the urban cause and was upset that the Communist Party is trying to get her to leave. They threaten to expel her if she keeps supporting us, but she said she will support us to the death.
I was wrong that we’d be leaving as soon as Guevara arrived though. He is going away again to pass on Ramon’s instructions and he won’t be back for another few weeks. Soon it will be carnival time in Bolivia and they want to wait until after that to set off. Loyola is busy raising money. Though we don’t see money, it still costs a lot to keep the operation going.
So looks like we’re stuck here for longer. When Guevara comes back he’s going to bring more powerful radio transmitters. That’s good because the ones we have are weak. Inti told me this and said I should not be worried that I’d struggled to work them – they are not up to the job. ‘I am up to the job’ I said – and he laughed.
So we are waiting for another couple of weeks for more men and machinery. Coco and Guevara left in the night.
We shifted more supplies to our camp. Pombo told me that Coco is going to Santa Cruz to sell the jeep which he can’t do until February 15th but we’ll be leaving here as soon as he gets back. Meanwhile, we get back to working on caves. It feels like nothing is really happening except moving things from one place to another. But Pacho told me that we need to be sure we have all our provisions in the right place or we will get very hungry very quickly. So I suppose there is a point in all the energy it takes to move things around.