The radio reports of a battle with a group of guerrillas led by Joaquin in which ten were killed. Hard to know if it is true. I don’t want to believe it. There was real trouble with our ambush. I was set with Pombo, Chino and Eusatquio. Chino, stupido oaf, saw a solder and shouted out ‘a soldier’ and went to fire. Of course the soldier heard his shout and marked him out and shot at him. He ran away, leaving Pombo and me to fire cover behind him. Pombo killed the soldier’s horse from under him, but I missed killing the soldier himself. We got it in the neck from Che, all of us, which was a bit unfair because if Chino hadn’t been so stupid it would never have happened. But Pombo agreed that we should have been aware and kept him under control. I think everyone should keep themselves under control, but Pombo says we can’t expect that now and we stronger men have to look out for the weaker in morale as well as the weaker in body. Chino apologised to me later. I shook his hand. But he needs to get a grip on himself. Because of all this we withdrew faster and further than we’d intended, just to get away from any more soldiers who might come looking for us.
I was part of a group that went to a local peasant’s house to get food. Two peasants were captured but they didn’t give us any information. Then some soldiers came. There was about forty of them. We managed to escape but only just and we had to leave without any food. Life before food, Inti says. It was disappointing though as if we’d been smarter and quicker I’m sure we could have got something. The peasants told us there are no guerrillas in the area but when I listened to the radio later it gave a report about a battle at the Vado del Yeso, which is really close to us. Surely we would have heard the gun-fire if it’s true and the peasants denied it. It’s probably just a ruse to get us to come out into the open. The station was the Voice of America. They will say anything.
We set up an ambush. We are near to the house of the peasant Honorato who we haven’t seen for months. I sat in an ambush most of the day. When Urbano came to tell us to withdraw he nearly ran into some soldiers and they shot at him. All hell broke loose and I imagined that this was it, we were surrounded by soldiers like the radio has been telling us all along. But we retreated, shooting our way out of trouble. We crossed the river several times and I was so scared of death that the river held no fear for me. He asked for volunteers to go in search of food and just about everyone volunteered – including me of course. Inti took some of the others but he didn’t pick me. I begged him but he said we need to leave someone we can trust and with a good head to keep an eye on Che. We heard more news on the radio of guerrilla deaths. I hate hearing this news when men are out scouting because I think they may never return.
The food party group came back with a mule, some goods and news of soldiers. Also dogs. They had something of a difficult time not least because of Arturo’s stupidity. He got lost and then he fell asleep beside the road. He is lucky to be alive and that sort of thing puts us all in danger. Also they weren’t careful enough to cover their tracks. I know it’s hunger that makes people stupid but our lives are on the line here.
The radio reported that the body of Tania had been found on the riverbank. I don’t want to believe that, but how would they know if it wasn’t true? What has happened to Joaquin’s group? Are we about to find out and suffer the same fate. We keep an ambush up but I’m expecting the worst at any minute. I don’t know how long we can keep this up. We need to get away but most men aren’t fit enough to make any real escape.
It was Benigno’s birthday. We ate cornmeal and drank mate with sugar – proceeds of the trip to the farm! Leon caught a bull and we prepared to slaughter it. Then we heard shots and Urbano came running. He’d run into a patrol with dogs and fired at them. Half of our group are on the other side of the river so it’s a bad time to be engaging with soldiers when we are split into two groups. Che sent me, Pombo, Camba and Moro off along a path to make contact. I didn’t want to leave him but he insisted. It turns out that Miguel and Leon had got scented by the dogs. We crossed the river a few times to throw them off the scent and all met up again in the evening about seven kilometres away from the action. The cow had come along with us, though not happily. When we stopped we killed it and ate handsomely.
I’m getting used to crossing this damned river though I’ll never feel comfortable. Once again I heard Che talking to Pombo. He says he’s sure the army know more or less where we are and that it’s going to be difficult for us to get out of this without them finding us. Maybe they are even setting us up and waiting for us at a point further along. We must keep our wits at all times. Pombo said maybe they will wait for us to go for supplies. Either way, it’s very dangerous and not looking good for a way out. But if anyone can outsmart them Che can.
A day spent in ambush but with no action. Others went looking for places to move to. No one has come up with a good solution of a way out of here, on either side of the river. Che said we’re staying on this side because at least the animals can walk beside us in the water on this side. The radio is still reporting about Tania, now saying that she was given a ‘Christian burial.’ They are also filling the airwaves with stories and lies about Che trying to make him out to be a dangerous Marxist who must be stopped. I cannot listen to the lies they tell. He is the best and most honest man I know and he is suffering so greatly for a cause when he could have stayed back in Cuba and simply been a great man there. Whatever a hero is, he’s a true one. He is the greatest man I’ve known and I will be proud to die with him if that is our fate. But I hope we live.