The weather is terrible. It rained all night and the entrance path to the cave has been nearly washed away so Pombo and Arturo were detailed to fix it. I was working with Tuma, Rolando and Mongo building a secondary cave. It was hard work but we should have it ready by tomorrow. We need places to store things and hide them. Inti and Moro went hunting but they only brought back one turkey. I’m hungry.
It was raining again all day today. We kept working on the cave and it was hard work but we’ve nearly finished it. According to Mongo it needs to be two and a half metres deep in order to keep stuff safe. Pombo came to tell us that he had found a good place for the radio and Mongo and I went with him. I still find the radio hard to work but Mongo says I must learn. Pombo said I was to help him with the tests to see if the hilltop is a good place for the radio to work from. I suppose I will learn to use the radio soon enough.
So this is the third day in a row that it has been raining and it gets the spirits down. Mongo won’t let us rest up just because of rain and he told us he planned to go on a hike. First, in the morning we had classes, some mathematics and political theory. Braulio and Ñato arrived at around midday and they told us the river was very deep. Mongo asked if it was passable and they agreed it was. So we set off. Just when we were on our way we bumped into Marcos and his men, coming to the camp. So with Marcos in charge here, we were on our way. It took us about three hours – raining all the way. I was wet through and no way to get dry even with the fire that we lit.
We sat, pretty uncomfortably into the night and around midnight Ricardo and Coco arrived. They brought another couple of men called Antonio and Rubio who had meant to be here last week but didn’t make it. Apolinar came with them because he is going to be in our group now. One of the La Paz support network came too, a man called Ivan. We didn’t sleep all night. Now that Antonio has come, the other Antonio (the Bolivian) has been renamed Leon. Mongo says that names will have to change from time to time when identity may be compromised or the need arises. With all the comings and goings it’s hard to keep up. I meant to write a list of everyone who is here but I am too tired at the moment. I will wait till we split properly into groups because Mongo is still testing us. Once we have a firm and fixed group it will be easier, I hope.
Alejandro and his men came and told us they had found a dead deer. Immediately I was happy because I thought it would mean a feast for us. But Mongo questioned them and it turned out it had been shot by a gun and left with a ribbon tied round its leg. Mongo was suspicious. Joaquim had been that way recently and not seen it, yet the deer had been dead for some time. We reckon it must have been left by the local hunters but why they ran off without it we don’t know. It might be a trap so Mongo posted a guard – I was one of them – and we were told if the hunter came back we must apprehend him. Action at last! But when the hunter arrived he was in the company of Coco and Loro, so we stayed hidden. We heard him saying he’d shot it some days ago.
There was a lot of talk with Ivan and Coco about the urban network and what is to be done. I was tired and hungry and not listening very carefully but in the middle of the night Mongo told me and Pombo to listen for a message from La Paz to see whether men from the urban network have gone to fetch Mario Monje. Inti is still worried about Monje. We waited for an hour but didn’t hear anything – no signal. I hate that radio.
When I got back, Mongo was still talking about the struggle. He keeps telling us it will not be a short struggle, that it will last at least ten years. He says the struggle will go beyond Bolivia but that we need to work with other countries too because Bolivia is landlocked and if there is a blockade as in Cuba, the revolution could be strangled before it gets going. I can’t imagine that I will be as old as Pombo before we achieve our goal… but it’s best not to think too far into the future… especially when you are tired. ‘One foot in front of the other,’ Inti says.
Early in the morning Ricardo, Ivan and Coco left anyway even though we hadn’t made radio contact. They are going to Camiri and from there will take a plane and leave the jeep behind.
Our group went on a hike again. Mongo says we’re going to try and get the whole group together at our camp by 24th to have a celebration. Today I was lucky in that I didn’t have to carry the radio equipment. That task fell to Pacho, Miguel, Benigno and Camba. We got split up from them. Late in the afternoon Pacho and Camba came back without the radio. They said they’d hidden it in the undergrowth. Mongo said that tomorrow we must get it back and it will take five men. It’s so heavy two men definitely couldn’t lift it. And I don’t see the point of it because it never seems to work.
When Pacho said ‘we need more men to carry the radio,’ I kept quiet and when Mongo added me to the list of men to carry it, Pacho laughed and said ‘ah, yes, our secret weapon, the mighty Jejenito will save the day.’
‘I hate the radio,’ I said.
‘You need to love it,’ Pacho told me. ‘It will save our lives one day, be sure of that.’
I didn’t agree, I thought it would be the death of me – and I thought that even more when we had to lug it to the camp from the place they’d hidden it.
But the good news is that we’ve finally finished building the cave. I thought digging was over for a while but then Mongo told us that once we had recovered the radio the next job was to build a cave for it. I swear they love that radio more than I love my mother.
In the evening Mongo was talking about responsibilities and that everyone must obey the leader in his field. He explained that the military command is superior to the political command because it is the soldier who will keep us alive not political ideology. He explained that while at the end of the day the political and military command must be one and the same, we must make it clear to Mario Monje that while the political leaders are responsible for men’s morale, they must keep the military leaders informed at all times. He pointed out to the Bolivians that those from Cuba have already had experience and don’t want to repeat the negative aspects of earlier campaigns. All must learn from the experience of those who have learned the hard way.
We worked building the radio operator’s cave.
‘Build it well,’ said Pombo, ‘because you may spend quite some time in here – once you master the radio.’
I don’t think I will ever master the radio, but I kept digging. The rock is very hard but we have to keep working. They brought the generator, which needs gasoline to work and so hasn’t been tested. We don’t have gasoline here – yet. I bet I know who will be involved in moving that from one camp to another!
We are waiting for Loro to bring some maps to help us explore the region. He was meant to come today. He didn’t.
I said I would write down the names of the men in the groups, and I will, but Mongo outlined the leadership positions to us and I thought I should put them down first. Though he said that all positions are temporary because leaders will emerge from the cadres here as well as those not yet with us. He said this because some of the Bolivians were complaining that the Cubans seem to be in charge. He reminded them that we have more experience and that if they want responsibility they have to earn it. Everyone must do the tasks assigned to them. I didn’t complain about the radio because I could see he was unhappy with the attitude of some of the Bolivians and I don’t want him to think that I am slack like them.
For the present he put Joaquim as second in command and made Alejandro Head of Operations. Rolando and Inti are detailed to be political commissars (note it’s one Cuban and one Bolivian so there is really nothing for them to complain about). Pombo was put in charge of supplies, medicines and transportation – but Ñato and Moro work to his direction in this regard. Cuban Antonio was put in charge of information and organisation of troops. Like I said, the Bolivians weren’t all too happy with this, but Mongo repeated that we have to be disciplined and follow the chain of command.
Joaquim arrived and told us that Loro wouldn’t be coming because a pig had escaped and he was out looking for it.
I was relieved when Mongo called on me to go and explore a ridge with him (even without the maps) because it meant I got off the digging for a bit.
We found a reasonably clear path, but it doesn’t look man-made. Back at the camp and while we were waiting for Loro to arrive, there was some bickering among the men and Mongo tried to put them straight. He told us that when Monje comes we will choose a name for our movement and that we will make our decisions about the future of our revolutionary struggle. He is hopeful that we will get the full support of the Bolivian Communist Party – Inti is not so sure.
Some of the other Bolivians are still complaining and Mongo explained that in the near future the Bolivians will have to come to the fore, because at this stage Cubans cannot be seen to be leading their revolution. But until the Bolivians start showing capacity for harder work and responsibility nothing will be achieved. The pig (and Loro) finally arrived. There was a bit of arguing because Loro didn’t bring the promised drinks for the celebration (it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t drink) and Inti and Pombo accused him of being disorganised. Personally I didn’t care that much, I am just looking forward to eating that pig! And a day without digging will be a celebration in itself. I just hope the rain holds off.