ON a cold and clear night in 2008,
Antonio Peredo Leigue received us in his modest
apartment in a modern suburb of La Paz. He was then
a Senator of the Republic of Bolivia – the
Plurinational State had not as yet been
constitutionally approved – for the Movement Toward
Socialism-Political Instrument for the Sovereignty
of the Peoples (MAS-IPSP), which two years
previously had won the general elections and brought
Evo Morales Ayma to power.
But we could not avoid the magnetism
of the interviewee’s biography: the brother of Inti
(Guido) and Coco (Roberto), courageous compañeros
in the guerrilla movement led by Comandante Ernesto
Guevara, and Antonio himself, a revolutionary with a
long history, a protagonist and witness of crucial
moments in the history of contemporary Bolivia.
Antonio Peredo died in La Paz June
2, 2012. In his memory, we are publishing a
synthesis of the interview he gave us on that
opportunity. His experiences merit being shared and
his judgment remains valid today.
When and where were you born?
On January 12, 1936, in Trinidad,
Beni department. I am the oldest of the brothers. My
parents had us all in a row. After me, came Emma
Olga Elvira, who we called la Gata (the Cat). She
died in a traffic accident in 2004. After the
guerrilla movement she mostly lived in the United
States. She was working in the Ministry of
Agriculture when certain individuals from Military
Intelligence approached her. "Look, we’ve
investigated you and you’re not involved in
subversion, but if you know something about your
brothers, you’d better tell us." She went into
exile. Inti was born in 1937; Coco, in 1938 and, in
1941, Oswaldo, who we nicknamed Chato. Coco was one
of twins, but the other died at birth from asphyxia.
In Quechua, twins are called tojito. And la
Gata, who was very little, couldn’t pronounce
tojito properly. She said coquito, and from that
came Coco. Perhaps to compensate for the loss of the
other twin, my father raised Inti and Coco as if
they were. They were dressed the same, and did
everything together all their lives.
How was your relationship with these
Although I was only a few years
older than them, they saw me as if I were much older.
They developed impressive physical activities, but I
adopted more sedentary habits. They used to say,
half jokingly, that I was the intellectual of the
family. But we grew up sharing ideals of justice and
belief in the triumph of socialism.
When did you take up revolutionary
During my student years I felt
attracted by the winds of change of the period,
which subsequently turned out not to be because, as
you know, the Revolution of 1952 became diluted by
populism, opportunism and pressure from the United
States to prevent leftists from winning in the
hemisphere. There was a nucleus of Communist
sympathizers in Trinidad in the early 1950’s and we
joined the Party. As I was the oldest, they elected
me general secretary. We wrote to the Central
Committee. And do you know who came with the
response to our membership application? No less than
Antonio Arguedas, who was a telegraph sergeant. We
wrote again to La Paz asking them what kind of Party
was it to have a militiaman in its ranks. Over time,
we had a direct but intermittent relationship. After
1953, I came to La Paz. The direction of the Party
didn’t seem correct to me and I was part of a split
called the Revolutionary Left Party.
Since the 1960’s you have dedicated
yourself intensively to journalism, was that not a
risky profession given the era?
I became a journalist in my early
youth, in 1949, at the age of 13. I started with a
printing press as a typographic apprentice; but what
is called keeping up columns in newspapers and
magazines; in effect, that was in the 60’s. Whenever
you exercise opinion journalism in a country like
this, your run a risk, but at the end of the day you
are respected, even when you place yourself in the
sights, as was the case after René Barrientos
organized the military coup in 1964.
One particularly difficult moment?
That wasn’t about journalism as such,
but life itself. In 1967 guerrilla activity in
Oriente was noted and the soldiers knew that my
brothers were involved, and so they suspected me as
well. While that was happening Arguedas, who was
Minister of the Interior at the time, sent for me
and showed me some sketches. They had already
captured Regis Debray and the Argentine Ciro Roberto
Bustos, with whom they confirmed that Che was at the
front of the guerrilla movement. Bustos had done the
sketches. One of them showed a man very much like
me, from which they deduced that I had facilitated
those individuals’ journey from La Paz to the
theater of operations. Shortly afterward they
murdered Che. The order came from the United States.
The National Liberation Army was fighting in order
not to disappear.
You had to leave Bolivia, right?
That was when I noticed that I was
being pursued. I called home to find out what was
happening. From early morning there was an
automobile parked outside with two guys in civilian
clothes who had their hair cut very short. I called
Mireya, Coco’s wife, and told her, "I want you to
take this message to the movement leadership. I am
being pursued. So, I have three options: to leave
the country, go underground or hand myself in. And I
am prepared to do whichever one you consider the
best." By the next day they still had not replied.
So then I decided to grab the bull by the horns. At
lunchtime, I went to Arguedas’ house. I told him, "You’re
looking for me, here I am." "No, Antonio, I’m not
looking for you, Naval Intelligence is looking for
you." I know what you must be thinking: in a country
without a sea exit, we gave ourselves the luxury of
have a repressive force of that denomination.
Arguedas said to me, "What you have to do, is to get
out of here." I replied, "Impossible." "Why?" "I
don’t have any money, I don’t have anywhere to go, I
don’t have money to leave at home." And he replied,
"Here’s your ticket, your passport, money for the
journey, money for you to leave at home. Travel in
the next two days." And he took me to the airport.
Arguedas was a very contradictory man, who held many
mysteries for me, despite the fact I thought I knew
him. I left Bolivia and arrived in Chile.
Was it then that you talked with
That’s right. He was president of
the Senate. He rebuked me, "What are you doing here?
Your brothers fighting and you here." Believe me, I
felt ashamed. But he understood the circumstances.
Salvador possessed an exceptional ethical sense. He
demonstrated that on September 11, 1973.
Is it true that Arguedas thought
about you when The Bolivian Diary of Che was
The story is as follows. Arguedas
and I had a friend in common, Lorenzo Carrí, an
Argentine sports journalist who had lived in Bolivia
for many years. Lorenzo told me that one day,
Arguedas, who was still a government minister,
knocked on his apartment door at 9:00pm and asked
him to look after a portable typewriter case. He
looked at what was inside, saw some photocopies and
began to read them. That is when he knew that the
government wanted to sell Che’s diary. The next day,
Arguedas came by in the morning: "I want to ask you
a favor. I want you to go to Chile but of course you
can’t travel directly to Chile. Where can you go
first?" "Ah, I could go to Argentina." "Right, go to
Argentina and from there to Chile. Then you give
Antonio this and tell him that I am prepared to hand
over Che’s diary." Lorenzo said no, that people must
know what Arguedas was doing and that that could
cost him his life. The copy of the Diary
reached Cuba by another route, that of the comrades
at the Chilean Punto Final magazine. Hernán
Uribe related the story in a book.
You created the Ernesto Che Guevara
Foundation. What motivated you to do that?
The last decades of the past century
were characterized by the rise of neoliberalism and
corruption in Bolivia. In that state of affairs,
those who plotted to assassinate Che believed
themselves heroes, not villains. And there were even
supposedly people on the left who began to renege on
Che’s legacy. I understood that Che’s thinking was
necessary for the battles which had to be waged.
That’s what Inti and Coco would have wanted. I did
nothing more than be faithful to them. The formula
of a Foundation allowed us to operate autonomously
and, in passing, make politics. Not party politics,
but a contingent politics. Until Evo Morales
appeared on the horizon.
Why Evo Morales?
He was a different leader. You could
see that. There were no more than 30 activists in
the Foundation, an infinitesimal number. Around 2001
we approached Evo. We told him we were prepared to
do this and this is what we could do and that we
were asking absolutely nothing. We didn’t want to be
candidates, we didn’t want anything. "Well then,
please, why don’t you help me form the commission to
seek a vice presidential candidate for the 2002
elections." He wanted someone to represent the
middle class. So he said to me: "Antonio, you have
to run with me as vice president." Initially I
refused, but then he convinced me. I am sure that if
we had won those elections, they would have been
snatched from us. But, as you say, things have a way
of working themselves out. If Evo had won the
presidency with me in 2002, they would have brought
us down within a week. We were not totally ready to
govern at that moment.
The incapacity and collapse of the
neoliberal regime is known history. Popular
struggles and the response to the repression bore
their fruits. The elections at the end of 2005 were
a forecast victory, although we had to take
precautions, because the forces of reaction are
always prepared to do anything in order not to lose
their hand. Álvaro García Linera fit well in the MAS
presidential formula. I was elected a senator.
How do you see the future?
I don’t like to speculate, even more
so now that I have turned the 70-year corner. For
me, the future begins in the present, in what we are
doing right now, with a country which has recovered
its most important natural resources and where human
dignity is a notion that is starting to become a
reality. I believe that Che would have liked to have
seen this. I insist that being a guevarista (follower
of Che Guevara) here and now is to devote oneself to
the process of change led by Evo. I am content to
have been present during the beginning of this
change. It is a very hard road, it is a road which
could cost bloodshed. But I feel that it is an
irreversible road, as long as we do not make
concessions and remain alert.