A scrap book of grisly memorabilia goes on auction today in Dallas. It may include interesting clues about the capture, execution and burial of the Argentine-born revolutionary Che Guevara. He was killed in Bolivia 40 years ago this month. Among the items up for auction: a lock of Che's hair.

Peter Kornbluh who heads the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive is one of the few people who have actually seen the contents of the scrapbook. And he joins us now.

Good to have you with us.

Mr. PETER KORNBLUH (Director, Cuba Documentation Project, National Security Archive): Good morning.

AMOS: So what exactly is up for auction and where did this come from?

Mr. KORNBLUH: Well, what's up for auction is a scrapbook of Che Guevara memorabilia that was gathered by the Cuban-exile CIA operative Gustavo Villoldo who was basically put in charge of secretly burying Che Guevara in the middle of the night after Che had been executed on October 9th 1967.

And Villoldo was one of the two contract CIA agents who were sent to Bolivia by the agency to track Guevara down. They were successful with the Bolivian military, and the final stage of this operation was to secretly bury Che to keep him from becoming a martyr. And Villoldo - who's, you know, they claim the history is this operation kept the scrapbook of the original photographs, the fingerprints, some of the communications intelligence intercepts, and before burying Che Guevara's tipped off a piece of, I believe, his beard and kept it for himself.

AMOS: So it's certain that this lock of hair, which has gotten so much attention. It is certain that it is Che Guevara's hair.

Mr. KORNBLUH: I believe it is. I've seen it, and there's no reason to doubt that this was a cop and bizarre keepsake for this particular covered operative.

AMOS: Why did Villoldo come forth now with this memorabilia?

Mr. KORNBLUH: Forty years have gone by since Guevara was executed. I think he saw the possibility of making some money, frankly. I believe the opening bid for these documents and the hair and the scrapbook is $100,000, and the bidding is likely to go higher. And also I think he's going to gain some historical recognition at this point for all - from all the publicity for his role in this operation.

AMOS: Who wants this? Who's going to be bidding today?

Mr. KORNBLUH: You know, there's rumors out there that Hugo Chavez from Venezuela would like to purchase it. There are others who are involved. Whoever buys this memorabilia, the scrapbook of these documents does control an extraordinary history, a nexus of revolution and counterrevolution in Latin America that is still very potent in the region today.

AMOS: And it does provide some clues to the end of Che Guevara that perhaps were not known before.

Mr. KORNBLUH: It is a very rich and detailed history, very unique original photographs of - his body that haven't been seen before publicly, intelligence intercepts, captured documents that charted Che Guevara's mission, personal communications between the president of Bolivia and the CIA. It's a unique history, and one that I hope whoever buys it will continue to make available to scholars and students around the world.

AMOS: Thanks, Peter.

Peter Kornbluh heads the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from