As one can guess from the title of this, it isn’t going to end well. I have a built-in bias against anyone wearing a Che Guevara shirt. Every time I encountered this, it usually ended in an ugly fashion.  Sorry, but there it is. And I’ll spell out my experiences below.

One of the biggest paradoxes I’ve encountered during my time in the military was the love affair of the Bolivian college students with Che Guevara. He was a murderer, a racist and was trying to export his revolution to Bolivia where he met an untimely end in 1967. The Manchego Ranger Battalion, with training and advisory assistance from the Special Forces men from Panama and the CIA routed his merry little band of guerrillas. In truth, Che’s idea of “revolución” resonated little with the Bolivians.

And yet back in the heady days of massive Special Forces and DEA support during the 80’s and 90’s when there was a constant influx of SF guys and SEALs all over the country, Che was everywhere. At the big university in the capital city of La Paz, there was a huge mural of Che Guevara on the wall of one of the buildings covering about 3 stories. Che’s likeness was on every other building it seemed. And the college students, who went to the very anti-American, leftist universities there, all wore Che t-shirts, as if it were a badge of honor, rather than someone who invaded your country trying to start a revolution where one didn’t exist.

Naturally, they didn’t take very well to the Gringos who they all thought were part of the DEA. And in those times, the SF and SEALs didn’t look like regular soldiers with the short military haircuts and the “I’m on TDY orders” method of dress. Whenever the Americans from the embassy there, and it was a big staff back then, would find a place like a popular disco or nightclub, the leftist college kids would begin to flock in the place and once the odds got what they felt were in their favor, say 8 or 10-1, they’d get brave, very brave. It never ended well for them, and more than once we left a pile in our wake as we got out of Dodge and tried to avoid a “diplomatic faux pas.”

But the leftists’ biggest targets were the Marines.  Being a Marine Corps Embassy Guard is a cush assignment for the young kids in the Corps and because of their strict standards that they maintain 365 days a year, they stood out like a sore thumb. They all had white-wall haircuts that screamed US Marine wherever they went. And as a result, whenever the Detachment was downtown, there would invariably be an issue, that they didn’t start but would finish. As a result, the Marines were restricted to their house, which was a beautiful palace that served as home and that had its own bar. At least one weekend night every week, the embassy staff would pile over to the Marine house and at least they’d get to have somewhat of a social life.

It was a shame, they were all great kids and didn’t want any trouble, they just wanted to get out and see the city and countryside just like we did, but weren’t allowed to. Being assigned to MILGP (Military Group in the embassy) in Bolivia, my partner Dave Ortiz and I became fast friends with the Marines and they had us over for a Detachment Dinner at their house which was an honor. They had a rough job and many of the diplomats treated them badly. But they had a job to do and they did it well. And were always polite and maintained a sense of humor about the crazy situation that was La Paz in those days.

The Marine guards also had quite a few good athletes and three of them played on our Embassy softball team. Baseball was out in Bolivia. We had to play fastpitch softball on baseball fields because of the altitude. La Paz is 12,000 feet above sea level. If you ever watched baseball from Denver, with the Colorado Rockies, you’ve seen how far a baseball travels in the Mile High City. La Paz is two and half times the altitude of Denver. I’ve hit a restricted flight softball in La Paz farther than I’ve ever hit a baseball in my life.

The games were always a fun outing for the La Paz embassy staff as they were pretty isolated up there in the Andes. Many of the embassy staff with their families would trek out to the games, mostly at the Bolivian military academy and cheer us on. Since so many diplomats were there, the Russians with their “discreet” surveillance guys would always nose around to see what’s up with all of these Amerikanskis. Dave would always do his best DeNiro impression on the way to the ballfield. “Hey f**kos, let’s go for a ride.”