Che and Prensa Latina News Agency

By Yurién Portelles
Prensa Latina
Imagen activaHavana, Jun 12 (Prensa Latina) Fate decreed that they should meet in June, but in different years, the dates of the birth of mythical Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara and of the foundation of the Latin American news agency Prensa Latina (PL). Che was born on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina, and PL was founded on June 16, 1959, based on an idea embraced by Che and the leader of the Rebel Army, Fidel Castro, since they were fighting in Sierra Maestra.

The leadership of the armed movement was already talking about the need to have a press of international scope to counter foreign media campaigns aimed at suffocating the recently-established Cuban Revolution.

The efforts made by Radio Rebelde (7-RR), founded in the mountain range, where the guerrillas resisted the attacks by the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, were certainly not enough.

The event that triggered the idea of founding PL was the meeting in Sierra Maestra between Argentine journalist Jorge Ricardo Masetti and Che and the leader of the armed group.

Masetti came to Cuba as an envoy for Radio El Mundo. He was interested in learning about who were the already legendary armed youths, whom he interviewed on two occasions on the same issues.

“Bye Che Masetti, but I think we will meet again. They will chase you,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Rebel Army told the new Argentine friend humorously.

And the visitor, on his way down Sierra Maestra after accomplishing his journalistic taks, was forced to climb up the mountains again because his report had failed to reach the radio station in Buenos Aires.

However, when Masetti eventually came down Cuba’s highest mountain range, he already had his own idea to promote rebelliousness in Argentina, because he had understood that his country needed it too.


The recently-established Revolution had not turned six months yet, when PL turned on the teletypes for the first time and transmitted a news wire, with Masetti as the founding director.

He had previously organized what Fidel Castro called Operation Truth to speak about the new battlefield against the media consortia and to say that it would be a news agency to tell the truth from the eyes of the region.

The novelty and essence that resulted in PL brought together Latin American journalists such as Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Argentina’s Rodolfo Walsh, who later became writers.

The list of prominent journalists who turned on the teletypes in Havana and other countries also included Aroldo Wall (Brazil), Ernesto Jaquetti, Alfredo Muñoz Unsain, aka Chango, Rogelio García Lupo and Carlos Aguirre (Argentina), Armando Rodríguez Suárez (Mexico) and Eleazar Díaz Rangel (Venezuela).

Wearing his olive green uniform and commander boots, Che used to arrive at the news agency at night to visit his comrades, and they say that when he did not come, he called up to ask about the latest developments in the world.

He also used to visit the teletype room and the new transmitters installed on the outskirts of the Havana, and he even published some articles from PL.

He entitled one of them, published in La Gaceta de Colombia, “Japon, una Potencia que Es Colonia” (Japan, a Power that Is a Colony). It was signed by Ernesto (Che) Guevara and distributed by Prensa Latina. In that article, he made a socio-economic analysis of the country of the Rising Sun.

The article begins with his trip to Japan in which he shared his views about an industrialized society and its achievements, but he assured that that country is “the demonstration that the best asset is total national sovereignty”.

Gabriel Molina, a founding journalist in PL, says that Che had worked as a journalist in a news agency in Mexico and he knew how it works, he was even the correspondent in some Pan-American Games.

That is why, when this Latin American news agency was founded, it paid a decent salary to its workers, not only compared to Cuba, but also to the region.

It is little known that at the beginning, it was called “Agencia Latina” and that it was the mythical guerrilla fighter that suggested the word Prensa to call it Prensa Latina.

Conchita Dumois, Masetti’s widow, who worked as his secretary, said that Che’s visits to PL were regular, and prolonged on several occasions.

They locked themselves in Masetti’s office to embark in in-depth debates that they enriched with smoke from Cuban cigars and maté.

“I can imagine about what they talked,” said Dumois, noting that they might have talked about how to make a revolution to change the sad reality of her country at the time.

In October 1967, Prensa Latina had succeeded in bringing down all predictions that it would not survive long and was competing with large news media, when the news of Che’s death arrived.

Fifty-four years after its foundation, PL has spread all over the world with more than 20 offices to show the other side of reality, the one about which big media monopolies do not talk, another idea by Commander Guevara that is still paving his way.

sgl/jg/tgj/yp Modificado el ( miércoles, 12 de junio de 2013 )

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