Mario Terán is the man who fired the shot that killed Che Guevara on October 10th 1967. He was a lieutenant in the Bolivian army during the dictatorship of Rene Barrientos, trained by the US Green Beret and CIA operatives. He was born in Cochabamba and died in March 2022 in Santa Cruz. In August 2006, Cuban doctors cured him of cataract blindness as part of the free treatment they provided to millions of Bolivians.
There are different versions of the way in which Che was killed. However, all agree that on October 9th, 1967, in the classroom of a small rural school in Vallegrande, Santa Cruz, Terán volunteered to take the shot. It’s said that he was nervous and missed the first shots, only wounding Che Guevara. With his hands tied behind his back, Che uttered his famous last words, “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man”.
Mario Terán lived the rest of his life in anonymity as a low-ranking soldier. After retiring he went to live in the city of Santa Cruz in financial penury.
39 years later in 2006, he hit headlines internationally after his son contacted the newspaper of Santa Cruz, El Deber, to give them a letter from his father thanking the Cuban medical brigade that had cured him (free of charge) of cataract blindness as part of their ‘operación milagro’ that was launched after Evo Morales was elected the year before.
Cuba’s state newspaper, Granma, said at the time that Terán is “a man that is educated in killing, who has had his eyesight restored thanks to doctors who follow the ideas of his victim”
The operation of the former Bolivian soldier was originally published on October 11, 2006 in a blog by Argentine journalist Juan Pablo Meneses, based on an interview with his Bolivian colleague Pablo Ortiz, from the Santa Cruz newspaper El Deber.
According to Ortiz’s account, Terán “is very old and almost blind. He doesn’t talk to anyone, he doesn’t want to give interviews and he lives in Santa Cruz.” He is a “perfect stranger” and “is broke.”
El Deber reported that “Terán does not want to be identified because he fears ‘Che’s ‘curse’”. Che’s curse is a popular legend that emerged because several of those directly involved in killing Che Guevara went on to suffered violent deaths.
The dictator of Bolivia at the time, René Barrientos, died in a helicopter crash two years later in an event that has never been fully clarified; Eduardo Huerta, the officer who captured Che, died in a car accident one year after Barrientos; Lieutenant Colonel Andrés Selich, who tortured Che, was assassinated by military officers during a coup 6 years later in 1973.
Honorato Rojas, a local farmer whose snitching on the guerrilla army led to their capture, was killed by Guevara’s followers. Captain Gary Prado, who was in charge of the operation, is still alive today but is entirely paralyzed after being shot in the spine during a coup attempt in the 80s.
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