Granma | 09 February, 2017
The morning of February 10, 1959, newspaper hawkers on the streets shouted at the top of their lungs, “Che, Cuban citizen!” They were referring to a press release printed on the front page of that Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper Revolución, announcing the Foundational Law approved by the Revolutionary Government, in a session which began on February 7 and ended during the dawn hours the following day.
This law was essentially based on the Constitution of 1940, although it incorporated clearly revolutionary articles in consonance with the times Cuba was living. Appendix 12 specified, “… foreigners who have served the struggle against the dictatorship defeated on December 31, 1958, in the ranks of the Rebel Army for two years or more, and who have achieved the rank of Comandante for at least one year… are Cubans by birth.”
Luis Buch, secretary of the Revolutionary Government’s Council of Ministers from January 1959 through March of 1962, reported that once this article and others in the Foundational Law were approved during early February 8, he gave instructions that Che be located and asked to make an immediate visit to Buch’s office.
Upon hearing what the Council of Ministers had decided, Che responded that the recognition was undeserved. Buch would relate years later, “According to him, he had only struggled in Cuba as he would have in any other part of the world, for the freedom of a people.”
Buch argued, “An honor of such magnitude cannot be refused; that would be an affront to the Cuban people and the Revolutionary Government.”
Che was moved and embraced Buch. Together they entered the hall where the Council of Ministers was still meeting and Che accepted the congratulations of those present.
There was some one who asked him to say a few words, but he declined, Buch told a reporter years later, “He was just that modest and unassuming.”
The Council of Ministers’ decision was published in a special edition of the Official Gazette, dated February 7, 1959, but the information did not reach the press until Monday the 9th, the date which is taken as a reference.
Since 1959, the Cuban people have considered Che one of their own, and the heroic guerilla responded in kind.
In his farewell letter of October 1965, he wrote to Fidel, “I believe I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban Revolution in its territory, and I bid farewell to you, the compañeros, and your people, which is now mine. I formalize my resignation from leadership responsibilities in the party, from my position as minister, my rank as a Comandante, and my condition as Cuban. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba, only ties of another sort that cannot be broken like appointments… I again state that I free Cuba of any responsibility whatsoever, except that which emanates from its example. If the definitive hour reaches me under other skies, my last thoughts will be for this people and especially for you.”