Gen. Gary Prado Salmón, who as captain of the Bolivian Army led the operation that captured Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, a critical ally of Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution, in 1967, died on May 6 in a hospital in Santa Cruz , Bolivia. He is 84 years old.
His son Gary Prado Arauz announced the death on Facebook but did not give a reason.
After leaving Cuba in 1965, Mr. Guevara tried and failed to spark a Communist revolutionary movement in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then he and other guerrillas headed for Bolivia the following year, hoping to overthrow the government of President René Barrientos Ortuño, a general who seized control of the country in a coup.
Captain Prado and his men – part of a special forces unit backed by the CIA – have been hunting guerrillas for months when he receives a tip from a farmer, an old friend. from the school, who said he saw them in a deep ravine near the small village of La Higuera.
Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon on October 8, 1967, Captain Prado heard a scream from the ravine: His soldiers captured two guerrillas.
When one of them surrendered, General Prado later told The New York Times, he called out, “I am Che Guevara, and I am worth more to you alive than dead.”
Mr. Guevara was injured in the battle, his gun broke.
“He presented a deplorable figure, dirty, smelly and run-down,” said General Prado in a 2017 interview with FT Magazine. “He’s been running for months. His hair is long, messy and curly, and his beard is full of holes.” And, General Prado said, “He had no shoes, only pieces of animal skin on his feet.”
Mr. Guevara was imprisoned in a room in a small schoolhouse in the nearby village of La Higuera, where he spoke several times with Captain Prado. Asked why he fought in Bolivia, Mr. Guevara said, “The revolution has no borders.” Captain Prado tells him that he has come to the wrong country, which he says has undergone its own revolution through agrarian reform and the nationalization of its mines.
“Then came his concern about his future,” General Prado told the publication CE Noticias Financieras English this year. “‘What will happen to me?'” I told him he was going to the trial.”
But the next day, after Captain Prado left to pursue other guerrillas, he said, Mr. Guevera was killed by an army sergeant on the orders of President Barrientos. Captain Prado returned to help tie the body of Mr. Guevera to those running in a helicopter that brought it to nearby Vallegrande.
“He was then placed on a concrete slab in a small laundry behind the hospital, and about 30 press photographers from around the world were invited to take pictures of the body while it lay in state,” said General Prado the FT Magazine. “It is important for the government and the military to show Che dead as a lesson to anyone who wants to invade or threaten Bolivia’s way of life in the future.”
General Prado eventually wrote two books, “How I Got Che” (1987) and “The Defeat of Che Guevara: Military Response to the Guerrilla Challenge in Bolivia” (1990).
Gary Augusto Prado Salmon was born on Nov. 15, 1938, in Rome, to Julio Prado Montaño, a Bolivian Army officer on assignment in the city, and Adela Salmón Tapia. At 15, after the family returned to Bolivia, Gary enrolled in a military college, and graduated as a second lieutenant in 1958. He became an instructor at the college.
In 1974, seven years after the arrest of Mr. Guevara that made Captain Prado a military hero, he was arrested as one of the leaders of the uprising against the military dictatorship of President Hugo Banzer Suárez. However, a year later, he was restored.
In 1981, now a colonel commanding the army’s Eighth Division, he led the recapture of an Occidental Petroleum natural gas plant in Santa Cruz that was held by ultra-rightists who threatened explosives. this is unless Bolivia’s military junta resigns.
But this was the last active-duty operation of Colonel Prado: He was paralyzed by a bullet in his spine fired by one of his own men. Citing an eyewitness account, The Miami Herald reported that he was shot by a second lieutenant in what Colonel Prado said was an accident.
Colonel Prado was eventually promoted to the rank of general, but the injury, which left him in a wheelchair, blocked his path to becoming the commander of the army, as he had hoped. He retired from the military in the late 1980s, and then served as Bolivia’s ambassador to Britain and later to Mexico.
Information about his survivors was not immediately available.
Some Mexican admirers of Mr. Guevera opposed the appointment of General Prado as ambassador. During a party at a Mexican cultural center in 2001, Alberto Hijar, an art critic, threw a glass of wine at General Prado and shouted, “For the health of Che!” Mr. Hijar told The Chicago Tribune, “He is a war criminal.”
But General Prado told The Tribune: “I have acted correctly all my life, not only at this stage. I do not need to be ashamed or hide.” He tried to downplay the importance of the arrest of Mr. Guevera, adding, “All that incident is hardly four lines in the history of Bolivia.”