Looking Back At Che Guevara, Rebel Icon — And Photographer

Included in a new exhibition in Rosario, Argentina — Che's birthplace — are images not just of the famous revolutionary, but taken by him.

A young Argentine admires Guevara's photography
A young Argentine admires Guevara's photography
Lucas Aranda

ROSARIO — After celebrating Ernesto "Che" Guevara's 90th birthday last June, Rosario — the late revolutionary's birthplace — became the first city in Argentina to mount an exhibition of photographs on the legendary leftist who was famously gunned down in Bolivia in 1967. But what may be the most interesting aspect of the show, which runs until March 3, is that most of the 200 pictures were taken by Guevara himself.

The material on display includes some childhood postcards kept by Che's father following family trips around Argentina. The collection also reveals some less familiar facets of Guevara's trajectory. In 1955, for example, four years before he helped Fidel Castro lead the Cuban revolution, Guevara was a news photographer covering the Pan American Games in Mexico.

By then he had already traveled in many parts of the continent with his friends Alberto Granado and "Calica" Ferrer, as shown in some of the original pictures sent for the exhibit by the Centro de Estudios Che Guevara in Havana. "The character who wrote these notes died upon treading Argentine soil again," he wrote after a trip to Peru and Bolivia. "This aimless wondering through our America with a capital A has changed me more than I thought."

"There is a lot missing," says Pamela Gerosa, head of the Che Guevara Latin American Studies Center (CELChe) in Rosario. "Some things are lost and others couldn't be restored. Guevara also took many pictures when he was in the jungle during the Cuban revolution, and those we don't have."

CELChe helped curate the exhibition in coordination with the late revolutionary's older son, Camilo Guevara March, who agreed it should be displayed at Rosario's Center for Contemporay Expression (CEC).

Because the photos are originals, organizers have asked the public not to take pictures of them close up. The Che Guevara Center in Havana, for its part, has asked organizers in Rosario to ensure none would be reproduced.

A rare photograph of Che Guevara taking a photograph – Photo: VW Pics

One picture Che took of himself in Bolivia, shown in the self-portraits section, reveals an aged and altered face bearing little resemblance to the youthful adventurer the world recalls, or even the political leader who passed through Uruguay in the early 1960s. CELChe says Guevara himself contributed to his family's archive, sending them photos from Havana as documents for a first part of his biography.

Over a decade, Che photographed landscapes ranging from Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Mexico, to temples in South-East Asia, the Tagus river in Spain and scenes in Egypt, India and Japan. Most of his Cuban pictures date from after Castro's victory, though few show his role there in that period. Rosario is now one of several repositories in the world of documents on Che Guevara, which are in turn part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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