December 11, 1995
Web posted at: 6:45 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Ronnie Lovler
VALLEGRANDE, Bolivia (CNN) -- Whether the remains of legendary guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara are buried alongside the airstrip of this remote Bolivian jungle village should soon be known. Soldiers began digging a week ago for his remains.
"Statements by witnesses to the fact have pointed us to the places where the excavations and diggings are taking place," said forensic expert Alejandro Echaurregue. "In my experience, if those testimonies are reliable the remains will be found."
The search for Guevara and four other guerrillas buried along with him is being helped along by the use of modern radar equipment most frequently used to prospect for minerals.
"If the remains are found, perfect," said geophysicist Giorgio Stangalino. "If they don't, we can say in scientific way, 'Gentlemen - there is nothing.'"
Guevara, Fidel Castro's revolutionary deputy, was killed at Vallegrande in October 1967 after an unsuccessful campaign to ignite revolution among the peasants who still live in the surrounding mountain communities.
The Bolivian government gave the order to locate Guevara's remains after a retired general connected with his capture and execution said he knew where Guevara was buried.
The general charged with supervising the troops doing the digging isn't pleased about having to look for what is left of a man who, for him, was an enemy.
"Undoubtedly, it is for us, an unusual situation to have to participate in these kind of activities," said Gen. Armando Alcazar. "We thought this chapter had ended 28 years ago."
But sentiment among the residents of Vallegrande is strikingly different. One woman said that if Guevara's remains are found, they should be considered the property of the town because it is here that he came to foment revolution.
Another resident still treasures a photograph taken of the dead Guevara when his body was put on public display in the village hospital. He, too, says Guevara's remains should stay in Vallegrande because they might draw tourists.
It's still unclear what will happen with the remains if they are found, or even why the Bolivian government decided now was the time to make such an all-out effort to find them.
The search for the remains has sparked worldwide curiosity. Nearly 30 years later, the mystique of Guevara, as revolutionary hero and revolutionary martyr, is still alive.
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