CARACAS, Venezuela – A glass monument to revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara was shot up and destroyed less than two weeks after it was unveiled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government.
Images of the 8-foot-tall glass plate bearing Guevara's image, now toppled and shattered, were shown Friday on state television, which said the entire country "repudiated" the vandalism.
The monument on an Andean mountain highway near the city of Merida was unveiled Oct. 8 by Vice President Jorge Rodriguez and Cuba's ambassador to Venezuela to mark the 40th anniversary of Guevara's death.
Chavez venerates Guevara as a model socialist for all Venezuelans. He named a state-funded adult education program "Mission Che Guevara," and murals of the iconic revolutionary have become a common sight in Venezuela.
Police said they had yet to identify those responsible. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional published a copy of what it said was a flier found by the monument signed by the previously unknown "Paramo Patriotic Front."
"We don't want any monument to Che, he isn't an example for our children," the flier read. It called Guevara a "cold-blooded killer" and said the government should raise a monument in Chavez's hometown of Sabaneta, in the nearby lowland plains, if it wants to commemorate the Argentine-born revolutionary.
The local mayor, Jesus Maria Espinoza, suggested the vandals came from elsewhere.
"We can't tolerate people from outside ... damaging something that was unveiled with so much happiness, with so much enthusiasm that day," Espinoza told state television.
The 1.5-inch-thick stele was erected near the top of El Aguila Peak, a popular tourist spot and one of the highest points in Venezuela at 13,143 feet above sea level.
Guevara visited this spot in 1952 during his travels through South America, which he recorded in his diary, before joining the Cuban revolutionary struggle led by Fidel Castro.