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Foe of capitalism in life, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara spawning own tourism industry in death

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — In life, Ernesto "Che" Guevara fought to overthrow a corrupt, capitalist elite. In death, he is spawning his own tourism industry — soon to include a three-country "Che Trail."

Tourism officials in Argentina, Cuba and Bolivia are collaborating on a historic route that will allow Guevara buffs to retrace the footsteps of the Argentine medical student turned revolutionary in Cuba who was killed in a failed mission to foment an uprising in Bolivia.

Bolivia's vice minister of tourism, Marco Antonio Peredo, said Wednesday that the international "Caminos del Che" trail will include sites where Guevara was born, fought and died.

Officials say they are being sensitive to Guevara's legacy, long ago co-opted by T-shirt vendors the world over.

"We aren't looking to commodify him — he's not a product that's for sale," said Diego Conca, who coordinates Argentina's portion of the Che trail, inaugurated last year. "His journey transformed him, and we think that following this route can also be transformative for tourists."

Attractions in Argentina already include Guevara's birthplace of Rosario, his family's mate tea plantation in Misiones and other places where Guevara rode by motorcycle on his path to becoming a leftist revolutionary.

Guevara went to Cuba in 1956 to fight alongside the Castro brothers, and later led a small band of guerrillas in Bolivia, where he was captured and killed in 1967.

Bolivia's tourist route follows Guevara's path through the jungle to Higuera, the town where he was killed, and Valle Grande, where he was buried with six other fighters until 1997, when the bodies were exhumed and taken to Cuba.

Interest in Guevara has increased as Latin American countries celebrate the bicentennial of earlier revolutions that led to independence from Spain. Leftist administrations in Argentina and Bolivia also have broken down taboos associated with Guevara, who inspired both armed insurrection and state repression.

In Argentina's independence celebrations this week, President Cristina Fernandez hung a portrait of Guevara donated by Fidel and Raul Castro in the Gallery of Latin American Patriots in the executive mansion.

"People all over the world ask us for more information," Conca said. "Each month there's more interest, and now with Bolivia, we think there will be even more."

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Associated Press Writer Carlos Valdez in La Paz, Bolivia, contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.loscaminosdelche.gov.ar