(CNSNews.com) – The United States has called on the United Nations’ culture agency to reverse a decision to include the writings of “Che” Guevara in a register of documents representing some of the human race’s most significant heritage.
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided to include a collection of 1,007 documents from the life of the Argentine-Cuban Marxist revolutionary in its “Memory of the World Register.”
The Guevara papers relate to the Argentina-born Ernesto Guevara’s adolescence, his key role in Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, and his involvement in an anti-government insurgency in Bolivia which led to his execution there in 1967. The collection includes writings, poems, songs, as well as what UNESCO calls “valuable iconographic material by and about Che, films, letters and museum pieces.”
They will now be listed alongside such documents as the Magna Carta, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Gutenberg Bible – and more recent ones including the writings of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Diary of Anne Frank and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial’s pages of testimony collection.
The decision was recommended by an advisory committee and approved last week by UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova. According to UNESCO the director-general endorses the inclusion of documents that meet “the selection criteria regarding world significance and outstanding universal value.’
U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion in a statement Wednesday urged UNESCO to reverse the decision, saying the register “must not be used as a tool to glorify or legitimize violence.”
“Che Guevara is a controversial figure who advocated violence and made no apologies for executing people in the pursuit of revolution,” he said. “The content of his writings is not in keeping with UNESCO and United Nations values.”
Noting the inclusion in the “Memory of the World” of Eleanor Roosevelt’s writings and documents pertaining to the Holocaust, Killion said the register “should not be politicized if it is to maintain its relevance and integrity.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading critic of both the U.N. and the Castro regime, said UNESCO’s decision was “a hurtfully insulting one for the families of the many Cubans who were sadistically executed by Che and his cronies.”
“UNESCO has a long history of making outrageous and nonsensical decisions,” she said. “The latest horrid decision of this UN agency that salutes Che Guevara is just another one to add to a long list of idiotic UNESCO decisions.”
Ros-Lehtinen also criticized the Obama administration for supporting the agency. In 2011 UNESCO became the first U.N. body to grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority, and as a result the administration was obliged by law to cut funding amounting to 22 percent of UNESCO’s regular budget.
“UNESCO’s action is a clear example of what is wrong with the U.N.,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “U.S. law mandates that our country can no longer fund UNESCO because it admitted a nonexistent Palestine, but Secretary of State Kerry wants Congress to change the law to allow taxpayer money to once again flow to this monstrosity of an agency.”
But at a Ramadan Iftar dinner in Washington Wednesday night, Secretary of State John Kerry singled out the head of UNESCO in a positive way: "I also especially want to recognize our Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We’re delighted to have them here," Kerry said.
The request for the “Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara” collection to be inscribed in UNESCO’s register came from the Cuban and Bolivian governments, in a submission is punctuated with the type of hagiographic language long used to build what critics view as a posthumous cult of personality around him.
The “significance of Che’s figure,” it says, is “unprecedented in the history of the 20th century.” His writings are described as “often prophetic and multifaceted,” and the papers as “irreplaceable and unique.”
The proposal says Guevara’s “written work and the symbol of his image are widely recognized as a mark of authenticity and coherence that has no equal in the world.”
He is “a symbol of liberation, internationalism, of a revolutionary without borders,” and “an icon linked to ideas of youth, freedom and social justice,” it says.