CEO, Urban Outfitters
30 Industrial Park Blvd.
Trenton, SC 29847
Dear Mr. Marlow,
The Human Rights Foundation recently became aware of the sale of merchandise at Urban Outfitters emblazoned with the image of communist leader Che Guevara, at times accompanied by the word “revolución.” As a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of human rights, we would like to bring your attention to Guevara’s bloody and anti-democratic legacy.
Although Guevara’s image has appeared on countless items for consumption over the last few decades as a symbol of change for the better, Guevara’s actual record is that of a brutal tyrant who suppressed individual freedom in Cuba and murdered those who challenged his worldview.
Guevara undoubtedly played a key role in the overthrow of the dictatorial Batista regime in January of 1959. However, despite promises of a new democratic government, within a few months he and Fidel Castro had designed and installed a full-blown police state that deprived the overwhelming majority of Cuban citizens of democracy and human rights.
From 1959 to 1960, the new government carried out summary executions of at least 1,118 people by firing squad. Guevara himself presided over the notorious La Cabaña prison, where hundreds of the executions took place. For comparison’s sake, the Batista regime was responsible for 747 noncombatant deaths between 1952 and 1959. The Cuban revolution under the direction of Guevara also saw the rise of forced labor camps which gave way a few years later to full-scale concentration camps. These were filled with dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Afro-Cuban priests, and anyone else who had committed “crimes” against the new moral revolution.
Despite the mountain of evidence for these abuses, much of which comes directly from Guevara’s own meticulous journals, popular culture still largely views him as a revolutionary of the people. Urban Outfitters is certainly not the only company to take advantage of Guevara’s fame to sell merchandise.