Row erupts over Che memorial

Che Guavara.

Storm clouds are gathering over plans by Galway City Council to erect a statue to Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

The chairwoman of U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny requesting that a statue to Che should not be erected in Galway, or indeed anywhere in Ireland.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Cuban-American born as Ileana Ros y Adato. A Republican, she represents Florida's 18th congressional district and is currently the most senior Republican woman in the House of Representatives.

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In the letter, Ros-Lehtinen expresses her concern "regarding the proposal by the city council of Galway to build a monument in honor of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and respectfully request that the Government of Ireland instead lend its support to and honor the enslaved Cuban people who seek to be free from the dictatorship that Che helped impose upon them."

The letter states that in the eyes of the Cuban community in the U.S., "Che Guevara was a mass murderer and a human rights abuser" and adds that "the romanticizing image that this proposed monument portrays would serve to diminish the brutality that was committed by Che."

Whether the taoiseach can bring any influence to bear on the memorial plan is far from certain.

According to the Sunday Independent, the council has sites in mind in Eyre Square in the center of the city, or on the promenade at Salthill.

The idea for a monument is rooted in the Argentinian-born Guavara's Irish heritage, most notably his descent from a branch of the Lynch family in Galway.