An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise

Thor Halvorssen

Founder, Foundation

An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise

Posted: 09/19/2012 11:10 am

Ted Marlow

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 who suppressed

individual 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

had designed and installed a full-blown 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 , 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.

We urge you to consider that the image of Guevara represents tyranny and

repression for the millions of people who have suffered under communism.

Fifty-three years after Guevara's rise to power, Cuba is still ruled by

the Communist party, while all alternative political parties and

dissenting civil society groups are outlawed. Any of dissent

is considered a subversive act, a free press does not exist, and the

government regularly imprisons those who speak out. Mr. Marlow, the

Cuban government of today, a legacy of Guevara, is the most repressive

regime in the Western hemisphere.

These facts forced Polish lawmakers to recently propose a ban on

t-shirts with Guevara's image, as part of a previous law banning fascist

and totalitarian propaganda. HRF does not advocate the banning of an

image — no matter how offensive. Freedom of expression is a human

right, and of course Urban Outfitters is free to choose how to design

its merchandise.

However, HRF does question the motives of Urban Outfitters in lionizing

a murderer who did not even make an attempt to hide his bloody ideology.

In a speech in front of the United Nations in 1964, Guevara proudly

admitted that "yes, we have executed, we are executing, we will continue

to execute." He boasted of murdering Eutimio Guerra, bragging in his

diary how he "ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right

side of his brain." He believed in doing anything it took to achieve

"the greater good" he envisioned for Cuba — including nuclear

annihilation of the United States.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Guevara favored engaging in

nuclear war to "build a better world." After the crisis was averted he

lamented Soviet inaction, stating that if the missiles had been under

Cuban control, he would have fired them. There is evidence that Guevara

was involved in a November 1962 terrorist plot to use 1,200 pounds of

TNT to blow up Macy's, Gimbels, Bloomingdale's, and Grand Central

Station on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the

year. "At every stage of his adult life," one historian noted of

Guevara, "his megalomania manifested itself in the predatory urge to

take over other people's lives and property, and to abolish their free


Is this really someone that Urban Outfitters wants to emblazon and

celebrate on its products?

For the sake of the 1.47 billion people still living under the yoke of

communist rule, for the sake of the thousands who perished in the Cuban

revolution, and for the sake of the 11 million Cubans who still endure a

totalitarian system, we hope Urban Outfitters will reconsider its

marketing strategy and set a moral example for the apparel industry.

Sincerely yours,

Thor Halvorssen

Human Rights Foundation

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