Viva la Book Party! A Soiree for Che

Emily Witt reports for New York’s Observer.

In 1995, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the C.I.A.’s involvement in the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia. Years passed — 16 of them — and Mr. Ratner forgot that he had ever sent the letter. But he was still living in the same apartment and one day some documents from the government began trickling in through the mail. With new information he now says definitively dispels “the myth that the United States was not involved in the order to kill Che,” Mr. Ratner decided to write a small book, joining forces with another attorney, Michael Steven Smith, to produce Who Killed CheHow the C.I.A. Got Away with Murder.

On Thursday night their publisher, independent outfit OR Books, held a party to celebrate the book’s publication at the somewhat unusual venue of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations. Guests passed by a giant portrait of Fidel and a smaller photograph of Che speaking at the United Nations on their way to check their coats. Upstairs in a capacious event space, bartenders served mojitos to a soundtrack of Cuban jazz.

OR Books co-founder Colin Robinson had hand-painted a banner that read “Free the Cuban Five” himself. “This is independent publishing!” he said, proudly surveying his work. He acknowledged that it was now, technically, the Cuban Four (one of the accused spies was recently released from jail). “But he’s still trapped in Florida,” he explained. Mr. Robinson recalled the last time he had a party at the mission, on the occasion of celebrating Fidel Castro’s autobiography, My Life, published while he was still an editor at Scribner.

Michaels Ratner and Smith were jubilant about their reception, which came only one day after a paradigm-changing new law in Cuba that allows the sale of private property. Indeed, even C.I.A. assassinations have changed since the covert days of “plausible deniability” during the Cold War. “Now they brag about them,” lamented Mr. Ratner.

After a short speech by the Cuban ambassador and an amplified phone call from Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the Cuban National Assembly (who also wrote an introduction for the book) the authors took a moment to thank their guests.

“We came here straight from Zuccotti Park,” said Michael Steven Smith. “It’s like going from one free territory in America to another.”

“As we say in Havana,” said Michael Ratner, “Venceremos!”

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