A powerful American politician has asked Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to call a halt to plans to erect a statue to Communist guerilla leader Che Guevara in Galway.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, has personally asked the Irish leader to intervene in a row over the proposed memorial.
City bosses in Galway have disputed all claims that the statue, set to be erected near the famous Eyre Square in honour of Guevara’s roots in Ireland, is an insult to American tourists. Guevara’s grandmother Anna Isabel Lynch was born in Galway.
They have also rejected suggestions from home and abroad that any such statue would damage the tourism industry in the West.
Several American politicians have disagreed however and Cuban American Ros-Lehtinen is leading the charge against the statue.
In a personal letter to the Irish government leader Kenny, she expresses her many concerns at the project.
“I am concerned regarding the proposal by the city council of Galway to build a monument in honour of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and respectfully request that the Government of Ireland instead lend its support to and honour the enslaved Cuban people who seek to be free from the dictatorship that Che helped impose upon them,” she wrote.
“I ask you to note that in the eyes of the Cuban community in the United States, Che Guevara was a mass murderer and a human rights abuser.
“The romanticising image that this proposed monument portrays would serve to diminish the brutality that was committed by Che.
“Now is a crucial time for responsible nations to stand in solidarity with one another in order to protect universal human rights and demonstrate their support for democracy in Latin America.
“I ask that your government honour the victims of Che and the Castro dictatorship by rejecting this proposal.”
Republican congressman Mario Diaz Balart, a niece of Castro’s first wife, has also condemned the proposal.
“This is a celebration of a murderous executioner who revelled in the murder of men women and children in cold blood,” she said.
The Irish Prime Minister may be embarrassed by the statue project as one of its main supporters in Galway is Councillor Billy Cameron, a member of the Labor Party currently in government with Kenny’s Fine Gael.
Businessman and former presidential election candidate Declan Ganley is against the plan. “The statue is completely misguided and will hit the city’s tourist industry,” said Ganley.
Ros-Lehtinen is an unusual politician. She is a major supporter of Scientology and has also been a supporter of gay rights, unsuual for a GOP member.