Jakarta – Indonesia was once honored by the visit of a political figure and fighter of the June 1959 Cuban revolution. He even kept his long hair when he met with Indonesia's founding president Sukarno.
The figure was Ernesto Guevara de la Serna – more often known as Che Guevara – who was born on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina.
When he came to Indonesia back in 1959, Che was the leader of the Cuban delegation sent by the country's prime minister, Fidel Castro.
Che and Castro had at that time just succeeded in removing the government of the dictator Fulgencio Batista – who was supported by the United State's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – from the reins of power in Cuba.
Following the revolution, Castro delegated Che to visit a number of countries that had participated in the Asia-Africa Conference in Indonesia that was organised four years before the Cuban revolution, along with figures leading the Non-Aligned movement.
According to reports, Castro was an admirer of Sukarno's anti-imperialist ideas. This happened after he read Sukarno's defense speech titled Indonesia Menggugat (Indonesia Accuses), which Sukarno read out in front of a Dutch court in Bandung, West Java, in 1931.
From this speech, Castro concluded that the main point of Sukarno's ideas, which were that he wanted a world that was free from colonialism, were in line with the spirit of his own thinking. Castro then delegated Che to visit Jakarta and meet with Sukarno.
It was wearing suit-like clothing resembling a military uniform and a beret with a star on it that Che met with and shook hands with Sukarno at the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace in Jakarta.
Sukarno then entertained Che with dishes of food, which was followed by the two men smoking Cuban cigars together.
"For me, Che... for me, a historical change cannot be half-hearted, it must be a break through, it must utterly destroy, and from this disorder we must build something new, build a society that is modern, honorable and make human beings into real human beings", Sukarno said to Che.
At the time, the world was beset by the Cold War between the Western Block led by the US and western Europe as the flag bearers of capitalism, and the Eastern Block led by the Soviet Union and China as representatives of the followers of communism and socialism.
Sukarno at that time was one of the initiators of the Non-Aligned Movement that wanted the countries that had only recently won independence from colonialism not to be dragged into the conflict between the two great powers.
During his discussions with Che, Sukarno explained the difficulties experienced by Indonesia when it was still colonised by the Dutch colonial government.
According to Sukarno, the only way to free the people at that time was with resistance, so that the Indonesian could become a sovereign nation and build their own culture and civilisation independently.
Che then invited Sukarno to visit Cuba. And Sukarno fulfilled the invitation a year later in October 1960.
Before returning home, Che and his entourage made time to visit the Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java.
When he visited Cuba, Sukarno met with Castro and Che and even gave Castro a gift of a keris (ceremonial dagger).
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kala Soekarno dan Che Guevara Bahas Revolusi di Istana Merdeka...".]