Guevara and Foco theories of guerrilla warfare

Presentation (Handout), 2002

8 Pages, Grade: none


Guevara and Foco theories of guerrilla warfare

Alternative models of insurgency are provided by the doctrine of “people’s war,” “foco theory”, and the urban guerrilla.[1]

Che Guevara

After working with lepers in Peru (He had a medical degree.) and witnessing the CIA-sponsored coup of Guatemala's president in 1954, Guevara met Castro in Mexico City in July, 1956, and four months later joined the 80-strong guerrilla force that would topple Batista on Jan. 1, 1959.[2]

After serving in various high-level government positions (last one: Minister of Industry), Guevara became disillusioned with Soviet involvement in Cuba (Guevara realised that the Soviet Union upon whom isolated Cuba was increasingly dependent, was not much different than the U.S. in its exploitation of the developing world for their own interests. The Russians procured sugar at a favourable price, while discouraging Cuba from developing industrial self-sufficiency and left Cuba in 1965.

He returned to the field, joining an unsuccessful guerrilla campaign in the Congo. In 1967, he went to Bolivia to trigger a peasant-supported revolution across Latin American. Without local help and hounded by the U.S.-assisted Bolivian army, Guevara was captured and killed October 9. (A peasant informed on the rebels. The remaining revolutionaries were outnumbered and surrounded in a valley.

Cuban revolution (1952-1958)

Repressive government under Batista since 1933. Batista acted in favour of sugar barons, banks, gambling syndicates and the great corporate interests of the USA. He answered any opposition with assassination, breaking strikes with machine-gun fire, and using repression against the Cuban people to maintain the massive exploitation of sugar workers, farmers and women. Military coup on March 10, 1952.[3]

Fidel Castro gathered a group of young men and women around him who were willing to participate in actions to restore democracy to Cuba. Their first act was to launch an armed attack on the second largest military garrison in the country, the Moncada barracks base of the Maceo Regiment in Santiago, eastern headquarters of the military dictatorship. If they were successful, their plan was to head for the mountains to continue the fight. It was not the intention to engage the garrison in combat but with the advantage of surprise seize the barracks, take the arms they needed while calling the soldiers to desert tyranny and, with the control of the radio station nearby, call on the people to rise up against Batista. Attack by 125 men and women on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953 but no possibility to take the garrison, therefore withdrawal. Fidel could flew with about 18 others into the mountains. They were captured a week later.

1956, Fidel led a small band from exile in Mexico, landing in Cuba from the Granma, and resumed the military struggle. Five years, five months and five days after the attack on the barracks, Batista was forced to flee Cuba, as the guerrillas of the July 26 Movement entered Havana.

Foco theory

- Belief that a socialist society can be realised by the peasants, Indians and rural proletariat of Latin America without any of the economic conditions that, as orthodox Marxists insist, are essential for a successful revolution against capitalism. The guerrilla forces, as such, become the vanguard of the revolution. Will, instincts, popular support: key factors in causing a revolution.
- A Communist revolution can be inspired by taking to the mountains, instructing the natives on the importance of overthrowing the regime, and then coming down from the mountains to take the cities.

A small dedicated minority of revolutionaries can act as the focus (vanguard[5] ) of revolution on behalf of the people.[4]


[1] Naval Postgraduate School, Special Operations course descriptions, 22.06.2000,

[2] Mark Tanaka, Che's Last Adventure Ernesto Che Guevara: The Bolivian Diary (1994), Reviews, 01.03.1997,; Plastic Politics,

[3] Jill Hickson, 'The day that launched the Cuban Revolution', Green Left Weekly, 239, 24.07.1996,

[4] Robert Villa, 'IRA/Cuban/Venezuelan Involvement in Colombia',, 20.08.2001,; Walden Bello, How to lose a war, Focus on Trade, 68, October 2001,

[5] Regis Debray, Revolution in the revolution? Armed struggle and political struggle in Latin America, New York: Mr Press, 1968, p. 126

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Guevara and Foco theories of guerrilla warfare
Lancaster University  (Politics and International Relations Faculty)
Guerrilla warfare
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Guevara, Foco, Guerrilla
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Gisela Haege (Author), 2002, Guevara and Foco theories of guerrilla warfare, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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