NEW YORK (Reuters) - Target Corp said on Friday it had pulled a CD carrying case bearing Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s image after an outcry by critics who label the Marxist revolutionary a murderer and totalitarian symbol.
Target had touted a music disc carrying case for Che admirers emblazoned with the Argentine-born guerrilla’s iconic 1960 portrait by Alberto Diaz, or “Korda.” A set of small earphones was superimposed on the image, suggesting he was tuned in to an iPod or other music player.
“It is never our intent to offend any of our guests through the merchandise we carry,” Target said in a statement. “We have made the decision to remove this item from our shelves and we sincerely apologize for any discomfort this situation may have caused our guests.”
Some business columnists had decried the product, sold under Target’s brand, saying the trendy discount chain was giving in to a misguided fashion craze while ignoring Guevara’s role in bringing Fidel Castro’s Communist rule to Cuba.
“What next? Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose?” wrote Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial earlier this month, citing the Guevara case as a model of “tyrant-chic”.
Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady said Target made an “admirable decision” to correct the actions of some company employees who “allowed Target to become a target itself of the Che myth.”
In a rare moment of accord, some social activists said they were not sorry to see Guevara taken off Target’s shelves, but on different grounds.
“Che would just be rolling in his grave if he knew his face was making money for Target,” said Nell Greenberg, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Global Exchange. “Everyone who does support that legacy of social justice is certainly not going to be opposed to stopping Target from using that tool.”
Guevara’s image is literally stamped into the capitalist consumer society that he died fighting to overturn. His portrait adorns everything from schoolbags to T-shirts and women’s lingerie.
The picture of a stern-faced Guevara sporting a beret with a single star was popularized on posters after his 1967 execution in Bolivia, where he tried to foment a Communist uprising. Its place as a symbol of idealistic revolt has held strong in the decades since, from students rioting in Paris in 1968 to Palestinians launching an uprising against Israel in 2000.
For people gift-shopping, Guevara’s image is part of a motley of symbols of retro cool that populate flea market stalls and chic designer boutiques.
It has also been used by globally recognized brands. Swatch put Guevara on a wristwatch and Smirnoff vodka featured the picture in an advertising campaign.
Guevara’s own family aims to end the industry of Che merchandise, seeking lawsuits against companies they believe exploit his image and undermine his political philosophy.