LA PAZ, Nov. 23 -- Aretired general who said the remains of revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara were buried near a runway in central Bolivia indicated Thursday that he did not know the precise burial site. The whereabouts of the remains of the Argentinian soldier, who participated in the Cuban revolution in the late 1950s and was captured and killed in Bolivia in 1967, have remained a mystery. Retired Bolivian Gen. Mario Vargas Salinas was quoted in recent reports as saying the remains were buried near a landing strip in the central city of Vallegrande. But he indicated in comments published Thursday in Santa Cruz, 340 miles (570 km) southeast of La Paz, he did not know precisely where Guevara was buried. 'In no way did I reveal being the expert on the exact place where Che was buried,' Vargas said. Nevertheless, his comments have sparked calls in Bolivia for the exhumation of Guevara's remains so they could be sent to his relatives in Cuba. On Wednesday, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada called on Vargas and retired Gen. Gary Prado Salmon to reveal the burial site so that the remains can be handed over to Guevara's family or be buried properly. Guevara served as industry minister and head of Cuba's Central Bank following the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. He left the Caribbean nation in 1965 and worked with revolutionaries in other countries before going to Bolivia. Salmon, who participated in the Oct. 8, 1967, capture of Guevara, said he was also told by Vargas the rebel leader, who was executed the day after he was caught, had been buried near the landing strip.
'In Vallegrande, we met with Mario Vargas Salinas and he spoke to me on this detail and what the process had been like,' Salmon said, adding he never revealed the information so as not to compromise his colleague. Salmon said officials had wanted to keep Guevara's burial site a secret so it would not become a shrine. 'There were never...military documents, records that said here are buried the cadavers of so-and-so, of Che,' Salmon said. 'It remained a mystery, and the only ones who knew where the body of Che was were the officials who were commissioned to bury it, and of those, the only one who still lives is Mario Vargas Salinas.' He said Vargas 'is not sure of the place, he thinks it was in the vicinity of the runway,' but warned against digging up Vallegrande to find the remains. In Havana, Cuban Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marianela Ferriol said her government has been following the reports 'with great attention... owing to the great sensitivity of this matter to our people and our government.'