By November 26, 1959, the date on which he assumed
the presidency of the BNC, the Cuban bank was in a
critical situation. As yet not nationalized and with
scant reserves, given that the majority of its
assets had been stolen and taken to the United
States, the inherited banking system lacked the
conditions to promote the newly independent
country's economic and social development.
In this context, the revolutionary government'
principal intention was to recover financial control
of the banking system and place it in the hands of
the state, including the functions of conserving and
guarding the monetary funds owned by the National
Bank. Naturally, all of this militated against U.S.
plans to destabilize the national economy.
The Cuban government's response to this U.S.
proposition was swift. Under Che's presidency, the
flight of hard currency from the country was
controlled, the BNC was nationalized, the Organic
Bank Law was drafted and the return for
counterrevolutionary purposes of capital taken out
of the country was avoided.
In this context, the currency exchange operation of
1961 was of particular importance. This financial
operation, which took place in just two days and was
planned extremely carefully in advance by Che,
involved exchanging banknotes in circulation so as
to gain control of government cash and prevent
monetary resources in the power of
counterrevolutionaries who had left Cuba being
utilized for conspiring against the country.
Fifty three years after the appointment of the first
revolutionary president of the National Bank of
Cuba, Che Guevara's strength of spirit and vision
must be acknowledged. As Fidel affirmed at the
solemn ceremony mourning his death, "Che constituted
the singular case of an extremely rare man, in that
he was capable of combining in his personality not
only the characteristics of a man of action, but
also of a man of thought."