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Meeting of Che Guevara and Engineer Presilla in Moa
The Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba nickel processing plant in Moa, Holguin province. Photo: Cubadebate
Fifty five years ago took place a historic meeting between engineer Demetrio Presilla Lopez and Commandant Ernesto Che Guevara, then the president of Cuba's National Bank and the boss of the Department of Industrialization of the National Institute of Land Reform (INRA).

In the early days of December 1960, they held a meeting in Havana to deal with the reopening of the nickel processing plant in Moa.

Demetrio Presilla Lopez was a Cuba chemical engineer that has been working since 1940's at the Nicaro Nickel Company, in today's province of Holguin. He was one of the best qualified experts in that industry when the state nationalized it in October 24, 1960.

US magnates tried to convince Presilla to leave the country, and in turn would be given much profits and benefits, but he said he was deeply rooted in Cuba.

In November 1960 Presilla had visited for the first time the Alba nickel processing plant in Moa, which had stopped since April that same year. He did not know of the technological process of the plant, but had studied its blueprints.

Presilla got in touch with Che Guevara thru the Federation of the Mining Union, mainly thru Carlos Guerra, and the mediation of Commandant Pedro Miret Prieto, then Minister of Agriculture then.

In the Havana meeting Che Guevara asked Presilla if he could make the nickel plant in Moa to restart operations. Presilla responded positively, but said that to achieve it some engineers, technicians and workers still living in Cuba that had worked there from 1959 to 1960. Che said they would go for them and would send them to Moa.

In the interview Presilla told Che Guevara that his only concern was finding the raw material and other things to put to work the plant, and that the nickel sulphur was a by-product needed to refine and reach metallic nickel and cobalt, but that the only plant that produced it was in the USA; then, nobody else than the US would purchase the Cuban product.

Then Che Guevara told Presilla: Look, engineer, you do it all to restart production in Moa plant, I'll be in charge of the materials and parts to make the plant work, and I'll look for the buyer.

And that way Commandant Ernesto Guevara and engineer Presilla made the deal. That was in early December 1960, and in July 24, the nickel processing plant in Moa was already producing, and is still doing it and ranks among the most efficient ones in the world. / Based on information from the archive of Pablo Velazco Mir - La Voz del Niquel / Translated by Radio Angulo.

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