48 Miles

The Panama Canal is a vital trade-line that instantly gets everyone’s attention if threatened. It had been under Republic control for some time, and is currently officially ‘neutral’, yet ‘monitored’ by the Junta.

Revolutionary Junta warrior hardliner Che Guevara knew this, and while the Junta promised neutral shipping-lanes to the world, a series of guerilla-attacks led by the rogue militia of Che Guevara plagued the canal for months.

These acts of ‘piracy’ were primarily targeted at the United Republic’s transports, which Che hoped would lure the Republic into sending expeditionary forces into the Jungle.

Che hoped that luring the Republic into sending an army into Latin America would inflict a devastating blow to the Republic, in which public support would waiver ambitions of war within the Republic, knocking them out of the war, giving Che’s militia a lot of popular support within Latin America.

The United Republic, while still officially at war, had refrained from attempting to conquer Latin America again after their speedy near-complete annexation a while ago, which then resulted in being pushed back in a long bloody series of battles.

Attention was now set more on maintaining the ‘status quo’ against the Junta, preventing invasion into the mainland, wearing them down to lose interest.

Maintaining control of Latin America just proved too costly, especially in the jungles, and so imperialist or direct intervention was long since abandoned.

Awakening the bear

However, after yet another large, armored convoy of the Republic was stopped and stripped while crossing the Panama-Canal, calls for action came and Che’s wish came true.

The Republic, while suspecting the strategy, had no other choice than attempt to crush Che’s militia, or they’d slowly bleed out if more shipments were pirated.

The Junta itself acted innocent, claiming they too were harassed, as disrupting such a vital shipping-lane would unwillingly focus the world’s attention on the Junta.

What seemed to strengthen their claim was that at the same time, it was widely known the Junta was having a hard time controlling Che’s militia’s, as he was part of a group which was a lot more hardline in its revolutionary ideas, focusing more on Marxism and a proper communist rule, instead of the current military controlled setup.

This tension was bound to erupt within the Junta, but for now, to the Republic at least, it seemed the Junta allowed Che’s militia to act as a disrupting force against their neighboring enemies.

After weeks of planning, the Republic finally conceived and executed ‘Operation Crossbow’, and a large expeditionary force was sent to root out the ‘jungle Pirates’ of Che Guevara. The force primarily focused on light, mobile weaponry as to cover a large area of the jungle. It was led by prestigious General Douglas MacArthur, who was a veteran combating in the enemy wilderness.

Into the belly of the beast

The expeditionary force arrived in Panama through ocean-transport and after a brief coastal bombardment, the primary invasion commenced, and continued onwards through the jungle using light vehicles, infantry, lightly armored helicopters and gun platforms.

The force had received the support and blessing of a large local native Indian militia who opposed the Junta’s rule, and had vowed to help the Republic navigate the jungle.

Having abandoned direct control over Latin America as strategy, the Republic’s new plan was to hand over conquered territory to a more friendly local power, and then supporting it more like a puppet-regime.

This way, the Republic only needed a strike-force, rather than an occupation force, for which it was not well equipped.

The invasion started out promising as with the help of their local allies, the Republic managed to overrun the Junta defenders quickly.

Panama City fell, and the Republic coalition-force moved on towards the South to locate the elusive militia-army, and finalize the carving out of their new puppet-state.

Local governments were getting setup, and local troops started getting trained to be able to withstand a Junta counter-attack once the Republic forces left.

However, as frequent clashes happened with opposing Junta forces, or Che’s militia skirmishers, a new threat emerged for the coalition force; the jungle weather and disease which slowly but surely started wearing down the troops. Within weeks, less than half the force was combat-active and evacuation of the sick and wounded was necessary.

Supplies became scarce yet despite having a crippled fighting-force, MacArthur refused to abort and regroup near the coast, as he felt they was close to locating Che’s encampment, and since it was deep in the forest, he should need a smaller combat-effective group anyways.

Evacuations of the sick and wounded happened in a hastened pace as a newly reformed fighting-force spearheaded into the Jungle.

Meanwhile, Junta leaders were furious on Che’s militia luring the Republic into a second invasion of Latin America, yet despite their ideological split with Che’s vision they could not afford a Civil War and fend off the Republic at the same time.

The Junta-top were growing weary of a possible victory being a major boost in Che’s popularity, undermining their position and unifying efforts, setting the stage for Civil War within the Junta, and so they wanted to craft a plan that would not only exit the Republic from Latin America, but also decisively destroy Che’s militia.

Dark Omen

After weeks of successive clashes and a slow deterioration of morale, slowly but surely MacArthur and his staff started to suspect some of their native ‘allies’ of deliberately leading them deeper and deeper into hostile territory by providing false information.

In a valley known to locals as ‘valle de la muerte’, the Republic army came to a halt after local Indian allies who were scouting ahead suddenly disappeared.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened, and the Republic quickly formed defensive positions, preparing for an inevitable ambush.

Since no large Junta force was reported to be nearby, the Republic focused primarily on withstanding guerilla-warfare assaults, of which Che’s militia was famous for.

As the wind cracked the leaves on the trees, for days nothing happened, and paranoia started within the ranks of the Republic soldiers. General MacArthur and his staff quickly started drawing up maps to pull out and regroup near the coast.

Just as it seemed an ambush wasn’t likely to happen, flares were fired from within the woods at the Republic positions.

The effects of these weren’t understood as they had little strategic value; however, the forest itself seemed to come alive and attack the Republic troops.

Enormous flesh-eating plants starting ripping up soldiers, overgrown jungle-insect-like creatures emerged from the darkness right in the middle of the army destroying the lightly armored vehicles and poisonous venoms ripped through the lines of the Republic army.

From a safe distance, amongst the distant screams of horror from a failing desperate Republic army’s last stand, a pleased Che Guevara commented to his fellow officers and former native allies of the Republic that; ‘in order to catch a crocodile, you need to lure it out of the water’; little did he know the true extend of the trap.

Several weeks later reports started coming in that a small break-out force had managed to break through the encirclement containing Douglas MacArthur and some of his staff. However, no official news has emerged on this since then.

Despite being a prominent figure for the Republic, search-parties weren’t large-scale as the majority of the Republic’s resources are used in defensive maneuvers against concentrated Junta armies.

Many in the Junta leadership had been divided over the recent events, as while many seemed to cheer the recent victory over the Republic, they feared that all it did was re-focus the Republic’s attention away from Europe, back to Latin America, and such a concentrated effort would be too powerful for the Junta army to be able to withstand. The common census was that they had simply awaken the bear.

The first cracks in the seemingly unified revolutionary effort started to surface in public, and Che’s militia now not only focused on the invaders, but also on preparing a ‘Second Revolution’ and an ensuing propaganda effort further strained an already troublesome relation.

It seemed as though Che tried to use the Republic invasion not only in the hopes of a spectacular victory, but mostly to weaken the military might of the Junta, so that when the time is right, his fellow communists could seize power.

Operation Condor

Victory for Che wouldn’t last long, as within a month, on a bright sunny October morning, MacArthur and an entourage of officials emerged from the forest and back in the Republic’s hands.

At the same time, as morning broke, shots fired all over the forest positions of Che’s force. These weren’t fired by Republic flying fortresses or ground-armies, but by the Junta itself…

A deal was struck, a deal that would cost Che dearly, as while Che celebrated his spectacular defeat of the Republic army, the Junta had negotiated MacArthur’s release from captivity, in exchange obtaining weeks of a cease-fire to deal with a ‘homeland issue’.

They had spent months locating and figuring out secret locations of Che’s militia, preparing for a grand payday which now finally arrived.

Thousands were killed all around Latin America, ranging from civilians, officials to military outposts, all vanished within days of Operation Condor commencing, and all the while the Republic was left alone. The timing was perfect, as while the world was engulfed in its own war, no one paid attention to what was going on in Latin America, which had set the stage for this final retribution.

The world would never know about the deal, the world would never know about Che’s victory, as from now on, it would be forgotten in history forever, as miraculously, it suited both the Junta, as well as the Republic perfectly.

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