Earlier today, Xignite announced the co-launch of a fintech API ecosystem, claiming it to be a "revolution" for the financial tech industry. No doubt in search of an iconic revolutionary figure to be emblematic of the new ecosystem, Xignite selected Ernesto Che Guevera. Pictured above with a Xignite logo super-imposed over his beret, Guevara was widely regarded as Fidel Castro's right-hand man and a key figure in the overthrow of Cuba's Batista-led government in 1959. The image of Guevara appears on both the press release as well as a Web page on Xignite's Web site. The only problem is that Guevara is also known as a brutal murderer who founded Cuba's firing squads and labor camps. In ProgrammableWeb's view, this is most definitely not how to launch an API ecosystem.
The image is a reverse-contrast version of a photograph that captured Guevara smiling (pictured, left). The annoucement claims that the ecosystem has been kicked-off with 21 founding members including NASDAQ, Yodlee, Tradier, SR Labs, and StockTwits. What's not clear is how many of those 21 founding members also bought-into the idea of using such a controversial figure in human history to be the face of the new API ecosystem. More than likely, Xignite acted alone on this decision. But in effort to find out for sure, ProgrammableWeb has reached-out to as many of the organizations as possible (including Xignite) and is awaiting official comment (see update below).
By the time this article was published, ProgrammableWeb was able to establish contact with two of those organizations (in other words, they acknowledged contact), neither of which was Xignite. Some of the partners do not publish sufficient media contact information on their Web sites or news releases. That said, this sort of botched launch is a good example of how some organizations could end up getting more than they bargained for by signing-on to a multi-vendor announcement and not paying attention to every little detail.
In a Slate article that debunks the cult of Guevara, Paul Berman wrote:
"Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims."
In 2012 his open letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters, a retailer that sold t-shirts bearing Guevara's likeness, Human Rights Foundation founder Thor Halvorssen wrote:
"Although Guevara's image has appeared on countless items for consumption over the last few decades as a symbol of change for the better, Guevara's actual record is that of a brutal tyrant who suppressed individual freedom in Cuba and murdered those who challenged his worldview....he and Fidel Castro had designed and installed a full-blown police state that deprived the overwhelming majority of Cuban citizens of democracy and human rights....From 1959 to 1960, the new government carried out summary executions of at least 1,118 people by firing squad. Guevara himself presided over the notorious La Cabaña prison, where hundreds of the executions took place. For comparison's sake, the Batista regime was responsible for 747 noncombatant deaths between 1952 and 1959. The Cuban revolution under the direction of Guevara also saw the rise of forced labor camps which gave way a few years later to full-scale concentration camps."
The complete list of founders includes Xignite, Advisor Software, ChartIQ, Insight360, PlanWise, QuantConnect, Autochartist.com, EdgeLab, Estimize, Nasdaq, PsychSignal, StockTwits, TopRanks, vetr, Yodlee, SR Labs, Streamdata.io, Tradier, Level39 and ValueStream. When and if ProgrammableWeb receives any official comment from any of the involved organizations, this article will be updated to reflect those comments.
Update 2015/09/16 15:41 EST: Xignite CEO Stephane Dubois contacted ProgrammableWeb by email with the following statement: "I appreciate your concern in our use of Che Guevara imagery. As CEO of Xignite, I’m writing to let you know that I am personally responsible for this decision. I did not intend to offend anyone and I apologize for the impact this had on you. It was by no means done with ill intent. We have now removed Che’s image from our website and press release.".
ProgrammableWeb confirmed that the image has been removed from the site. In fact, the entire page regarding the fintech revolution has been taken down. The image was also removed from the press release which now reflects that a correction was made and that "a multimedia asset accompanying this release has been removed."