SIMON BOLIVAR (1783–1830)
Born on July 24th 1783 in Caracas, capital of the Venezuela, province of the Spanish Empire. His family belonged to the powerful social class of the mantuanos who, with the exception of the political power, had the last say in all matters.
Simon attended Public School. The dean, Simon Rodriguez, was a man of progressive and original social and pedagogical ideas. Later he could gain his trust and become his master:
"You shaped my heart for freedom, for justice, for great things, for beauty…"
In 1779 he traveled to Spain for the first time. In Madrid he is enlightened by cultural and social life. He returns to Venezuela in July of 1802. When he goes back to Europe, he passes by Cadiz and Madrid and later he establishes himself in Paris, in 1804. Napoleon became an emperor during this period. Bolivar was impressed by this military genius but criticized his rise to the imperial throne. Bolivar was already dreaming of South American Independence.
With his Master, Bolivar traveled across Italy in 1805. There, he promises he will not rest until America was free from the Spanish rule. He returned to Venezuela in 1807, after becoming a freemason and traveling around the United States, where he witnessed true rational freedom.
Bolivar’s revolutionary activity increases and the following events took place very quickly:
- In April 1810, he begins the Independence Revolution in Caracas.
- Ranked as Coronal, Bolivar was commissioned by the Committee of Caracas to travel to London to speak with the English about Venezuela’s desire to maintain autonomy with respect of the Spanish.
- He returns to Venezuela and together with General Miranda, he becomes one of the most decisive players among the Committee to declare independence.
- The Realists take arms in July of 1811 and, by orders of Miranda, Bolivar is christened.
- In 1812, General Miranda surrenders before Monteverde, the head of the Realists, failing to found the Republic of Venezuela.
- Bolivar takes exiles to Curazao. He later travels to Cartagena de Indias and in December of 1812 he publishes a manifesto exposing the principal ideas that would guide his path in the following years to come:
– The unity of command in order to obtain victory.
– The unity of all Latin American countries to achieve freedom and independence.
- In February 1813, he takes over Villa de Cuccuta and in three months time he marches into Caracas triumphantly and is awarded the title of Liberator after dictating the Decree of War Till Death.
- During the Second Republic, the War Till Death Decree causes a furor. Bolivar requests the support of the civil heroes to reinstate the institutions, he expedites decrees and write articles for the Gaceta de Caracas.
- The Realists, sent by Boves, defeat the republicans in 1814 and they force them to abandon Caracas.
- After suffering a new defeat in Aragua de Barcelona, the Liberator exiles into Nueva Granada.
- Until May of 1815, he is part of the internal political struggles and tries to avoid a civil war so he abandons his position and leaves for the British colony of Jamaica.
- A powerful Spanish squadron arrives in Venezuela. The hope for independence is lost.
- The Liberator travels to the Republic of Haiti, which has gained its independence and where its president Alejandro Petion, gives his support for the expedition to Los Cayos, Margarita and later in Caupano and Ocumare.
- Separated from his troops, Bolivar is almost made prisoner. He returns to Haiti and with Petion´s help, he returns to Margarita at the end of 1816. From there he goes to Barcelona in January of 1817.
- His main objective is now the liberation of Guayana in order to create a base from which to fight from. In June, the capital – Angostura – currently named Bolivar – falls in the hands of the patriots. A government, with Bolivar at the forefront is organized and the following year he almost wins the freedom of Caracas.
- In the middle of the war, Bolivar tries to organize a free country and calls for a Committee that meets in Angostura on February 15th 1819. There, he presents the foundations for a Constitution and request they adopt it but they do not consider it.
- That same year, the republican army, with Bolivar at the forefront, crosses the Andes, defeats the Realists and enters triumphantly into Bogotá. The Angostura Congress created the Republic of Greater Colombia that encompassed Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.
- One year later, an armistice is signed with a treaty that would result in the end of the War till Death and the recognition of Greater Colombia on behalf of the government of Fernando VII.
- But peace does not last. In 1821, new hostilities arise and on June 24th a decisive battle for the Independence of Venezuela takes place in Carabobo. As his and his army’s only compensation, Bolivar requests the freedom of slaves.
- Bolivar travels to Ecuador in support of General Sucre. They both liberate Ecuador. Month later, in Guayaquil, he meets San Martin, who has just come from Peru.
- After San Martin leaves, he represented a serious threat not only for the Independence of Peru but also for the rest of the countries in South America.
- In 1823, the Congress of Peru asked the Liberators for help, giving him extraordinary powers.
- One year later, the success of the Junin battle, shifts the weight from the war to the republican cause. In December, the battle of Ayacucho puts an end of the War of Independence.
The military stage has concluded and its time to reorganize the new States politically and socially in order to strengthen unity and achieve progress with peace.
In 1826, the Congress of Panama, summoned by Bolivar two years prior, takes place. The congress of Panama declares their intentions of uniting American nations, without diminishing its sovereignty. They vote for a common position against other world powers and Spain.
At the same time, Bolivar dictates innumerable decrees on Social Reform, that try to protect the natives:
- Defend renewable natural resources.
- Promote and extend education by organizing schools and universities.
- Create roads.
- Develop agriculture and commerce.
However, the reforms are delayed due to the revolution led by General Paez and the economic crisis plummets Venezuela into bankruptcy and there are internal fights within the government of Greater Colombia. During 1828, he stays in Ecuador to fight the invasion of Peru. During his absence, the Ministry Committee establishes a monarchy with Colombia. The following year, Venezuela proclaims itself an independent state.
Bolivar, ill and tired, resigns from Presidency. General Sucre, the one man who could have followed Bolivar’s steps, is assassinated. And those who reject Bolivar within the government influenced his decision.
He was declared a convicted offender and ends his days in exile: I have achieved nothing, he writes as he is persecuted and torn in disappointment. He died in San Pedro Alejandrino on December 17th 1830.
"For the freedom of my country, I’ve abandoned the royal coat of arms, I have been deprived of the delicacies of great fortune, and I have exposed my existence to save the life of my people. All my passions have been sacrificed for public health and I have conserved those that contribute to the destruction of my enemies."