The latest grotesquery committed by Venezuela’s mad cap dictator, Hugo Chavez, is his exhumation of the body of Simon Bolivar, the early 19th Century hero of the wars for independence of South America from Spain.
It seems that Chavez does not believe the historical story that Bolivar had died of tuberculosis. Hugo Chavez has his own conspiracy theory that Simon Bolivar was poisoned by enemies in Columbia. There is a theory that Bolivar actually did die of arsenic poisoning, but that it was done by drinking contaminated water or by taking a period cure for headaches and hemorrhoids. In any case, the skeletal remains will be “tested” to determine the cause of death. There is a natural suspicion that the cause has already been predetermined to satisfy Chavez.
While Simon Bolivar was certainly a hero of the fight of South American countries against foreign imperialism, he is nevertheless an off person for Hugo Chavez to hero worship. Bolivar took his inspiration from the American Revolution and certainly could not have been either a Marxist or socialist, having been born and fought before Marx was born and socialism even conceived. Bolivar was proclaimed the “Second Washington of the Americas” by his admirers, such as the Marquis de Lafayette.
Nevertheless, there seems to be some twisted method in Hugo Chavez’s madness. Chavez’s conspiracy theory is that Bolivar was murdered by a Colombian general, Francisco de Paula Santander. Columbia is currently one of Chavez’s main enemies, because of that country’s pro American ties and its fight against Marxist rebels. There has been tension on the Venezuela/Columbian border for quite some time.
Would Hugo Chavez step up hostilities against Columbia should it be “confirmed” that Simon Bolivar was murdered by a Columbian a hundred and eighty years ago? It would seem crazy, but crazy is part of Chavez’s MO. Besides, with economic turmoil persisting in Venezuela, a good war with a hated neighbor could just be the distraction that Hugo Chavez needs.
If Venezuela starts hostilities against Columbia, it’s an open question what the current government in the United States would do. In times past, the standard response would be to provide material and military support to Columbia, to help that country fend off a Venezuelan attack.
But the President of the United States is Barack Obama, whose foreign policy seems to consist of smiting America’s friends and coddling her enemies. It could be that Hugo Chavez has taken this into account and may believe that he could get away with a military adventure with one of his neighbors.
Sources: Venezuela exhumes hero Bolivar’s bones for tests, Patricia Rondon, Reuters, July 16th, 2010
Biography of Simon Bolivar, Scott. S. Smith, Military Heritage