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    Pepe’s Bolivar

    A statue of the liberator Simon Bolivar, in Bogota.Fernando Vergara (AP)

    My mother, a school teacher and voracious reader, was not amused by Simon Bolivar. She sympathized rather with what he jokingly called the also starring (the other protagonists) of the film.

    Especially, with those heroes or villains who, having pledged everything in the War of Independence and deserving some distinction from posterity, did not get anywhere.

    Thus, over Manuela Saenz, my mother put Pepita Machado, who ate the green ones living on the run in the Antilles with the Liberator. She died of black vomit in a non-place in the Venezuelan plains, long before Boyaca.

    Above Marshal Sucre, he put the impeccable and forever obscure Lopez Mendez, a bankrupt Caracas aristocrat, who is taken out of King’s Bench debtors’ prison to make him a mendacious recruiter of Irish mercenaries and surviving English officers of Waterloo.

    It was my mother who, in her own way, taught me to abhor Bolivarianism, perverse “ambiguous eschatology”, as the Venezuelan Luis Castro Leiva, a great historian of ideas, called it. She is the sum of patriotic hoaxes that have only served for political use in the past.

    Denouncing the manipulation of the past is one of the noblest tasks that a Latin American intellectual can impose on himself in our time. This is what the Argentine historian Carlos Malamud and the Venezuelan Jose Rodriguez Iturbe have achieved, each in his own discipline.

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    in his book Bolivar’s dream and Bolivarian manipulation ( Alianza, 2021), Malamud dispels the deception that “Latin America has not been integrated because Yankee imperialism and conservative elites do not allow it.” His persuasive study highlights how false it is to affirm that Bolivar conceived as the ultimate goal not the independence of his country, but Latin American integration as conceived by Alba.

    Rodriguez Iturbe, for his part, deals with the political thought of the Liberator in his book Bolivar and the gestation of the Creole homeland: ellipse of a contradiction (Editorial Alfa, Malaga, 2022).

    He wrote it here in Bogota, where he has lived in exile for many years, during the confinement imposed by the pandemic. In it, Pepe—as his friends call him and he calls himself—explains in detail the catastrophic effort to authoritatively concretize the postulates of the Constitution that the liberator conceived for Bolivia and, perhaps incidentally, for all of us.

    At 82 years old, Pepe has written and published many titles on political thought since he graduated as a lawyer at the Central University of Venezuela, in the early 1960s. I have read many of them with profit, but as I write this today it seems to me be talking about two Pepes.

    I met the first one in Caracas, in the 70s, at the house of Cesar Miguel Rondon, the very author of the essential sauce book. Pepe and Cesar Miguel’s father were both parliamentarians, one a Social Democrat and the other a “copeyano”, as in Venezuela we call those of the Christian Democracy.

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    With parchments from a conservative family and an important figure of Christian democracy in the democratic stage that Romulo Betancourt inaugurated in Venezuela, Pepe was a prominent member of the university youth who, in 1958, contributed to overthrowing the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez.

    Over time, Pepe became president of the Chamber of Deputies of my country, but, without a doubt, his exile in Colombia has been his most intellectually productive stage.

    Shortly after I arrived in Bogota, about ten years ago, I attended the presentation of Pepe’s translation into Spanish of a compendium of Edward Gibbon’s monumental treatise on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The compendium is due to Moses Haddas, a noted American scholar.

    Pepe translated Haddas and provided the brilliant introduction published by the University of La Sabana. Since then, he has continued to give headlines to the university press, all of them extolling his graduate professorship on totalitarianism. I believe that his Bolivar emanates precisely from his interest in authoritarianism that has made him an authority on the subject.

    Pepe’s account of the years of Peru in Bolivar’s life and its dictatorial outcome offers shocking passages. One of them recounts Bolivar’s reaction to a bitter article by Frenchman Benjamin Constant.

    Bolivar the usurper (Bolivar, the usurper), Constant titled his disenchanted and harsh denunciation of the Bolivar dictatorship. It was published by French Courrier in December 1828.

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    For Constant, nothing can legitimize unlimited power: “when a people is not enlightened enough to be free, he says, it will never be to tyranny that it owes its freedom”. Bolivar’s comment, expressed in a letter to Estanislao Vergara?: “The article you are talking about, the most favorable one that has been written in my honor, only says that my usurpation is happy and civic. I usurper!” However, testimonies abound of how much Constant’s opinion affected him, how much it contributed to his physical and mental despondency.

    Pepe maintains that “Bolivar had auctoritas before having imperium. When he had it, the traits of personalism and praetorianism that he imprinted on power ended up tragically eroding his auctoritas. [] Thus, he seriously encouraged the militarist pathology that for two centuries has been the most serious obstacle to the straight path of the Creole homeland in a republic like Venezuela that was born, through the work of lawyers, civil, civil and civilized in the Chapel of the University from Caracas”.

    Pepe works hard on his next book. I ask him what it will be about. He answers: “Juan German Roscio, Fermin Toro, Dr. Jose Maria Vargas and Cecilio Acosta. Our civilian heroes”.

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    Source: EL PAIS


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