By Luis Manuel Aguana
In spite of knowing that there is an infinite river of historical documents, opinions of political and military experts around the figure of Simon Bolivar, today I would like to dedicate a few lines, not to that mythical figure touched by the whole world of the Latin American hero, the Liberator of 5 nations, but to the citizen, to the politician, whose perspective beyond the military, is what I think we can analyze the common of the people.
When Venezuelans are introduced to the figure of Bolívar for the first time in their school lives, they do not show us the civic side of the Libertador. They show us the facet of the military, that of the hero of Independence. All Venezuelans have grown up with that stereotype in mind.
The most representative paintings and pictures of the time mostly show us a Bolivar wearing a military uniform, and it is not strange that this is so, because most of his very short existence – remember that he died at the age of 47 – was spent organizing armies and battles for the liberation of Venezuela and 4 other nations. That is why the facet that I have always thought of as the most important in the life of this human being has remained hidden, to the point that I would dare to say that Bolivar was a military man because of the circumstances in which he lived, and in my opinion the most important facet is that of the politician and citizen. And this being the fundamental one, the military’s was strengthened as a consequence.
Perhaps in my impertinence to analyze the quintessential citizen of the Liberator, I try to give meaning to the effort he made to liberate republics. If the idea was to build nations, that could not be done without people who understood the true meaning of freedom. This was summed up by Master Simón Rodríguez when he argued that it is a contradiction to desire Republics without Republicans. According to the Master of the Liberator, the only way is to train them in the schools, so that the Republics that were being born and obtaining their freedom from the sword of their soldiers, could sustain themselves. According to the Master, the most important subject of this formation should be “sociability”. This in modern words would be called teaching citizenship.
According to Arturo Uslar Pietri, Master Simón Rodríguez affirmed: “whoever knows nothing, anyone deceives him, whoever has nothing, anyone buys it”. Uslar Pietri indicated that in this thesis, “it was a question of teaching so that no one could deceive another and of giving him a productive base so that no one could buy him, so that he could be a citizen” (see Simón Rodríguez, Part 3, at https://youtu.be/2ExSCFfHMe4).
This is really the cement that guarantees the stability of nations and the Liberator knew this, to the point that he sent his Master to the territory that today bears the name of Bolivia to organize this school of citizens. Unfortunately, the experiment failed and nations were liberated militarily but without citizens to make them prosperous and stable. This disease is still reaching us in the 21st century. We cannot perpetuate that mistake on pain of not having finished breaking the chains from which Simon Bolivar freed us.
That explains the fall of Venezuelan democracy and the loss of our freedom at the hands of a people enslaved by a dictatorship like the Cuban one. “An ignorant people is a blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition, intrigue, abuse of the credulity and inexperience of men without any political, economic or civil knowledge; they adopt as realities what are pure illusions; they take the license for freedom, betrayal for patriotism, revenge for justice.” This was said by the citizen Simon Bolivar when he stripped himself of all his power before the Congress of Angostura on February 15, 1819.
In that speech, citizen Bolivar said, “A republican government has been, is and must be that of Venezuela; its foundations must be the sovereignty of the people, the division of powers, civil liberty, the prohibition of slavery, the abolition of monarchy and privileges. We need equality, in order to consolidate, let us say it this way, in a whole, the species of men, political opinions and public customs…”. How is it possible for a government that calls itself “Bolivarian” to trample on this historical legacy of the Liberator, and how is it possible for any Venezuelan ruler to be capable of even addressing any policy that goes against our most precious legacy?
The Simón Bolívar that we should cultivate from now on when we regain our freedom is the citizen Bolívar, not the military one. If the military had respected the historical memory of the military Bolivar, we would never find ourselves in this deplorable situation with a regime that tramples on its memory and goes against its fundamental principles.
We must emphasize in the schools the citizen and political Bolivar of the Patriotic Society of Caracas of June 3, 1811: “What does it matter that Spain sells its slaves to Bonaparte, or that he keeps them, if we are determined to be free? These doubts are the sad effect of the old chains: that the big projects must be prepared calmly! Three hundred years of calm, isn’t that enough? Is another three hundred still required?” We still suffer “the sad effect of the old chains” where the parties do with the Venezuelan people as they please, because there are still no citizens capable of understanding where sovereignty comes from.
And returning to Angostura: “A perverted people, if they attain their freedom very soon, will lose it again; for in vain will they strive to show them that happiness consists in the practice of virtue; that the rule of law is more powerful than that of tyrants, because they are more inflexible, and everything must be subject to its beneficial rigour; that good morals, and not force, are the pillars of law; that the exercise of justice is the exercise of freedom”. In this speech, Bolívar first considered himself a citizen before Liberator: “I submit the history of my command to your impartial decision; I will add nothing to excuse it; I have already said how much my apology can do. If I deserve your approval, I will have achieved the sublime title of good citizen, preferable for me to that of Liberator that Venezuela gave me, to that of Peacemaker that Cundinamarca gave me, and to those that the whole world can give.”
The only way to ensure that this tragedy that Venezuela is experiencing does not happen again after emerging from tyranny is to learn from the citizen Bolívar. We stayed in the military Bolivar of the squares, riding a horse with the sword drawn against the enemies of Venezuela. It is up to us to begin to understand that the real enemies of today are the lack of education and the regrettable lack of citizens. That is what has truly led us to this tragedy. Let’s bury the military Bolívar and rescue the citizen Bolívar. It is the best tribute we Venezuelans can pay to him in this new year of his birth, and in reparation for having forgotten his words that were written for us, and that we have not been able to honor as a nation….
Caracas, July 24, 2018