|Bolívar - a great man,|
and a flawed one.
Bolívar was by any measure a 'great man.' Overcoming huge challenges, he led (and drove) the armies which freed a half dozen nations in northern South America. Bolívar is often compared to George Washington, but Bolívar's accomplishments were, in many ways, much greater. Washington had only to drive out the British, but Bolívar had to deal with rival rebels, rebellions amongst other Americans, disease and even an earthquake.
While Washington's forces were overwhelmingly white and protestant, Bolivar managed to hold together a fighting force with huge racial and cultural differences.
|Did Bolívar suffer remorse |
for his massacres?
But Bolívar was clearly a much better general than Washington. Washington, according to some historians, lost more battles than he won, and won the war by managing to continue fighting until the British got exhausted and went home. Bolívar, in contrast, was a daring and ingenious tactician, who carried out almost superhuman feats, such as driving his army over high mountain passes to fall upon the unsuspecting Spanish.
|Revolutionary pioneer Francisco de Miranda died in a Spanish |
prison after Bolívar and others betrayed him to
the Spanish army.
|George Washington and one of his |
black slaves. The rebellion Washington led
protected slavery, while Bolívar's
started it toward its end.
|Deceased Venezuelan strongman |
Hugo Chavez worshipped Bolívar.
horrific ones. Take, for example, Bolívar's betrayal of revolutionary pioneer Francisco de Miranda to Spanish forces. Miranda died four years later in a Spanish prison.
South America's revolution was scarred by huge, wholesale savagery on both sides, including massacres of civilians and prisoners - which I haven't heard of in North America's revolution, which sounds gentlemanly in comparison. Bolívar massacred at various times Spanish prisoners of war, Spanish citizens for the crime of being Spaniards, and even a group of priests.
But at the revolutions' ends, Bolívar's comparison to Washington is less flattering. Bolívar seems to prove the old saying about power corrupting. In the end, Bolívar wanted to be made dictator of La Gran Colombia. Washington famously rejected being made king, served as president for two terms and then retired to his plantation (freeing his slaves in his will).
History may contain a sort of justice. Washington died a revered figure. Bolívar died almost a fugitive on the Colombian coast waiting for a ship to carry him to Europe for tuberculosis treatment.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours