Friday, July 23, 2010

Pity Poor Bolivar

Hugo Chavez has decided Simon Bolivar's body must be exhumed to prove he was poisioned by early imperialist plotters.


As the Economist notes,

FOR a president facing a weak economy and declining popularity, a centuries-old murder mystery could prove a useful distraction. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is not one to let the lack of any such mystery stand in his way. On July 15th, at the president’s order, a team of white-clad soldiers and forensic scientists opened the lead coffin holding the remains of Simón Bolívar, the Caracas-born South American independence hero. He was exhumed to see if he died of tuberculosis, as historians assert, or was poisoned by political rivals—“crucified like Christ,” as Mr Chávez insists.

The president has long idolised Bolívar, the nation’s secular saint. He even renamed the country the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” Although Bolívar was in fact quite conservative, Mr Chávez sees him as a socialist, and advertises his own movement as the long-delayed realisation of the Liberator’s dream. In this scheme, the descendants of the “oligarchs” and “imperialists” who purportedly killed Bolívar are now plotting to assassinate his ideological heir.

In this Chavez has only followed the precedent of other dictators. Saddam wanted to associate his regime with the glories of ancient Babylon. Mussolini looked to ancient Rome. Hitler himself apparently was not all that interested, but Himmler's SS funded archaeological digs looking for the remains of ancient "Germania." And so it goes.

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