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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

At first glance, Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez do stand on a similar ideological platform. In this respect, it should be said that the historical context of Latin America at the epoch of Simon Bolivar and at the present epoch is similar in a way, because, in the past, the position of Latin America was defined by the policy of the Spanish Empire which was the major power in the region, while Latin America was a colony of Spain. At the present epoch, the situation is similar in a way, because the USA plays the leading part in Latin America since it is the major power in the region and in the western hemisphere at large. In fact, the US is the major power which influences political and economic development of many countries of Latin America. In such a situation, the ideas of unification of Latin American states was and still is very popular among the local population because in the unity people see the opportunity for Latin America to become truly independent and leading power in the region.

Hence, Simon Bolivar’s idea of the unification of Latin America to struggle against the Spanish Empire is borrowed by Hugo Chavez to head the struggle against the domination of the USA in Latin America[1]. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning the fact that the USA does not have such a power over Latin America as the Spanish Empire used to have because the USA did not interfere directly in the national policies of Latin American states, though it can produce a significant impact on Latin America through political and economic pressure the country can produce on the entire continent, being the only superpower in the region, while Latin American state being too weak to oppose to the USA. At this point, the example of Cuba clearly indicates to the consequences of possible opposition to the USA, which has resulted in the isolation of Castro’s regime in Cuba and the country has to confront the USA practically on its own without any substantial external support.

In such a context, the ideology of the unification of Latin American states developed by Simon Bolivar is still relevant. Hugo Chavez stands on the ground that the idea of Gran Colombia which Simon Bolivar had attempted to implement during his lifetime should be revived and implemented in modern Latin America[2]. Hugo Chavez believes that the idea of Gran Colombia may become the ideological basis for the strengthening of Latin American states to oppose or resist to the American domination. In other words, the unification of Latin America is one of the major points which unite ideological views of Hugo Chavez and Simon Bolivar.

In addition, it should be said that another important point which links Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez is the idea of “caudillism”ť. Literally, the term “caudillo”ť means a “strong man”ť[3]. At the epoch of Simon Bolivar, the caudillos played an important role in the political and socioeconomic life of liberated Latin America. In fact, they performed the function of national and regional leaders which headed people to presumably better life. However, in actuality, they apparently used their authority to exercise the power in their own interests and to gain personal benefits from their leadership, while the rest of the society was deprived of the possibility to exercise their basic human rights and liberties. In such a way, caudillos became political leaders who tended to the establishment of authoritarian regimes and who used their charisma and leadership power to maintain their authority and rule regions and entire countries in Latin America. At the present epoch, Hugo Chavez may be viewed as one of representatives of such caudillo since he tends to authoritarian leadership and exercises his power due to his unchallengeable charisma and leadership in Venezuela. At the same time, both Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez have to rely on other caudillos, which play a very important role in the life of Latin America as well as Venezuela.

In fact, caudillism contradicts to the ideology developed by Simon Bolivar because it contradicts to basic democratic principles which were implemented in the USA, the country, which Simon Bolivar viewed as a model of an ideal, democratic state. Nevertheless, Simon Bolivar could not develop his Gran Colombia and could not build up independent state or states in Latin America without the support of caudillos. It proves beyond a doubt that he could not afford the struggle against the Spanish Empire, on the one hand, and the struggle against caudillos, on the other hand[4]. In fact, the struggle with both enemies would lead to the defeat of the liberation movement in Latin America and its unity and liberty would become a kind of utopia which would have never come true.



[1] DiNovella, E. “Chavez’s Staying Power.” The Progressive. October 2004, p. 315.

[2] Ibid., p.316

[3] Rosen, F. “Chavez Confirmed, Venezuela Still Divided.” NACLA Report on the Americas. November/December 2004, p. 9.

[4] Rueda, J. “Hugo Chávez Calls for Leftist Nations’ Defense Pact,” The Miami Herald, June 7, 2007, p.58.

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