In the Name of Simon Bolivar the Liberator: Hugo Chavez and the Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)

Hugo Chavez is one of the most controversial figures in the modern international politics. On the one hand, he proclaims himself to be a successor of Simon Bolivar, the national hero of countries of Latin America. On the other hand, his leftist views prove to be too radical to meet ideals developed by Simon Bolivar, while his political power is based on the public support provided by the populism Hugo Chavez amply uses to gain the approval of his policies from the part of the poor in Venezuela. Today, his power in Venezuela is practically unlimited and he is constantly working on the strengthening of his political power to the extent that the country irrevocably slips to the authoritarian regime headed by Hugo Chavez. In such a context, his attempts to create the image of a new Simon Bolivar seem to be doomed to failure because of the striking difference in the position of Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez. Moreover, Hugo Chavez apparently exploits ideas of Simon Bolivar, which are still extremely popular in Latin America, to achieve his own mercantile goals and to strengthen his power not only in Venezuela but also in the Caribbean region and in Latin America at large. In this respect, it is possible to refer to his idea of the Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is positioned as a reincarnation of Bolivar’s vision of Gran Colombia, but, in actuality, is an anti-American alliance, where Hugo Chavez apparently attempts to play the leading part.

Simon Bolivar the Liberator

Simon Bolivar is one of the most important figures in the history of Latin America. In actuality, he is one of the founding fathers of the independence of Latin America from the Spanish Empire. At the same time, he is one of the major ideologues of the development of a new state formation, Gran Colombia, which, according to Simon Bolivar, should consist of countries of Latin America liberated from the Spanish Empire. In actuality, he occupied the leading position in the struggle of the population of Spanish colonies in America and, till the present days, people living in Latin America treat him as a national hero who gave the freedom to their countries[1]. In this respect, it should be said that Simon Bolivar really was a convinced proponent of the independence of Latin America and his liberationist ideas were, to a significant extent, affected by the revolutionary events in the USA and Europe.

To put it more precisely, Simon Bolivar was truly inspired by the revolution in the USA and the success of the struggle of Americans states for their independence against the dominance of the British Empire inspired him to lead the similar struggle in Latin America, which was under the total control of the Spanish Empire at the epoch. At the same time, Simon Bolivar was totally dissatisfied with the revolution in France. He believed that the revolution in France would bring the liberation to Latin America, for the strengthening of France in Europe and the establishment of the French rule over Spain created favourable conditions for the liberation of Latin America[2]. Obviously, Simon Bolivar expected that France would implement the ideas of the French revolution – liberty, fraternity, equality ”“ but Napoleon who took the power in France disenchanted Simon Bolivar by his policy in relation to Latin America.

Instead of the liberation of countries in Latin America, the new king of Spain failed to give colonies liberty.

In such a situation, Simon Bolivar was naturally disappointed with imperialist policies which were apparently conducted by Napoleon, who played the dominant role in Europe at the epoch and controlled Spain and its policies.

At the same time, the American Revolution was a sample, a model Simon Bolivar wanted Latin America to follow.

This is why he headed the struggle of Latin America against the Spanish domination and after the struggle with Spanish army, he managed to expel the Spaniards from Latin America and proclaimed the independence of Spanish colonies in America. The new independent territories were united in Gran Colombia, which though eventually fell apart into Latin American states, including Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia and others. In such a way, Simon Bolivar became one of the main leaders of the liberation movement in Latin America. This is why he was called “El Lebertador”, the Liberator[3].

In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the liberation became a strong ideology on the basis of which Simon Bolivar attempted to develop the new state. Initially, he attempted to follow the example of the American Revolution and the USA, but, eventually, he failed to create Gran Colombia as a reflection of the USA in Latin America. Instead, the new state formation fell apart and new smaller states were created, instead of Gran Colombia which Simon Bolivar dreamed of. Moreover, eventually he even slipped to the dictatorship, when he saw the inability of the local authorities to ensure the stable and effective development of Latin America. He was the President of Gran Colombia from 1821 to 1830, President of Peru from 1824 to 1826 and President of Bolivia from 1825 to 1826[4].

In such a way, Simon Bolivar became a national hero and a symbol of independence and unity of Latin America. At the present moment, Hugo Chavez attempts to take the place of Simon Bolivar as a leader of Latin American peoples in his efforts to unite them and liberate from the American domination. In this respect, it is quite noteworthy to refer to Hugo Chavez’s view on Simon Bolivar as a liberator. In fact, Hugo Chavez states that “El Libertador” is an integral approach which inspired him to the political blueprint of new Venezuela[5]. In terms of this approach, Simon Bolivar attempted to unite states of Latin America to make them stronger. The unity of Latin America would have provided the local states with the power to compete with other leading powers in the region. In the modern environment,

Hugo Chavez views such a policy of unification as a possibility to challenge the domination of the USA in western hemisphere. Moreover, Chavez believe that the policy of El Libertador would solve the major problems Latin America suffered and still suffers from, including the problem of poverty, huge income level gaps and backwardness of many states in Latin America. In such a way, Hugo Chavez stands on the ground the ideas of Simon Bolivar are still relevant and Latin America needs the implementation of ideals promoted by Simon Bolivar, the national hero of Latin American peoples. At the same time, he closely associates his policies with the ideology of Simon Bolivar. For instance, Hugo Chavez argues that Simon Bolivar influenced his platform in politics, economy, law, education, morality and duty[6]. In addition, Hugo Chavez places emphasis on Bolivar being more than just a symbol or spirit of the Revolution, but a concept that is still relevant in the current state of Venezuela[7]. In such a way, he pretends to be a successor of Simon Bolivar and he uses the ideological premises developed by Simon Bolivar to justify his own policies and gain the public support to the extent that he creates a heroic image of himself as a convinced supporter of Bolivarian ideas and bold revolutionary fighter for the well being of Latin America and the most deprived part of the local population.

[1] Masur, G. Simon Bolivar (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998, p.177

[2] Bill Boyd, Bolivar: Liberator of a Continent. New York: S.P.I. Books,1998, p.201.

[3] Ibid., p.114

[4] Lynch, J. Simon Bolívar: A Life. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006, p.136.

[5] Ibid., p.178.

[6] Ibid., p.229.

[7] Gott, R. Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. London and New York: Verso, 2005, p.195.

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