Venezuela's liberation hero Simon Bolivar turns 229

Celebrations in honor of Bolivar's birthday come in the middle of Hugo Chavez's reelection campaign, and include the opening of a personal mausoleum, writes a guest blogger.

Fernando Llano/AP
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez unveils a photograph-like portrait of Venezuela's independence hero Simon Bolivar on the 229th anniversary of Bolivar's birth at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. A team of researchers produced the image based on studies of Bolivar's remains. (AP Photo/

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Caracas Chronicles. The views expressed are the author's own.

S-Bol’s [Simon Bolivar] 229th birthday won’t be an ordinary one. Right in the middle of the presidential campaign, the Chavernment [Chavez government] will use it to push its electoral narrative while continuing the adaptation of our history to its ideological purposes.

First, a new state-of-the-art computer reconstruction of Bolivar’s face has just been unveiled. Turns out the Libertador was, let’s say, lucky to live before the invention of photography.

I guess what we saw during our lifetimes in paintings and banknotes was, to put it politely, “artistically” kind. The final 3D version is unmistakably creepy. “Los Amos del Uncanny Valley” indeed.

After that presentation, some findings of the investigation about Bolivar’s death were given, based on the exhumation of his remains two years ago. The tests (carried out in the UK) indicate that neither syphilis or tuberculosis were responsible of his death but cerebral edemas, probably produced by a pulmonary infection. Symptoms are, it seems, easy to mistake for tuberculosis.

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[Today], the cult of Bolivarianism will finally have a temple of its own as the new personal mausoleum of Simon Bolivar (located behind the National Pantheon) will be formally opened, even if some people doubt it will be ready. According to press reports, Bolivar’s remains have already been moved there.

The construction was accelerated to the point that one worker died in a labor accident days ago. The project was marked by constant delays and it went way over budget. Almost half of the entire Culture Ministry’s budget for 2012 was committed to finish this mausoleum.

These new developments unfold while Chavez has made “independence” the main theme of his electoral platform, in order to avoid taking about his 14-year record. However, it looks like he will cling once again to the past glories of our history, as his own version of independence has brought more harm than good to Venezuelans.

– Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo is a writer for Caracas Chronicles, the place for opposition-leaning-but-not-insane analysis of the Venezuelan political scene since 2002

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