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MODERN TIMES

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Modern Times.

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I'm sure you know about Simón Bolívar

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I'm also sure you keep hearing about Bolivarian revolutions all over the news

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because 200 years after the American emancipation, Bolivar has become a reference for new regimes,

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and there's no doubt that Bolivar was a great man

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but sometimes, great men are great butchers as well,

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and that is precisely what happened to Simón Bolívar.

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Did no one ever tell you this story? Well, we will do that today.

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Simón Bolívar has turned into a quasi-religious reference,

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there are even political regimes that describe themselves as "Bolivarian."

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The Venezuelan regime has turned him into a demigod...

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but who was the real Bolivar?

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Was he an immaculate hero as described by Bolivarian propagandists?

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The truth is that he wasn't. Quite the contrary, Bolivar's career is covered with blood.

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Let's go back to 1808. When Napoleon invaded Spain, the Spanish viceroyalties in America

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first rise up against France, and immediately proclaim their independence.

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It was not a war of young, oppressed nations against an old, oppressive empire.

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It would be more accurately to describe it as a civil war between those that wanted independence,

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and those who supported the crown: the Realists.

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In what today is Venezuela, the war was so bloody that Simon Bolivar declared war to the death against the Realsits,

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and he carried it out with full force.

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After the battle of El Tinaquillo, in August, 1813, he razed a series of towns,

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and kills all the "Europeans and Canarians," as he called the Realists.

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In September that same year he implemented forcible conscription, and shot those who refused to take arms.

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Immediately after that, he shot 69 Spanyards without trial.

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In December, 1813, he defeats the weakened Realist army at Acarigua,

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and orders the execution of 600 prisoners.

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On February 8, 1814, he goes after Spanish prisoners held at Caracas, Valencia and La Guaira,

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they were approximately 1,200 civilians, most of them retail traders,

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and immediately orders the shooting of all Spanyards among the prisoners as well as those in the hospital,

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without exceptions. Because gunpowder was scarce, they were executed with swords and pikes,

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and to finish them off, they crushed their skulls using large rocks.

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The elderly and disabled were taken to the gallows tied up to their chairs.

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Despite the supplications of Caracas' archbishop, Bolivar carried out the killings.

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The last report of the butchering shows that the sick in the hospitals were also executed.

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These are only a few episodes of Simon Bolivar's bloody career,

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without a doubt, the most cruel and ruthless of the American liberators.

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There was also the killing of the shipwrecks of a Spanish boat at Margarita island,

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the criminal looting of Santa Fe, and the killing of prisoners after the Boyacá battle.

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Curiously, today there is a statue of Bolivar at Parque del Oeste (West Park) in Madrid.

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The real Bolivar bears little resemblance to today's official icon.

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Pol Victoria, good evening. Welcome to Modern Times. Your debut here is with a character that you obviously know well

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because you are Colombian. And in Colombia, Bolivar is one of the great national founders,

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even if he is not celebrated with the, let's say, liturgical exaggerations used in Venezuela...

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It's practically the same, except for the endlessly repetitive speeches of a dictator like Hugo Chavez,

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but it's basically the same. Children are indoctrinated with the idea of Bolivar as the savior of the motherland,

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as the liberator from slavery and oppression, and therefore children grow up with the myth of Bolivar as a demigod,

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which is of course quite far from the truth.

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Let's start from the beginning. In 1808, in Spain we were in terrible shape, even worse than today,

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which is bad enough, the viceroyalties of Spanish America start to rebel,

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some of them against France, some of them against the king of Spain,

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and there was also the English element playing its part, which is particularly important...

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The English element is particularly important because in the beginning Bolivar tried to ally with England,

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he offers her Nicaragua and Panama in exchange of 30,000 rifles, 20 warships, and one million pounds sterling.

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But later on, when things got complicated,

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the government, or better said, the anti-government of these revolutionaries

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consider selling the Americas to England,

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and intend to swear allegiance and loyalty to the British king.

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This is all written and well documented in letters in which they eagerly ask Britain to carry this out,

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they literally ask Britain to cover them "with the august shadow of the British monarch,"

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and provide them with "the powerful protection of Great Britain."

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They were never short of flattering words. It's important to note that what we are talking about here is a civil war,

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that is, the emancipation movement broke up the viceroyalties, creating a chasm between

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a part of the native population who wished to remain being Spanish,

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and another part of the native population who didn't wish to remain being Spanish.

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I never use the term "war of independence, "

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because a war of independence implies that there is a foreign invader from which one wants to break free from,

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as was the case of Spain against Napoleon.

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But not in this case as it was all the same family.

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We cannot say that Spanyards were foreigners invading Colombia, because Colombia didn't exist yet.

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It was founded by Spain, or more precisely, by the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada,

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and it was conformed by provinces all within the same Spanish nation...

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...of both hemispheres, as stated in the Constitution of Cádiz...

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exactly, "Spain beyond the sea," and "Iberian Spain."

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So what goes on is a fratricidal war, a civil war, a war of secession,

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which was never about indians and blacks rising against the Spanish monarchy.There was nothing of that sort.

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It was about the creoles, that is, the sons of Spanyards rebelling against their fathers

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Against their fathers and against their brothers, because a good number of their brothers

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kept their loyalty to the Spanish crown, and saw what these subversive guerrillas were doing as an aberration.

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And Bolivar's case is especially interesting in that sense,

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because the fact is that the rebellion in the Nueva Granada, as the northern viceroyalty was called,

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what today is Colombia, Venezuela, etc., fails. It fails and he has to leave.

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And it is in 1814, when Spain had still not recovered,

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that he declares "war to the death," and that's the name of the declaration he signed in the picture we see here,

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and the "war to the death" was actually against his own people...

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Yes, against his own brothers.

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He called them "Europeans and Canarians" but what does that mean? They were his neighbors!

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Of course. When he arrived in Caracas, 7,000 people flee the city because he was going to kill them,

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a great part of those who stayed end up in jail, and he kills many of them afterwards,

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and in the end 32 percent of Caracas' population is under persecution... it's a lot of people!

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On top of that, they used to throw parties in which they decided who was going to kill which prisoner while having drinks,

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"Let me have this one! That one for me!," it was like a game... they took them out of the prisons and the hospitals

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and killed them without any kind of due process whatsoever.

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What you're telling us is very interesting because these are testimonies of people of the time,

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some of them British, by the way, as shown in Pablo Victoria's book "La Otra Cara de Bolívar,"

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published by Planeta, but which curiously hasn't been published here... for some reason it hasn't been published in Spain.

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But the fact is that it was a real bloodbath because Spain took quite a long time to react due to its situation.

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But before talking about Morillo, who was the general sent by Spain,

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it is important to make clear that there was no colonial army there, it was a local army.

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And the absence or the break up of that army, plus the forcible conscription of the locals under the threat of death

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implemented by Bolivar allow him to carry out a campaign that was a trail of destruction,

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for example, up to 1,200 killings in three successive jails... who were retail traders.

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I was frankly shocked by the revelation that he took the elderly from the jails to the gallows

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tied up to chairs because they couldn't move, and killed them there.

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Right. And in order to save bullets, they killed many of them crushing their skulls against the floor with rocks.

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The genocides there were terribly bloody.

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Actually, when Bolivar comes back to Caracas after his victory

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the first ones to rebel against him were the slaves in his own haciendas.

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The slaves were basically saying "hey, we were better off under Spanish rule than under this scoundrel."

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And they weren't the only ones who rebelled against him because he looted Caracas, Cartagena,  Santa Fé, Cúcuta...

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the Santa Fé lootings were particularly terrible indeed...

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and that's why when Pablo Morillo arrived to many of these cities he was celebrated as a savior

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against Bolívar and his genocidal minions.

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The problem was that Pablo Morillo, the general sent there by Spain, arrives with very few troops,

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the war to the death had already been declared, the trail of blood was overwhelming,

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and the very important system of Spanish delegation of authority, of autonomy for local authorities,

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allows that insurrection to spread, because it was an insurrection by the local bourgeoisie,

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the very same bourgeoisie to which the Spanish crown had given so much municipal autonomy.

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And the difference was that Morillo arrives with mercy, offering pardon and reconciliation in the name of the king of Spain,

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and many people accepted it. He was indeed forced to execute those not willing to submit,

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and in many cases he pardoned them, but all his executions were under judgement,

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allowing the accused to have an attorney. He followed all the formal rules of judgement,

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but Bolivar didn't, he simply went around on a devastating killing spree.

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One last question. Some other day we'll talk in more detail about how the rebellions were carried out,

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but do the children in Colombia or Venezuela learn all these things in school?

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Well they do learn the up-side-down version of these things!

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Bolívar is invariably presented as a demigod, with a laurel crown on his head

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Do they tell them about the war to the death?

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No, they hide all that, of course, as well as all of Bolívar's personal ambitions,

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they present him as a chaste, austere, moderate, magnanimous character but he was exactly the opposite,

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he was wasteful, he left a trail of abandoned children everywhere, in  Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela,

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he left children in Spain, France, Italy, he left children behind everywhere

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but the fact is that his father was also like that, and it's important to understand the impact of his upbringing,

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with a family from which he was exposed to much cruelty from both his mother's and his father's side.

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His father was actually a well known rapist. Caracas' archbishop used to protect women from him,

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many of them married, because he was constantly trying to abuse them,

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this was very well known at the time and is well documented.

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But also, it is also very important to understand Bolivars' grudge against Spain,

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was not only caused by the ideas of liberty and equality from the French Revolution,

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but also by Spain's refusal to give titles to his father and his grandfather, the marquisate of San Luis,

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and from his mother's side the Count Casa Palacios

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he had this grudge because he felt they denied the nobility he deserved, so he went against Spain

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in an effort to achieve glory on his own.

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Thanks you so much for telling us a story unknown to so many people in Spain, and also in America,

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because here in Spain Bolívar is also seen as a liberator. And he liberated indeed,

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but for his own benefit, and leaving a legacy that was not exactly edifying.

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It is quite possible that this program will be from now on declared to promote hate speech,

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but we assure our viewers that's not the case. We simply want to tell the truth.

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Thank you so much Pol Victoria, and good night to all.