He ordered the killing of thousands of Spaniards, even patients in a hospital

The war crimes perpetrated by Simón Bolívar against Spanish prisoners

Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) is one of the most unfairly mythologized and whitewashed historical figures, under the false pretext of considering him a "liberator".

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Born in Caracas when it was a Spanish city and the son of a wealthy family, at a very young age he was sent to study in Madrid, where at the age of 19 he married María Teresa del Toro, a Madrilenian from a noble family He passed away two years later due to illness. After learning about the revolutionary ideas in Napoleon's France, he took advantage of the French invasion of the Iberian Peninsula to extend them to the Spanish territories of South America, taking up arms against Spain, demonstrating for the prisoners of war the same contempt shown by Napoleon's troops in mainland Spain.

A painting representing the signing by Simón Bolívar of the "Decree of War to the Death".

The 'Decree of War to the Death' signed by Bolívar against the Spaniards

On June 15, 1813, in Trujillo (present-day Venezuela), Bolívar signed the call signed the call "Decree of war to the death", in which he ordered the following: "Any Spaniard who does not conspire against the tyranny in favor of the just cause for the more active and effective means, he will be considered an enemy and punished as a traitor to the country, and as a consequence he will inevitably be put to death". That is to say, he accused of treason and condemned to death any Spaniard who did not join his rebellion against Spain. The one who launched that accusation of treason was someone who had betrayed Spain in the middle of the French invasion.

He granted a 'general and absolute pardon' to criminals who joined him

In the same text, Bolívar granted "a general and absolute pardon to those who join our army with or without their weapons", criminals included, telling them: "Your brothers forgive you and sincerely regret your misguidance, in the intimate persuasion that you cannot be guilty and that only the blindness and ignorance in which the authors of your crimes have kept you until now, have been able to induce you to them". Bolívar added: "Have absolute immunity in your honor, life and properties; the sole title of American will be your guarantee and safeguard". That is to say, that according to Bolívar's decree, the origin and ideology of a person weighed more than his facts and were enough to absolve him of any crime. A purely totalitarian way of thinking.

Bolívar summed up his aberrant philosophy in the final part of the decree, with these words: "Spaniards and Canarians, count on death, even if you are indifferent, if you do not actively act in favor of freedom of America. Americans, count on life, even when you are guilty". The reference to the canaries is due to the fact that many of them fought on the side loyal to Spain, being treated inhumanely by Bolívar because of it.

The documents of the government of Simón Bolívar ordering the beheading of hundreds of Spanish prisoners, including the sick, published by La Gazeta de Caracas on May 2, 1815 (Source: Universidad Católica Andrés Bello).

The beheading of hundreds of Spanish prisoners and sick in La Guaira

The atrocities committed by order of Bolívar under that decree were exposed in La Gazeta de Caracas (Venezuela's first newspaper) of May 2, 1815 (a copy of the original can be seen here, on pages 4 and 5). The doctor and journalist José Domingo Díaz openly published the documents in which the Bolívar regime justified its executions of Spaniards in La Guaira, denouncing the atrocities committed by the "liberator":

February 13, 1814: "In obedience to the express order of His Excellency Mr. General-Libertador so that all Spanish prisoners and prisoners from the Canary Islands be beheaded in the vaults of this port, a started the execution putting hundreds of them through arms tonight".

February 14, 1814: "Yesterday afternoon one hundred and fifty Spanish and Canarian men locked up in the vaults of this port were beheaded, and between today and tomorrow the rest of them will be."

February 15, 1814: "Yesterday afternoon two hundred and forty-seven men from the Spaniards and Canarians were beheaded, and only twenty-one patients remain in the hospital, and in the vaults one hundred and eight Creoles."

February 16, 1814: "Today the Spaniards and Canarians who were sick in the hospital have been beheaded, the last remnant of those included in the order of H.E."

The same number of La Gazeta de Caracas indicated that on February 25, 1814, in Caracas, the orders given by Bolívar had been carried out, "having taken up arms, both here and in La-Guayra, all the Spaniards and Canarians who were prisoners in number of more than eight hundred, counting those that have been able to collect from those who were hidden".

Bolívar's decree was the beginning of a "war of extermination"

In "La guerra total de Bolívar. Guerra, política y revolución en la era de la independencia" (published in issue 35 of the Revista Colombiana de Estudios Militares y Estratégicos), Professor Daniel Emilio Rojas Castro, from Grenoble Alpes University, wrote: "The execution of the decree of "War to the death" had immediate implications; in a few weeks, almost all the captured Spaniards and Canarians were killed". In the same writing, Rojas points out that "in February 1814, Bolívar ordered the execution of 886 prisoners in Caracas, while all the Spanish patients in the La Guaira hospital were stabbed to death to conserve ammunition". Rojas adds:

"The decree of "War to the death" was the beginning of a war of extermination that erased the borders between combatants and non-combatants. If this distinction was clear in periods of peace, in the prevailing environment of violence , the boundaries between one group and another were increasingly blurred. The generalization of violence led the military to consider that any interaction between the military and civilians from opposing sides could become a threat to independence, and in this sense, it was legitimate to attack indiscriminately military and civilians who defended the sovereignty of the Spanish King. With the "War to the Death" decree, violence ceased to be one of the results of the revolutionary process, to become one of the factors that shaped the entire context political and military of the clashes between patriots and monarchists."

Portrait of Simón Bolívar by Ricardo Acevedo Bernal (1867-1930).

He ordered the murder of Spanish prisoners in front of their families

The historian Manuel Hernández González, professor of American History at the University of La Laguna, wrote the following in "La guerra a muerte. Bolívar y la campaña admirable (1813-1814)" (Ediciones Idea, 2014): "long before the mass executions of February 1814 in La Guaira and Caracas, the valleys of Aragua left a long list of Spaniards and Canarians executed in a public act before the stupefied eyes of his relatives and friends. On the same August 14, 1813, in a communication to the president of the Congress of New Granada, the Liberator specified that «after the pitched battle of Tinaquillo, I marched without stopping through the cities and towns of Tocuyito, Valencia, Guayos, Guácara, San Joaquín, Maracay, Turmero, San Mateo and La Victoria, where all the most criminal Europeans and Canarians have been put to death»".

Citing the writings of the Venezuelan leader himself, Hernández points out that in Puerto Cabello, Bolívar used the Spanish prisoners as hostages to demand their surrender, threatening to assassinate them: "the only way to save the innumerable Spanish and island prisoners who are in my power, and I have made him understand that at the slightest delay they will all be exterminated".

Hernández also points out that in the town of La Victoria, the Canarians Mateo de Torres and Francisco Díaz were savagely mutilated and had their throats cut. It also points out that in Los Valles de Aragua, "where the presence of Spaniards and especially Canarians was very notable, and where their networks of peasants and kinship were very extensive, executions were very common from the first days of August 1813". The historian also points out that in Carúpano the persecution against the Spaniards was "particularly ruthless", and that there "even the women."

The execution of 36 Spaniards as a result of a frivolous and macabre banquet

Regarding the executions in Caracas, Hernández collects the testimony of José Domingo Díaz, pointing out that "on August 18, 1813, most of the Spaniards and Canarians who existed in Caracas and other towns were put in prison", and on the 20th "first blood flowed in the most scandalous way the world has ever seen". The executions were carried out in the most arbitrary, frivolous and macabre way:

"On that day Seditious Rivas gave a treat at his house, whose total number of guests was 36. At 5 in the afternoon, Doctor Vicente Tejera, one of them, asked permission for a toast ; and granted, he stated that it was necessary to solemnize that act with each attendee toasting the death of one of the designated prisoners; the corresponding list was formed, and half an hour later 36 people perished in the Cathedral Square."

Mass executions were not limited to Caracas and La Guaira. "In the first months of 1814 the patriots systematically shot Spanish and Canarian prisoners in Valencia and other towns", says Hernández. The ethnic cleansing unleashed by Bolívar against the Spaniards led José "Chepito" González, a former supporter of the independence cause, to go over the side and ask Spain for permission to transport several hundred militiamen from the Canary Islands to Caracas, to join the royalist cause.

An ethnic cleansing that ended up harming the independence movement

Hernández points out that Bolívar's "Decree of war to the death" and the atrocities he ordered against the Spanish ended up damaging the external image of his independence cause. The Parisian press noted: "the latest news from Caracas, received in New York by the ship Henry Guilder, says that the patriots have led to a frenzy to the point of outlawing without distinction all the natives of old Spain and of the Canary Islands. Very few people are excepted because they are believed to be firmly addicted to their cause. It is impossible to determine the number of victims, but, according to reports from Calabozo, Caracas, La Guaira, etc., it would be close to at three thousand. It seems that these lucky Europeans, once brought before a kind of court, are executed militarily and then their houses are looted and burned".

Likewise, the historian points out several examples of the blackmail carried out by the Bolívar government to demand the payment of a ransom to avoid an execution, in some cases carrying out the murder despite the payment. of that extortion by the relatives of the accused. "The lack of resources to support the state apparatus and the army led the authorities to an excessive desire to seize sums of money from Spaniards and Canarians and their descendants", Hernandez says. "Even of those who died by natural death and inherited by his wife, the kidnapping court proceeded".

An equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar in Cádiz, Spain, the fruit of a gift from Venezuela. There are several Spanish cities that have monuments dedicated to that man who ordered the murder of hundreds of Spaniards (Photo: Pedro M. Martínez Corada / Wikimedia).

The pink legend of Bolívar and the anti-Spanish black legend

It is somewhat incongruous to call a character like Bolívar a "liberator", because he served as dictator twice (in Peru and in Gran Colombia), because in Peruvian lands he imposed press censorship, he even punished those who spoke ill of his government with sentences of up to 6 years in prison, because it established a tax on indigenous people for the mere fact of being indigenous, and because, furthermore, and because he also committed war crimes like the ones we have just reviewed.

But if in certain countries they have nationalistic reasons to call him "libertarian" (a significant indication of what they understand by freedom), what is really absurd and outrageous is that Bolívar has monuments in his honor in Spain after having ordered the assassination of thousands of Spaniards who were prisoners of war and even hospital patients. The height of all nonsense is that there are Spanish politicians, who receive public salaries that we all pay and who are even part of our government, and who revere him and promote a pink legend of that tyrant and criminal, while supporting all legend anti-Spanish black. It is time to put an end to so much falsification of history and so much unreason.


Photo: Mortemfile/Pixabay. Bust of Simón Bolívar in Lima, Peru.

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