Venezuela honors Simón Bolívar with new coffin

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez paid tribute to 19th century independence leader Simón Bolívar on Saturday by unveiling a new coffin containing Bolivar’s remains and adorned with gold, pearls and diamonds, the Associated Press reports.

Soldiers lifted a flag from the mahogany coffin during a ceremony marking the anniversary of Bolivar’s death in 1830. Bolivar is both a national hero in Venezuela and the namesake of Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution political movement.

“You live on in us,” Chávez said in a speech, standing next to the coffin. “As the years pass, you will be more alive, father Bolívar.”

Officials have said Chávez’s government is spending 119 million bolivars ($27.7 million) to build a new mausoleum to house Bolívar’s remains. The mausoleum is to have a soaring roof, and a metal framework has been partly erected behind the National Pantheon, where Bolívar’s remains have long been entombed.

Chávez oversaw the exhumation of Bolívar’s remains last year, seeking to confirm his idol’s identity and investigate a theory that Bolívar could have been killed. Researchers confirmed Bolívar’s identity through DNA tests but were unable to pin down the cause of his death.

The new coffin bears golden stars and the national seal, as well as Bolívar’s initials and golden laurels. An announcer said the decorations on the coffin include diamonds and pearls from Venezuela.

Chávez has made Bolívar a central symbol throughout his nearly 13-year-old presidency. He often speaks below a portrait of Bolívar. In 1999, Chávez promoted the approval of a new constitution that changed the country’s name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Celebrations in Caracas coincided with a ceremony honoring Bolívar in Trinidad and Tobago during which Venezuelan ambassador María Marcano Casado laid a wreath in Bolívar’s honour at his bust at the Embassy. The local celebrations coincided with the 181st anniversary observances.

Among those invited were local historian and writer Michael Anthony of Green Days by the River fame. In her feature address, Marcano spoke about plans to place a bust or statue of Bolívar in Port-of-Spain. She said: “There is a new and important project that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the authorities of the city of Port-of-Spain are committed to fulfill in this bicentennial year of the Independence of Venezuela. “The mayor of Port-of-Spain (Louis Lee Sing) and the Republic are working together to bring a certain project to fruition as soon as possible. The project is to have a bust or statue in this city, as there are many in leading cities of the world. The bust will be a great tribute from Trinidad to his hero.” She suggested the “area around Roxy,” which is graced with a statue of the late grandmaster Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts,) might be considered.

Marcano spoke about Bolívar’s ties to Trinidad which included “the typewriter on which he wrote his messages for his journal ‘Correo del Orinoco’ was sent to him from Port-of-Spain.” She predicted it could be one of the high points during the celebration of T&T’s 50th anniversary in 2012. Apart from the wreath-laying ceremony, guests admired a photographic exhibition which featured snapshots of some of the activities and programmes of co-operation between T&T and Venezuela. Chief among them were May Cross celebrations in Lopinot, the Tobago Marathon and eco-tourism. Seizing the opportunity, Marcano extended best wishes to Venezuelan and Trinidadian nationals for the Christmas season and 2012. “I hope we keep working together our communities…in unity…throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.”

About Simon Bolivar
Formally christened Simón José Antonio de La Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Y Palacios Ponte, he was known as Simón Bolívar. He was also a Venezuelan and political leader. Bolívar played a key role in Spanish America’s successful struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule. Bolívar participated in the foundation of the First Union of Independent Nations in Hispano-America, a Republic which was Gran Colombia. He was its president from 1819 until his death in 1830. The cause of his death is still uncertain, but it is widely believed to be tuberculosis.

Bolívar is regarded as a hero in Hispanic America. During his lifetime, he led Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to Independence. His feat laid the foundation for democratic ideology and traditions in Latin American countries. His legacy included a passion for liberty and the rejection of colonialism. In his memory, the word “Bolivarian” was coined for him. In contemporary society, there are countless books about his life and work. He has inspired historians, sculptors, poets, musicians and even an opera premiered in Paris.

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One thought on “Venezuela honors Simón Bolívar with new coffin

  1. Querido Presidente Chavez : Un feretro de oro y diamantes es la contradiccion ideologica mas brutal que se piueda perpetrar en contra de la memoria de Simon Bolivar. Bolivar fue un paladin por la igualdad politica y libertaria de la humanidad, especialmente de Latino America donde tanto pobre lucha por la existencia de vida. Paremos ya de imitar los mismos opresores que combatimos solamente para aparentar ante el mundo que somos una region en desarrollo financiero y economico. Somos una region oprimida y la razon por la cual nuestro desarrollo no es igual que la privilegiada posicion de los opresores es parte de la explotacion que nuestra region ha sido sometida por las instituciones bancarias internacionales en beneficio de los gobiernos opresores de los llamados paises dessarrollados.

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