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Chávez Was to Bolívar As Fidel Was to Martí

Chavez, Bolivar, Marti, Fidel

Distant in time but so similar in their ideas that the dates cannot separate their lives, Bolívar and Marti were born, as if by history’s mandate, to serve the noblest ideals of the emancipation of Latin America. Three–quarters of a century after Simon Bolívar’s death, Jose Marti warned that what the Liberator had not been able to do was yet to be done, and so he dedicated his enormous talent to it and gave his life for it.

Cuba’s national hero soon realized that America was not what the great Venezuelan had dreamed of. He knew that the misery and inequality of the continent stemmed from the unjust administration of the freedom that the great Bolívar had won for America.

Bolívar and Marti dreamed, each in his time, of the impregnable union and integration of the peoples that had won independence from Spain.

The Gran Colombia unveiled to Bolívar as much as to Marti the idea of uprooting from the Cubans the divisions that had ruined the 10–year War “in order to avoid, through the independence of Cuba that the United States would fall, with full force, on the peoples of our America.” Marti founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party to correct that evil, which would, like a merger of wills lead to Cuban independence from Spain. That is why he remembered Bolívar when he repeatedly spoke in his effort to add consciousness and arms to the will for independence.

Thanks to the unity that Marti had forged in the revolutionary ranks, when the United States –without being called upon by the Cubans to do so– intervened in Cuba’s war for independence. A Cuban victory was near and inevitable; the patriotic sentiments in the island were too strong to be ignored. The seed of Marti’s patriotism had germinated and its fruitfulness could not be frustrated by converting Cuba into a colony, not even by means of pseudo-independence.

In his longing for freedom, for a Cuba that was still enslaved, Marti remembered Bolívar, more than half a century after his death, as “a truly extraordinary man”. Martí wondered, for himself and his audience, what place the Liberator would hold in Hispanic American history.

Almost a century after Marti’s founding of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, and almost two years after the birth of the Liberator, in 1982, Venezuelan captain Hugo Chávez endorsed the words of the Cuban apostle when he said “Bolívar still has something to do in America”, referring to Bolívar ‘s unfinished work on the continent.

“Because what Bolívar did not do, remains without being done today,” emphasized captain Hugo Chavez. And he went on: “But there sits Bolivar , watchful and frowning, on the rock of creation in the sky of America, with the Inca beside him, and the bundle of flags at his feet. There he is, still wearing his campaign boots… “ Where will Bolívar go? Marti had asked many decades before. And the answer seems to have been heard clearly by the young and idealistic Captain Hugo Chavez: “Arm in arm with men, to defend the land where humanity will be most blessed and beautiful, from the new greed and the stubborn old spirit!”

On the 109th anniversary of José Marti’s death in combat, on May 19, 2004, Hugo Chavez, then president of Venezuela, recalled the decision that accompanied the Cuban hero “building the homeland that was stolen and denied to us many times”.

Chavez, while imprisoned in the barracks in Venezuela, was able to read Martí, and the imprint of the Cuban leader was marked in his soul. He showed the imprint that the Cuban apostle left on him when he acknowledged in him, “a value bordering on audacity, temerity and glory. Marti had never fought in wars, arms in hand, but it was he who armed the Revolution, traveled the Caribbean, even the United States, seeking support. He brought together ideas and logistics, united the different trends that existed in Cuba; but, as he had not fought until then, he wanted to go to fight … “.

And fighting, he gave his life to his homeland, not without first confessing –in an unfinished letter to his Mexican friend Manuel Mercado– that all that he had done in his life with his life was to prevent, with Cuba’s independence, that the United States fell, with all its great force on the nations of “our America”.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro credited Marti, with the merit of having conceived, organized and directed the assault on the Moncada Barracks. This opened the revolutionary process that led to today’s Cuban reality. Similarly, the call to the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement, coming from the hand and mind of Hugo Chavez, brought a new hope for Latin America which has always recognized Bolívar as its true promoter.


Written by Manuel E. Yepe, lawyer, journalist; and contributor of Latin American Research Institute (LARI). Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.