“The triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and corruption” – Simón Bolívar

Simon-bolivar 4Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco (July 24, 1783 – December 17, 1830), commonly known as Simón Bolívar, was a Venezuelan military and political leader. Together with José de San Martín, he played a key role in Hispanic-Spanish America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire, and is today considered one of the most influential politicians in Latin American history.

Following the triumph over the Spanish Monarchy, Bolívar participated in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Hispanic-America, a republic, which was named Colombia, of which he was president from 1819 to 1830. Bolívar remains regarded in Hispanic-America as a hero, visionary, revolutionary, and liberator. During his lifetime, he led Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia to independence, and helped lay the foundations for democratic ideology in much of Latin America.

Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), South American revolutionary, military leader, and politician known as the Liberator for his leading role in the wars of Spanish American Independence. More than anyone else, Bolívar was responsible for the independence of five countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

Spanish forces still held much of northern South America in February 1819, when revolutionaries convened a congress in the Venezuelan port town of Angostura (now called Ciudad Bolívar). Their goal was to create Gran Colombia, a new Latin American republic comprising present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. The congress named revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar president of the new country.

In this speech delivered on February 15, 1819, Bolívar warns the congress that maintaining freedom will be difficult because the people’s development has been stunted by the “triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and corruption.”

Legislators! I place in your hands the supreme command of Venezuela. It is now your lofty duty to devote yourselves to the well-being of the Republic; our fate and the measure of our glory is in your hands, those very hands which will sign the decrees establishing our Freedom. At this moment the Supreme Head of the Republic is no more than a simple citizen, and this he desires to remain until his dying day…

When America was separated from the Spanish monarchy, it found itself in a similar situation to the Roman Empire, when that enormous mass broke up in the midst of the Ancient World. The fragments that were left then formed independent nations in conformity with their situations or interests; but with the difference that each one re-established its original system. We do not even retain the vestiges of what went before: we are not Europeans, or Indians, but rather a species mid-way between the original inhabitants and the Spaniards. Americans by birth and Europeans in our rights, we find ourselves in the predicament of fighting with the Indians for the ownership of the land and contending with the opposition of invaders for the privilege of remaining in the country of our birth; thus, our case can be seen to be fraught with difficulties. What is more, our condition has always been a passive one, our political existence null; and our difficulty in attaining freedom is all the more painful because, before, we stagnated in the most wretched servitude; not only were we stripped of freedom, but even of a role of domination in our domestic affairs. Let me explain this paradox. Under the regime of absolute power, all authority goes unchallenged. The will of the despot is the supreme law arbitrarily executed by inferiors who participate in organized repression as a consequence of the authority they wield. They are in charge of civil, political, military and religious functions. But whereas the satraps of Persia were Persians, the pashas of the Great Sultan were Turks, the sultans of Tartary, Tartars; and whereas China had its own mandarins even when it had fallen under the rule of Genghis Khan, America, on the contrary, received everything from Spain and we were in fact deprived of any role of domination in our domestic affairs and internal government. This denial made it impossible for us to understand the course of public affairs; neither did we enjoy the personal esteem which the show of authority commands in the eyes of the people, and which is of such importance in great revolutions. In short, gentlemen, we were excluded and kept apart from the world’s affairs in all that concerned the science of government.

Bound as we were by the triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny and corruption, we were unable to acquire learning, power or virtue. And since we were schooled by such evil tutors, the lessons we received and the examples we studied were of a most ruinous nature. We were enthralled by deception even more than by force; and corruption degraded us even more than superstition. Slavery is the daughter of darkness; an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil understanding; they take to be realities what are in fact only illusions; they confuse license with liberty, treason with patriotism, vengeance with justice. Such a people resembles an able-bodied blind man who, encouraged by his feeling of strength, strides forward with the assurance of the most clear-sighted and, stumbling into every pitfall, is no longer able to find his way. If such a degraded people should ever attain their freedom, they will not delay in losing it, for there will be no way of persuading them that happiness consists in the practice of virtue, that lawful government is more powerful than the rule of tyrants because it is more inflexible and requires that all obey its beneficent discipline, that morality and not force is the basis of the law, and that the exercise of justice is the exercise of freedom. Thus, legislators, your task is all the more difficult because the men you must form have been perverted by misleading illusions and destructive motives. Freedom, says Rousseau, is a most succulent dish, but one that is difficult to digest. Our frail fellow-citizens will have to build up their strength long before they are able to digest the life-giving nutrient of freedom. Will they, with their limbs stiffened from such long enchainment, their sight enfeebled by the darkness of their dungeons, and their spirit crushed by pernicious servitude, be able to stride firmly toward the august temple of freedom? Will they be able to gaze unblinkingly into its splendid rays, and inhale the pure air which surrounds it?

Consider your choice carefully, legislators. Do not forget that you are about to lay the foundations of a new people, and that they will rise to the greatness for which nature has equipped them if you so shape this foundation to match the eminent status that awaits them. If your choice is not governed by the guiding spirit of Venezuela, which should inspire you in choosing the right form and nature of the government you are to adopt for the happiness of the people, if, I repeat, you should fail to choose rightly, all our new beginnings will end in slavery.

Eye on Leadershiphttp://eyeonleadership.com/Bolivar_web.pdf


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