On February 10th 1824 Simón Bolívar became the dictator of Peru. Unlike what we commonly associate with dictators of the 20th and 21st century, Bolívar is considered a hero who fought the imperialist Spanish forces in South America, freeing it’s citizens and helping to create the nation states we see today.
Bolívar’s plight began in 1810 in his home nation of Venezuela, which at that time was called the Captaincy General of Venezuela. He fought alongside the Patriots which included influential men such as Francisco de Miranda. However, the fledgling Republic that had been founded following the Declaration of Venezuelan Independence was short lived, with Miranda signing the capitulation agreement with Royalist Monteverde on 25 July. As such, Bolívar and his associates handed Miranda over to the Spanish for his treasonous act.
As you may know from our other pieces, the early 19th century was an unstable one for Europe due to the Napoleonic Wars, and as such the Patriots continued to fight for their freedom knowing that the weakened Spanish would struggle to maintain their grip. In 1813, Bolívar led the ‘Admirable Campaign’ which successfully retook Venezuela for a short time, during which the Second Republic was formed. This failed to last due to local uprisings from monarchists, allowing a Spanish conquest where they regained control. He fled to Haiti where he befriended the newly-independent country’s President Alexandre Pétion. It was with Pétion’s aid that Bolívar successfully invaded Venezuela and freed the slaves of the nation, many of whom were Haitian.
From here, Bolívar was able to open the Second Congress of Angostura where he got himself elected President. In doing so, it became possible to fight for the independence of New Grenada, the success of which, he presumed, would allow him to move into Venezuela and consolidate the freedom of his home nation too. Bolívar won the Battle of Boyacá on 7 August 1819, securing the freedom of New Grenada, and allowing him to look towards achieving independence in other South American nations.
He aspired to Venezuela and Ecuador and fought for 2 years until the decisive victory at the Battle of Carabobo signalled the successful independence of both nations. Bolívar went further still and just a few months later in September 1821 the state of Gran Colombia was created, encompassing much of what is today Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Panama, Guyana, Ecuador and Columbia – all of which had been a part of the Spanish Empire.
This trend continued and in 1822 he took control of the mission to free Peru. The Peruvian congress named him dictator two years later, enabling him to reorganise the political and military structures of the nation, and then, assisted by Antonio José de Sucre, Bolívar decisively defeated the Spanish cavalry at the Battle of Junín on 6 August 1824.
Simón Bolívar received one of the highest honours that can be bestowed and, on 6 August 1825, at the Congress of Upper Peru, the “Republic of Bolivia” was created. Sadly, Latin America’s history did not end there and the vast Gran Colombia would succumb to factionalism and ultimately would give rise to other nations after bloody civil wars. Bolívar himself, however, is a legend. He was the man responsible for freeing vast swathes of Latin and South America and is a legend in countries from Brazil to Venezuela and every where in between. It seems fitting that even the title of dictator, despite its negative connotations, did not lead to him repressing and oppressing his citizens but rather using his power to help people. As Ben Parker, Spiderman’s uncle said, “with great power, comes great responsibility” and Bolívar was, unquestionably, a hero.