The first major English biography of Bolívar in fifty years parses the complex history of the Venezuelan aristocrat who liberated six South American countries from Spanish rule. A cult figure after his death, in 1830, El Libertador led a life that defies easy analysis: although influenced by Enlightenment ideas of equality, he rejected total democracy, fearing anarchy in the "ignorant" lower classes; determined to create strong central government, he institutionalized rule by local warlords; acutely aware of the factionalism rampant in postwar society, he was bewildered when it eventually forced him to leave his homeland. In Lynch's view, the key to Bolívar lies in his pragmatism. Leaders who have invoked his name to serve their political agendas have obscured the fact that his policies followed no single path and are meaningless out of historical context. The so-called "Bolivarian revolution" of the populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is "a modern perversion of the cult."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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Bolivar is often referred to as the George Washington of South America, but that designation can be considered somewhat of a slight, for Bolivar was an original, not an imitator, a singular man who understood the cultural, historical, and physical differences between liberating the Spanish colonies of South America and the conditions faced by Washington in the English colonies of North America. This definitive biography, based on fresh and copious research, achieves a complete picture of Bolivar's thinking, actions, and impact. Lynch, professor of Latin American history at the University of London, in his all-inclusive approach to estimating the man brings to the fore two aspects of Bolivar's life and career that may come as a surprise to readers with little background: his extensive visits to Europe (and what ideas he picked up there) and the fact that his military campaigns (presented in considerable detail) to free South America represented not a clean trajectory of success but, rather, a series of setbacks as well as successes. In all, a major biography. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved