Saddle up for Simon
's heart skips a beat as he joins in the commemoration in stone of a great revolutionary in the heart of Cairo
Here is something apt about a political networking coup de grace winning a popularity contest. "A lucha continúa -- the struggle continues". I don't strictly recall it myself, but there was a time when the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which kicked off as an Afro- Asian affair, began to attract South American nations, too. It is a shame then that there is so little appetite for South- South solidarity these days. Let us face it, some people feel queasy about South- South cooperation and especially when it comes to NAM. However, sometimes a single statue in which everyone from everywhere has access to -- at least visually -- is eloquent testimony to the history of humanity.
Venezuelan sculptor Carmelo Tabasco masterfully hewed the original work of art and Manuel Silveira Blanco crafted the pedestal on which the Liberator stands. He mounts no stallion.
What is really missing is the political inference concerning perfunctory mementos of what really once was. And, the opportunity beckoned this week with the rededication and wreath-laying ceremony to the monument of Simon Bolivar, the legendary South American Liberator in Simon Bolivar Square, Garden City, Cairo. The new fragments meticulously added by Egyptian restorers Sandra Louka and Heba Shawky certainly add to the sense that this monument was, and ever will be, a liberating proclamation.
It was a moment to consider what is South-South solidarity and also to remember that it comes with a few caveats. After all it was Bolivar who said, "God grants victory to perseverance."
Venezuela is the pride of South American, a country whose Bolivarian leadership has demonstrated that it really cares for the plight of the Palestinian people and all the underdogs of this world. Chavez's expulsion of the Israeli ambassador on 6 January 2009 was described as "a courageous decision" by Hamas. Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon's Hizbullah, urged Arab governments to follow in Chavez's footsteps.
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro lambasted the "criminals" that govern Israel on Al-Jazeera for instigating "a holocaust for Palestinians for 60 years". We might not live in a bipolar world anymore, but South-South solidarity is as needed as ever. The UN "only does what Israel wants", bemoans Chavez. "The question is not whether the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They are doing it openly."
Oppression and occupation blight the dreams of the Palestinian people and poverty and economic emasculation have long thwarted the dreams of the dispossessed millions in this part of the world. Simon Bolivar Square, in the very stylish heart of the Egyptian capital, might be considered an unlikely venue for a more systematic review of what worked so well in the past.
"There is no fatherland without freedom," was the battle cry of Simon Bolivar. The Liberator of South America has over 11,000 statues around the world. In Paris his statue graces Simon Bolivar Square. In New York's Central Park stands another embodiment of the eulogy to the peerless Liberator of the Americas south of the Rio Grande.
The imposing statue in granite and basalt that stands proud in Cairo personifies an iron-willed hero. On 19 April 1810, Venezuela formally declared its independence from Spain and adopted a republican constitution. Bolivar represented a generation of warrior statesmen who freed their countries from the clutches of colonialism. Little did he know that his beloved South America would eventually fall into the maw of greedy US imperialism. "The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." The America Bolivar had in mind was not just the black slaves and poor white "trash" but it was the indigenous population of the soon-to-be banana republics.
"The Revolution of 19 April, 1810, was a popular movement that took place in the city of Caracas, in rejection of the new Captain General, or governor, Vicente Emparan, appointed by the new King, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Jose I of Spain, as a result of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain," Victor Carazo Venezuela's ambassador to Egypt who presided over the celebration this week extrapolated. Perhaps he was insinuating the current imposition of US puppets in various victims of the current US imperial schemes. "An ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction."
The episode of 1810 sparked the movement led by Simon Bolivar. And, it was palpably clear that Ambassador Carazo was not merely recounting the glories of an age bygone, but evoking the spirit of statesmen like Simon Bolivar for elected politicians to follow in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's footsteps and care deeply about those they represent. The Liberator Bolivar was a man of the people and that is why he was commemorated this week in Cairo. "Since his birth in Caracas, Venezuela, on 24 July 1783 and until his death in Santa Marta, Columbia, on 17 December 1830 at the age of 47, Bolivar proved to be one of the most outstanding military geniuses, statesmen, politician and intellectuals of all times," the Venezuelan ambassador stressed.
"He was born to a wealthy family, but the life he chose was one of sacrifice and renunciation to pursue his ideals. At a very young age, he embraced republican ideas and vowed to never rest until America was freed. He fought for the independence of the territories of the present day Republics of Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela in several glorious battles between 1919 and 1824," Ambassador Carazo explained. "Bolivar left a legacy of achievements, doctrines and principles that have guided the lives of Venezuelans and people of other Bolivarian countries, and have greatly influenced the political thought of the whole Western Hemisphere."
Policy mistakes can be corrected and reversed, and that is the lesson of the Bolivarian Revolution. The masses in the developing countries of the South might be stoical, but they trust in the truthful leaders long after those leaders are gone. "The Revolution is the continuation of the struggles initiated by Bolivar and now we can say that finally, the power lays in the hands and will of the sovereign Venezuelan people."
Such an approach has several advantages. Venezuelans would no longer be seen as victims of United States imperialism and neo-colonialism, but as an integral part of a cooperative approach to South-South cooperation on an unprecedented economic and political scale. It is a symbol of fortitude and fearlessness that Simon Bolivar Square stands only a stone's throw away from the US embassy in Cairo.
"Today we wish to honour and pay tribute to the memories of all those who offered their lives to freedom and democracy. We are still fighting to defend and reassert their ideals to create a better and inclusive world with more social justice," Ambassador Carazo noted. Widespread poverty and social injustice are still largely untold stories -- millions of people in Africa, the Arab world and South America still pick through the garbage to make ends meet.
It is little surprise then that Providence decreed that Venezuela with its oil wealth and Revolutionary Bolivarian ideological orientation attracts world attention. It has carved a place for itself in the pulsating heart of Cairo, the very Manhattan of the Middle East. Far from taking a lot of fluff and hype out of the most populous megalopolis in Africa and the Middle East, the square adds a much needed reminder of Egypt's own great contribution to the anti-colonial struggle.
"I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the governorate of Cairo for having made possible the renovation of this Square. The restoration of the monument, the statue of Simon Bolivar, for this occasion is a gift from the people and government of Venezuela led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the people and government of Egypt. It is a token of appreciation to recognise the genuine bonds of friendship and cooperation happily existing between Egypt and Venezuela and a way to thank Egypt for having our greatest national hero in the heart of Cairo," Carazo exquisitely sums it all up.