By the time he was 36, Simon Bolivar had freed six countries from Spanish rule, often fighting armies of thousands with a couple hundred militia rebels. Bolivar was an incredible military strategist with a liberal approach, and went on to govern both Peru, and then-Gran Colombia, which was made up of modern-day Colombia and Venezuela. After his death in 1830, each of the countries he liberated mourned his loss, and in the almost two centuries since then, leaders have constantly used his name in order to revive his spirit and bolster their own political agendas. One such example is the former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who governed as a dictator of a socialist federation from 1999 to 2013. During that time, he transformed Venezuela from a democratic country to a democratic-socialist one. In this transformation, Chavez utilized a new subset of socialism called Bolivarianism, made up of militarism (expanding military to protect state interests) and democratic-socialism (political democracy with a state-owned economy). By diving deeper into this unique form of socialism, we can further explore if Simon Bolivar would have agreed with, or even recognized Bolivarianism. Based on the extreme limitation of freedom and vastly different economic policies under Chavez, I argue that Bolivar would have rejected this form of socialism.
McMillan, Jaiya, "Rejecting Bolivarianism: Political Power in South America" (2020). Undergraduate Research Awards. 53.