Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

7-30 An Epidemic of Grave Digging

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE --Digging up graves has become the dubious answer to many questions lately. The latest is the exhumation of South American hero Simon Bolivar by Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez.
Chavez hatched his scheme three years ago when he suggested Bolivar wasn't buried in his tomb. Public outcry was so great that he dropped the subject.
Now he has decided to prove that Bolivar did not die of tuberculosis in 1830 but was poisoned by Chavez's three major enemies -- the Venezuelan upper class, Columbia and the United States.
Chavez wants to wrap himself in the mantle of the ancient hero by demonstrating that he is continuing Bolivar's revolution that liberated six countries in northern South America from Spanish rule.
His big problem is very similar to that of the people who wanted to dig the bones of New Mexico outlaw Billy the Kid. He's at odds with historians who agree that Bolivar died in bed, fevered, sick and broken.
He was attended by a qualified doctor who wrote bulletins and performed an autopsy. Diaries of those who were with him in his final days say he died of natural causes.
Chavez says scientific tests will be run to determine whether Bolivar died of tuberculosis or arsenic poisoning. Fears are that the results will be whatever Chavez wants.
Likewise, some Billy the Kid historians believe that DNA samples taken by private individuals and sent to a private laboratory will show that Brushy Bill Roberts, over in Texas, is the real Billy the Kid.
The effort to exhume Bolivar not only is reminiscent of the recent effort to dig up Billy the Kid but also to the 1991 exhumation of former President Zachary Taylor.
Some historians were sure Taylor died of arsenic poisoning rather than gastroenteritis. Descendants agreed to an exhumation. Findings revealed he hadn't been poisoned.
But the non-believers weren't convinced and charged that the autopsy was botched. Thus, nothing was solved by the exhumation.
Chavez, however, is intent on the exhumation effort being front and center in his campaign to convince Venezuelans, and those in neighboring countries, that he is the embodiment of the great liberator.
He already has renamed the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and calls his transformation of Venezuela a Bolivarian Revolution. And Chavez is trying to shoehorn Bolivar to fit his own socialist ideology.
But that's where it all breaks down. Bolivar was a revolutionary but he wasn't a socialist and he didn't want to build a classless society. He was a member of the privileged upper class and wanted to keep it that way.
He admired the Americans for gaining their independence and doing so well with their country afterward but he knew South American countries couldn't be as democratic because of the large uneducated lower class.
Bolivar's idea was to have a permanent president and keep most of the control of government with the oligarchy that Chavez says conspired to murder him.
The only part of Bolivar's principles that Chavez likes is the permanent president idea. He tried three years ago to extend his term but was badly rebuffed, sending his popularity on a downhill slope.
Venezuela faces many problems, which Chavez should be addressing. Inflation is the highest in Latin America. There are tremendous food and commodity shortages and crime is rampant. But instead, he has distracted himself fighting with the United States and his neighbor, Columbia
In other exhumation news, descendants of Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, are still trying to get his bones exhumed in order to prove that his shooting death was not suicide. He is buried on National Park Service land. Exhumation will take an act of Congress, which appears to be a possibility.
And there is the ongoing effort to dig up Geronimo and bring him back to New Mexico. If it is successful, recent evidence suggests they may find the Yale Skull and Bones Society got there first.
FRI, 7-30-10

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

Sorry I didn't get this sent in sequence.


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