US scientist says Bolivar likely died of poison

CARACAS (Reuters) – A US scientist is supporting a theory that has been widely dismissed as a personal obsession of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez: that his hero Simon Bolivar might have died from arsenic poisoning.

Venezuela’s leftist president rejects the traditional account that Bolivar, a brilliant Venezuelan military tactician who liberated much of South America from centuries of Spanish rule, died of tuberculosis in Colombia in 1830.

Now, Paul Auwaerter of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says his death was most likely caused by arsenic — either from drinking contaminated water or using the naturally occurring poison to try to cure headaches and hemorrhoids.

At a medical conference in Maryland last week, Auwaerter said he did not rule out murder but thought it was unlikely.

The scientist’s caution, however, did not stop Chavez — who has dedicated his “socialist revolution” to the memory of Bolivar — from interpreting the findings as proof of murder.

“For years I have had the conviction in my heart that Bolivar did not die from tuberculosis,” he said over the weekend.

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