CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela exhumed the remains of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar yesterday and will test them to see if he was poisoned by enemies in Colombia.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rejects the traditional account that Bolivar, a brilliant Venezuelan military tactician who freed much of South America from centuries of Spanish rule, died of tuberculosis in Colombia in 1830.
He insists Bolivar was murdered by a Colombian rival, and Venezuela’s newly inaugurated state forensics laboratory is taking as its first case the death of the hero some call Latin America’s George Washington.
“What amazing moments we have lived tonight! We have seen the remains of the Great Bolivar,” Chavez wrote on his Twitter account, @chavezcandanga, after the casket was opened before dawn.
“My God, my God … my Christ, our Christ … I confess we have cried, we have sworn. I tell them: this glorious skeleton must be Bolivar because you can feel his presence. My God.”
In footage broadcast on state TV, a military honor guard clad in white biohazard suits, face masks and blue gloves marched on the spot alongside the coffin during a ceremony in a room decorated with a huge Venezuelan flag. (http://link.reuters.com/fuk97m).