CARACAS (Reuters) – South American independence hero Simon Bolivar was not murdered by Colom-bian foes as suggested by Hugo Chavez but may have died of accidental poisoning, according to a study ordered by Venezuela’s leader.
The remains of Bolivar — a brilliant Venezuelan soldier who freed much of the region from Spanish rule before dying in Colombia in 1830 — were exhumed last year on Chavez’s orders.
The colourful socialist leader had long argued Bolivar was murdered and hoped the committee of scientists he appointed to study the bones would prove that in time for Venezuela’s celebration of its independence bicentennial this year.
The resulting investigation discovered traces of toxins that may have contributed to Bolivar’s death, but were probably in medicines widely used at the time, the scientists on a government appointed committee said on Monday.
They did not rule out death by tuberculosis — the most common theory cited by historians and authors.
“We could not establish the death was by non-natural means or by intentional poisoning, none of those who say this could prove it,” Vice President Elias Jaua said.
The committee, including various foreign experts, said it confirmed via forensic tests the remains in Venezuela’s National Pantheon were of the man some call Latin Ameri-ca’s George Washington.
Medicine, including traces of arsenic or a toxic plant, was present in Bolivar’s bones, said scientists reporting their findings in a Caracas ceremony shown live across Venezuelan TV networks on the orders of Chavez.
The socialist Chavez, who has sought to cast himself as the ideological heir to Bolivar who ruled for 12 years, had said last year the Colombian “oligarchy” had killed his idol who, despite his triumphs, died lonely, bitter and trying to exit the region.