A sword of Simón Bolívar, the military hero who was responsible for the independence of six Latin American countries from Spain in the early 19th century, was the most controversial item in the inauguration of Gustavo Petro, the new president of Colombia, on Sunday ( 7).
The weapon was the subject of an internal controversy between former President Iván Duque and Petro, and because of it Spain’s King Felipe VI was criticized in his own country for being disrespectful to Colombians.
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Bolívar was a soldier born in Caracas and is considered responsible for the independence campaigns of the following countries:
At the beginning of the 19th century, Spain was weakened after the invasion of its territory in Europe by the troops of France, then under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.
In Colombia, the date of independence is considered to be July 20, 1810.
A pedestrian crosses a street in front of a painting by Simón Bolívar near the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela. — Photo: Martin Mejia/AP
The process of separation from Spain had already begun at the end of the previous century, but in the country it is considered that independence took place formally with the separation of the regions that formed the former region of New Granada (in addition to Colombia, Panama and a part of of Ecuador).
Even after 1810 there were clashes to expel the Spaniards. One of the most important was the Battle of Boyacá in 1819, a final confrontation after 78 days of a campaign that Bolívar began in Venezuela.
Petro Guerrilla Stole the Sword in 1974
Gustavo Petro, the new president of Colombia, began his political life in a guerrilla group, the M-19.
On January 17, 1974, this group stole the sword from Quinta de Bolívar, a house where Simón Bolívar lived in Bogotá after the country’s independence.
According to the website Notícias Caracol, the group was new and wanted to get the attention of Colombians (they even distributed pamphlets saying “the M-19 was coming” to fight parasites and vermin).
Then, at 5 pm that day, the group took the sword and he left a note that, among other sayings, stated: “Your sword leaves the cobwebs of the museum and launches itself into the combats of the present, it passes into our hands, into the hands of the people in arms”.
From that day forward, newspapers began to report on the M-19’s operations.
Sword is returned in 1991
The M-19 renounced the armed struggle and adhered to institutional policy in 1991. One of the ways to mark this transition was to return Bolívar’s sword to the Colombian State.
But there was one problem: the sword was in Cuba, and the two countries had no diplomatic relations.
The solution was an intermediation by Venezuela for the sword to be returned. The ceremony took place on January 31, 1991 at Quinta de Bolívar, from where the sword was stolen in 1974.
The sword was then taken to two locations: the Bando da República warehouse and then to the government headquarters in Bogotá.
Duke did not want to give up the sword
Petro is the first leftist president to be elected in Colombia. Iván Duque, his predecessor, is from the country’s right wing.
Before taking office, the country’s new leader said he wanted the sword to be used as a symbol in the ceremony. Duke did not allow it, citing security reasons. According to the newspaper “El Mundo”, even Duque’s advisers said that this reason was an excuse, that it would be possible to take steps to have the sword returned without any inconvenience. Even so, the ceremony began without the object.
Gustavo Petro speaks next to the sword of Simón Bolívar, on August 8, 2022 – Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP
Shortly after receiving the sash, shortly after taking the oath, he said the following: “I order the Casa Militar to bring Bolívar’s sword”which was done.
Spanish king does not rise
King Felipe VI of Spain greets Gustavo Petro of Colombia on August 7, 2022 – Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP
King Felipe VI of Spain was one of the guests at Petro’s inauguration in Bogotá on Sunday. When his name was announced, there was a slight boo from the crowd that had come to see the country’s first left-wing president sworn in (the audience is estimated to have been 100,000 people).
During the ceremony, the sword was brought to the stage by military personnel — following Petro’s order, as stated above.
When the military paraded with the object, the guests stood up and applauded. The King of Spain, however, remained seated and did not applaud.
In Spain, left-wing deputies complained about the king’s behavior, which, according to politicians, was disrespectful.
“Felipe VI did not represent [na cerimônia de posse de Petro] the House of Bourbon, he represented Spain. This makes the lack of respect for a symbol of freedom in Latin America even more serious,” said Pablo Iglesias, a leader of Unidas Podemos, a left-wing party that is part of Spain’s governing coalition.
Two Spanish MEPs of Catalan origin also criticized the king, saying that sitting still was pitiful and pathetic.
Ione Belarra, Spain’s Minister of Social Rights, demands that her country’s government formally apologize to Colombia.