13. The Man Who Would Be King, 1849–1855

Toward the end of Simón Bolívar's life, the liberator of the present-day countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia had come to despair of his people's ability to forge a stable and representative political system. The nature of the countries' population, their lack of political experience, and the propensity of their congresses to tie "the hands and even the heads of its men of state" meant that "no form of government is so weak as the democratic." They were "far from emulating the happy times of Athens and Rome"; they could not compare themselves "in any way to anything European." Given that their race was "of the most unwholesome sort," they were not in a position to "place laws above heroes and principles above men." If they attempted to do so, they would witness again "the beautiful ideal of a Haiti and see a breed of new Robespierres become the worthy magistrates of this fearful liberty." In brief, "our America can only be ruled through a well-managed, shrewd despotism." On 9 November 1830, two months before his death and while he was preparing to go into exile, an ailing Bolívar wrote one of the bleakest texts penned by a Latin American liberator:

You know that I have been in a position of power for twenty
years, and from these I have only been able to draw a few un-
certain conclusions: 1. America is ungovernable for us; 2. He
who serves in a revolution ploughs the sea; 3. The only thing
you can do in America is emigrate; 4. This country "Gran Co-
lombia" will fall infallibly into the hands of a wild multitude,

-289-

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