HOW revealing it is, when contemplating the causes of a century of misunderstandings and suspicions between the two Americas, to consider that North Americans know absolutely nothing about the South American Liberator, the national hero of five republics. Such, though, is what it amounts to, generally speaking--absolutely nothing. Familiarity with the life and achievements of Simón Bolívar is limited in the United States of North America to specialists and historians. A few able English- language writers have tried, even quite recently, to remedy that situation; but all of them have failed, through no fault of their own, to gain a wide hearing among their countrymen. This work, then, is merely one more effort in the same direction.
As well as interpreting the man himself, the author hopes also, in view of the dangers that threaten the principles of democracy throughout the world today, to bring the reader a clear conception of that sympathy toward dictatorships which has always been inherent in Latin Americans, and thus to warn him how very formidable that danger is in the countries south of us.
I remember one morning in Caracas six weeks after the death of Juan Vicente Gómez, the man who ruled Venezuela in ruthless tyranny for twenty-seven years. The city was in howling confusion. Eleazar López Contreras, the head of the army under Gómez, had taken over the presidency; but he had, surprisingly, emptied the prisons of political offenders, invited back the political exiles, re- established the constitutional rights of free speech, press