My Bolivarian republic for a horse

The last time I was in Caracas a general parked his tank outside the national assembly building and the chamber maid died of cholera. Things haven’t improved since, and Hugo Chávez’s infant daughter has just thrown a spanner in the works of the historic Bonaire invasion project by telling him to drop everything else until he’s fixed the national pony:

The president of the Republic, Hugo Chávez, said that, following the criticicm he has received from sections of the opposition concerning his bid to change national symbols, he would intensify his request to incorporate an eighth star–the “star of Bolivar”–in the national flag as well as “an indomitable and Venezuelan” horse in the shield…

The Venezuelan chief executive made the announcement in his programme, Hello, President (Aló, Presidente: imagine ‘Allo ‘allo directed by Herr Flick), broadcast from the east coast of Lake Maracaibo, from where he said that the changes were due to a sense of unease experienced by his youngest daughter, Rosinés.

Regarding the shield… , the President declared that the horse is a “restrained horse, a horse restrained by somebody and made to look to the past, to look backwards, it is not an indomitable horse, it is the horse that frustrated the dream of Bolivar, which is to say that what we have here is a reactionary symbol.”

President Chávez also proposed to Venezuelans “that we rescue Bolivar’s horse, the Federation’s horse, and that we give its place once more in the National Shield of the Fifth Republica, the Bolivarian Republic.”

He expressed that “this horse is not Venezuelan, this horse is not Creole, this horse is imperial.”

To be fair to Chavéz, he is not the first paranoid demagogue to recognise the rabble-rousing power of Bolívar’s horse (and with good reason: where would other liberation heroes like Napoleon I, Don Quijote and Zorro have been without their steeds?). Back in 1994 the Chilean painter, Juan Dávila, included a portrait of a mounted Bolívar in a large Latin American memescape and caused a diplomatic storm in the region. Antonio Gomez-Moriana & Mercedes Duran-Cogan in National Identities and Socio-Political Changes in Latin America write that

if we look carefully at Dávila’s portrait…, we will discover that the epic model [ie the Bolívar monument in Caracas] has been sourly betrayed: the front quarters of the horse dissolve into the flat, cardboard-like shape of a lowered bull’s head and front legs in an attitude reminiscient of the “corrida de toros.” Its bright colours include, quite prominently, the red and the yellow of the Spanish national flag. Furthermore, the face of Bolívar clearly exhibits “mestizo” traits and his short, open cassock exposes female breasts; below the cassock Bolívar’s body appears naked, disclosing a narrow waist and wide hips while the pubic area, partially covered by the saddle, shows a recognizable fragment of a penis; the legs are covered by embroidered boots to mid-thigh; finally, the middle finger of Bolívar’s left hand is extended in an obscene gesture… In Venezuela, Dávila was accused of “residence in a foreign country,” “mental problems,” “sexual aberration,” and “homosexuality.”

Bolívar also had a dog. Has anyone else seen the 50s kiddies show, Uncle Dudley, which features Bolivar the Puppy?

(If you want the Venezuelan navy to shell Castro, here are the memos to use.)

El presidente de la República, Hugo Chávez, dijo que tras las críticas que ha recibido de sectores opositores por sus intenciones de cambiar los símbolos patrios, arreciaría su solicitud de incorporar una octava estrella que sería la “estrella de Bolívar”, en la Bandera Nacional, así como un caballo “indómito y venezolano” al escudo.

Dijo que si hiciera falta un referéndum lo realizaría “y que el pueblo tome la decisión”. Reiteró que mientras no haya cambio alguno la actual será la bandera vigente. El primer mandatario hizo un repaso a los cambios que han tenido ambos símbolos patrios a lo largo de la historia, por lo que aseveró que una reforma suya “no sería un irrespeto”.

La orden será remitida a la “nueva” Asamblea Nacional que será escogida el próximo domingo en elecciones nacionales, y cuya mayoría deberá aprobar las reformas. Aclaró que sus opiniones referente al reto parlamentario no constituyen campaña a favor de uno u otro candidato.

El mandatario venezolano hizo el anuncio en su programa Aló, Presidente, transmitido desde la Costa Oriental del Lago de Maracaibo, desde donde dijo que los cambios obedecen a una inquietud que tuvo su hija menor Rosinés.

En cuanto al Escudo que aparece en la parte superior izquierda, el Presidente afirmó que el caballo es un “caballo frenado, es un caballo que alguien lo frenó y lo puso a mirar al pasado, lo puso a mirar hacia atrás, eso no es un caballo indómito, ese es el caballo que devolvió el sueño de Bolívar, es decir, aquí hay un símbolo reaccionario”.

Asimismo, el Presidente Chávez propuso a los venezolanos “que rescatemos el caballo de Bolívar, el caballo de la Federación y que lo coloquemos allí de nuevo en el Escudo Nacional de la Quinta Republica, la República Bolivariana”.

Expresó que “el caballo no es venezolano, ese caballo no es criollo, ese caballo es imperial”. Al igual, que anunció que mientras tanto ese es el Escudo Nacional”.

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