Simon Bolivar vs James Monroe

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By ALEXANDRE G. DE B. FIGUEIREDO*

The Monroe Doctrine is still active and working to preserve the interests of the United States

“The brothers are united, because this is the law first”, concluded Martín Fierro, the gaucho conceived by José Hernández in Buenos Aires at the end of the XNUMXth century, reinforcing that “si entre ellos se pelean, los devoran los de afuera”. One of them is the still strong academic controversy surrounding the positions and disagreements between Simón Bolívar and San Martín.

The two liberators of the continent, one coming from the north and the other from the south, had a unique and legendary meeting, in 1822, in Guayaquil, present-day Ecuador. There were three days of conferences over which an aura of mystery still hovers.

Bolívar, after more than one disaster that almost ended the struggle for independence, was coming off a series of victories against the imperial forces. Bringing back the name devised by the precursor Francisco de Miranda, he founded the Republic of Colombia, Gran Colombia, which included present-day Venezuela, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. Made president of the country, he prepared to march against the Viceroyalty of Peru, the last realistic stronghold on the continent.

San Martín faced the opposite situation: after the victory, it contemplated the possible failure. Some expeditions organized by the Buenos Aires revolutionaries of 1810 had failed in their attempt to attack Peru by land, crossing present-day Bolivia. To break the deadlock, San Martín had devised a daring and ingenious strategy: first cross the Andes and free the Captaincy of Chile. Then, by sea, conquer Lima. The maneuver ensured security for the free government of Buenos Aires and led to the title of Protector of Peru. However, the imperial resistance was on its heels and the continuation of the war depended on an understanding with Bolívar.

The meeting of the two was held alone, leaving to literature the dreams surrounding a secret document that would finally resolve one of the greatest mysteries of these founders of Latin America. Only the versions that both traditions spread and spread until today remained.

On the side of the “Sanmartinians”, the Argentine would have gone to Guayaquil to ask for Bolívar's support in the continuation of the war, even going so far as to propose that he himself place himself under the orders of the Venezuelan. However, Bolívar would have been refractory to this solution. For his part, San Martín chose to leave command of his army and go into exile. In this version, a noble San Martín stands out, interested more in America's freedom than in his personal ambitions, in contrast to an ambitious Bolívar, who would not accept sharing the post and glory.

In turn, the “Bolivarian” tradition presents a different account. Testimonies of aides close to Bolívar confirm the request for help made by San Martín, but affirm that there were no objective conditions for the liberating army from the north to enter, at that moment, in Peru. In addition, they emphasize a divergence regarding the political organization of liberated America: San Martín would have defended a constitutional monarchy and even the delivery of that crown to a European prince, believing that this solution (at least for Peru) would be more palatable for the elites and better able to guarantee stability. Here, a republican Bolivar appears who opposes this path.

Many pages have been written on this issue, so many that there are others produced just about the controversy surrounding the interpretation of the 1822 conference. 1820: the opposition between a project to unify the Americas of Iberian colonization and the proto-annexation project defined by the so-called Monroe Doctrine.

Although Simón Bolívar's name is the one most associated with the unionist project, he was not the only one to propose an arrangement in this regard. It was an idea present in the emancipation leaders who, in the most diverse ways, posed the same question: if we were united in slavery, why could we not be united in freedom.

Beyond rhetoric, the project of the “Bolívar Doctrine” contemplated the founding of an international organization endowed with supranationality; the guarantee of independence and territorial integrity; the positivization of American international law; the adoption of arbitration as a peaceful solution to conflicts between the new States; and, not least, the exclusion of the United States from this arrangement. The judgment that Bolívar made to the English ambassador to the northern republic is well known: “the United States seems destined by providence to afflict America with miseries in the name of freedom”.

In turn, the so-called Monroe Doctrine comes from a declaration issued by the US President James Monroe, in 1823, one year after the Guayaquil Conference and before the final victory against imperial forces in America, in 1824. More than position of a circumstantial government, this declaration also had the positive opinion of former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and the Secretary of State was John Quincy Adams, who would also become president. Therefore, it was a position of the US State itself.

What did the statement say? The well-worn “America for the Americans”, which implied condemnation of European interference in the continent. But not only: it also said, and this was the most relevant in that context, that the US would not take sides or intervene in any way in the ongoing conflicts between the European empires and their colonies in America. Now, in other words, Monroe's statement stated that no support would be given to armies fighting for independence, whether under the leadership of Bolívar or under that of San Martín.

In fact, the Monroe Doctrine, branded today as an anti-colonial declaration, was yet another agreement between the US and the European powers regarding the possible booty that would remain from the wars for independence in the other countries of America. Great Britain, with its eyes on the new markets that were opening up, feared that France would take over the former Spanish colonies (a justified fear, as the French invasion of Mexico will demonstrate a few decades later). In turn, the US was also not interested in replacing the Spanish Empire with the French Empire in a region that its theorists already pointed out as its area of ​​natural expansion.

When, at the end of the XNUMXth century, the founders of Pan-Americanism placed Bolívar and Monroe as the forerunners of regional governance centralized in Washington, they were disregarding the entire true Bolivarian legacy. Of course, Latin America's internal rivalries – pardon the still anachronistic use of the term – were, and are, the greatest facilitators of this historical and political falsification.

The real opposition, the one that permeates the American continent since the death throes of the founding of independent states, is the antagonism of “Bolivarian” roots with the expansionist project of the United States, and not the domestic rivalries, fomented and taught in order to divide. The Monroe Doctrine is still active and working to preserve the interests of the United States. To rescue our independence, it is necessary to once again raise the banner of unity of the “Bolívar Doctrine”. After all, “los de afuera” are always on the prowl.

*Alexandre G. de B. Figueiredo He holds a PhD from the Graduate Program in Latin American Integration (PROLAM-USP).

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