Scientist says Simon Bolivar likely died of poison!
A U.S. scientist is supporting a theory that has been widely dismissed as a personal obsession of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez: that his hero Simon Bolivar might have died from arsenic poisoning.
Venezuela's leftist president rejects the traditional account that Bolivar, a brilliant Venezuelan military tactician who liberated much of South America from centuries of Spanish rule, died of tuberculosis in Colombia in 1830.
Now, Paul Auwaerter of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says his death was most likely caused by arsenic -- either from drinking contaminated water or using the naturally occurring poison to try to cure headaches and hemorrhoids.
At a medical conference in Maryland last week, Auwaerter said he did not rule out murder but thought it was unlikely.
The scientist's caution, however, did not stop Chavez -- who has dedicated his "socialist revolution" to the memory of Bolivar -- from interpreting the findings as proof of murder.
"For years I have had the conviction in my heart that Bolivar did not die from tuberculosis," he said over the weekend.
"And now a scientist from the United States comes out saying he has proof ... that Bolivar died by murder," Chavez added, ordering his foreign minister to contact Auwaerter.
The doctor told Reuters the Venezuelan government had not yet been in touch, and he was worried his research was being misconstrued.
"What I said has been taken and used for their own political means," Auwaerter said in a telephone interview.
In his fight against "Yankee imperialism" by Washington, Chavez often invokes Bolivar -- who is second only to Jesus as a figure of reverence in much of South America.
Almost every town or village square in Colombia and Venezuela is named after him, as is the country of Bolivia.
Chavez's government is currently carrying out its own investigation into Bolivar's death, and this year a newly inaugurated state forensics laboratory plans to take on the 19th century hero's death as its first case.
Chavez has insisted that Bolivar was murdered by a Colombian political rival, Francisco de Santander, and some analysts warn that revisiting the case could actually worsen already strained relations between the fractious neighbors.
Chavez has compared Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to Santander, who was a close friend and ally of Bolivar before the two men fell out over politics and ideology.
"Uribe is one of the sons of Santander. He is from the same lineage," Chavez said last year after Uribe gave U.S. soldiers more access to Colombian military bases. "We are the sons of Bolivar and we are in that battle," Venezuela's leader added.