Bolívar against the casinos | Luis Britto Garcia


We will be excused for recapping History when in some respects it appears that we have not learned from it. The death of his wife María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alayza reduces Simón Bolívar to a depression that he tries to dissipate by leading a wasteful life in Europe for a brief period. During it, he incurs the excesses that can be expected of a young man in his youth. Lavish spending, wild dancing, gallant adventures. In Paris, in 1804, he wrote to his cousin Fanny du Villars that, when he met his teacher Simón Rodríguez in Vienna, he "never ceased to reproach the expenses that he called frivolous nonsense". In no document does it appear that frequenting gambling dens was one of his pleasures. What would have happened if instead of swearing on the Aventine Hill the freedom of America, he dedicated his life to squandering his fortune in the gambling houses that heralded the moral decay of Europe?


Lima, 1826. Whoever was a giddy waiter is now a Liberator. In a letter dated May 9, 1826, he reprimanded his nephew Anacleto Clemente: “Tired of hearing the complaints of your mother and your family, I am going to speak to you for the last time taking advantage of the occasion of my aide-de-camp O'Leary who will take you this letter: it will tell you out loud how upset I am by your misconduct and it will give you the order that you immediately go to Venezuela to be with your family, if not to take care of it, at least not to discredit it as you have been doing in Bogota. I am telling you for the last time, Anacleto: if you don't leave Bogotá immediately, if you don't abandon that damn vice of gambling, I will disinherit you forever; I abandon you to yourself. It is a shame for you and your family to see the infamous behavior that you have had in Bogotá, waging sums against your poor mother that a potentate does not spend, abandoning your wife, and, to do what was missing, discrediting the vice president; thus missing your country, your honor, your family and your blood. Is this the payment that you give to the care that I had of taking you to Europe to educate yourself; the one that your mother has had to make you a good man, and in short, is this the way you correspond to the benefits that I have made you? Aren't you ashamed to see that some poor llaneros without education, without the means to obtain it, who have had no school other than that of a guerrilla, have become knights; they have become good men; have they learned to respect themselves just by respecting me? Are you not ashamed, I repeat, to consider that being you my nephew, that having a woman of the most rigid moral as a mother, you are inferior to so many poor guerrillas who have no family other than the homeland? "


Boyta, November 1826. On the march to Venezuela to thwart Páez's secessionist attempt, he spends the night at Boyta's ranch. Perhaps to alleviate the tedium of the march, Bolívar, who had no known vices, played cards with Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander and Messrs. Montoya and Arrubla. His faithful aide Daniel Florencio O'Leary narrates that luck favored the Liberator, so he exclaimed "If I continue like this, I will be the owner of the loan." Santander, who was carrying out a negotiation with Arrubla and Montoya to enrich himself with the excessive debt contracted by the Republic, felt mortally offended. Thus begins the dissent that will lead Bolívar to communicate to him on March 16: "Do not write to me again, because I do not want to respond to you or give you the title of friend," and that will drive Santander to the assassination attempt on September 25, 1828, which shortly it is commemorated.


Bogotá, September 1827. As President, on the 29th of that month, the Liberator sanctions a decree that considers vagrants and subjects those who engage in prohibited games together with the owners of gambling dens to prison, and authorizes the search of such dens to verify the commission of the crime, in order to prevent the demoralization of customs and the ruin of citizens.


Bucaramanga, May 1828. Garrisoned in Bucaramanga to quell Admiral Padilla's rebellion in Cartagena, he talks with Peru La Croix, who states that Bolívar attributes the moral depravity in the country to bad education, the lack of lights and passion for the game, which was widespread in Greater Colombia. Peru Lacroix testifies that the Liberator “nowhere had he seen the passion for the game more generally dominant and stronger than in Colombia”.


Gambling is for Bolívar, in his own words, misconduct, a cursed vice, a crime punishable by imprisonment, an infamous conduct that leads to lack of the homeland, honor, family, blood, ruining and discrediting them. Humiliation, repudiation, embarrassment and deep shame would have caused the Liberator to guess that the Homeland that he swore to emancipate on the Aventine was going to end up infested with gambling dens, gambling machines, gambling dens and casinos, run by gamblers, thieves and money launderers. Shame that undoubtedly all Venezuelans worthy of being share.


Justified is that we honor the memory of the Father of the Nation. It would be consistent for us to respect their work and ideas. Two centuries after receiving independence from him, Venezuela suffers from an infection in gambling dens where, according to Colombian publications, the paramilitaries launder their ill-gotten funds. In the past decade there were more casinos than national universities. A strenuous campaign by Jorge Rodríguez put a stop to them. With the death of Commander Chávez and Jorge dedicated to other transcendent tasks, the gambling dens are rebounding as a new moral pandemic. My friend Jesús Borges Jiménez reports that they appear, among many other places, in Caracas at the Hotel Dubai, the Waldorf, the Tamanaco, the Humbold and Conami. In Miranda they sprout in La Cascada, Macaracuay, La Urbina, Coliseo, Buenaventura. In Aragua, at the Platinum and the Bellagio. In Lara, in Lidotel, Platinum, Ballagio. In Zulia, in Maruma, Del Sur, Inter, Pipo. In Falcón, Baywatch, Tucacas. In Barinas, Center Llanos. In Bolívar, Roraima, Casino Guayana. This despite the fact that opening a gambling house is a crime sanctioned by the current Penal Code. If thus productive industries appeared, we would emerge from the crisis. I do not know if the hope that some capital will be washed in those bottomless pits will justify tolerating such a plague, "thus lacking your country, your honor, your family and your blood."


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