Carabobo (I) | Vladimir Acosta

We will soon have as Venezuelans the exceptional opportunity to celebrate the two centuries of a historical date as important for our country as that of the military victory that in the Carabobo field and under the command of the Liberator Simón Bolívar made our Independence from Spain a reality, proclaimed in Caracas 10 years before. Venezuelans will celebrate it on June 24.

As is to be expected and correspondingly, the preparation of this patriotic festival, despite the crisis we are experiencing, has been greatly advanced. And it has been accompanied by articles and essays aimed at recreating different themes related to that date. They are many, generally valuable. But as a Venezuelan, patriot, historian and connoisseur of our history, I also want to present some ideas about the socio-historical framework and the political-military process that shaped and led to that victory. I will dedicate three articles to this, starting with this one.

I begin by pointing out three features that I believe are essential to evaluate Carabobo's triumph. Carabobo is an exceptional battle. I am referring of course to the second battle, not the first, that of 1814, also a patriotic victory in that field, but without incidence in reversing the march of the Second Republic towards its total defeat, which occurred at the end of that year.

I find this exception in that: 1. it is the battle that gives independence to Venezuela, although Puerto Cabello had to be liberated later and throughout that decade, royalist guerrillas subsisted in the center of the country; 2. in that it is a full-fledged battle, in which two true armies face each other for the first time on the ground, both disciplined, dressed, uniformed, well-armed, international, one under the Spanish command and the other under the Venezuelan command, and whose The declared objective is to settle the issue of the independence of Venezuela on the battlefield; and 3. in that it is not the chance and surprise encounter between an insurrectionary and poorly armed guerrilla group or a cavalcade of half-naked heroic llaneros brandishing spears against a Spanish army, as happened in most of the brave clashes of previous years, but of a meeting prepared by both forces, inevitable, frontal, necessary, and that clearly seeks to resolve that objective.

With Carabobo, the Venezuelan struggle for independence, which culminates in that battle, shows that it has changed, that its army has been transformed into a powerful and disciplined military force whose popular support has grown and whose command, led by an indefatigable and lucid Bolívar who It has also grown, it is militarily at the level of command and discipline of the Spanish army that it faces to define once and for all the struggle to liberate the homeland from the rule of Spain.

Carabobo is a central product of those changes and of the process that I mentioned earlier. They cover a period of several years. And I believe that the starting point must be placed around the middle of 1818, after the Battle of Semen or Third Battle of La Puerta and the Rincón de los Toros attack.

In reality, the account should begin a year earlier, in 1817, with the liberation of Guyana, which marks a clear break with the past and finally turns the independence struggle into a cause with a future. Liberating Guayana was not the idea of ​​Bolívar but of Piar and the Orientals, who started it with the victories of El Juncal and San Félix. But the one who shapes this achievement, understanding its enormous strategic reach, is Bolívar, who makes it an impregnable base of operations, since the enormous Guiana, separated from the northern half of the country by the Orinoco, opens up to the east in its delta. to the Atlantic and to the west, thanks to the Apure, the western plains and the Andes of Tachira.

But I prefer to locate the starting point of the course to Carabobo in 1818 because it is then that a strategic vision different from the one he maintained until then begins to gain space in Bolívar's mind and because it is this new vision that does lead, along a path convoluted but promising to Carabobo.

Bolívar has been marked since 1813 by that brilliant Admirable Campaign that takes him from triumph to triumph from Cúcuta to Caracas to create the Second Republic, which is lost in 1814. And when he successfully invades Venezuela in 1817 and Guayana is liberated, he only thinks in a successful campaign to liberate Caracas, this time from Angostura or from the plains. Their attempts fail, not only because a similar campaign is unrepeatable but because the Spanish have a powerful army that is not led by the mediocre Monteverde but a true military leader such as Pablo Morillo, winner of the invading Napoleonic troops from Spain. And it is only the costly defeat of Semen in March 1818, whose only success is that Morillo is wounded by a spear, and the surprise attack on the Rincón de los Toros, from which he miraculously emerges alive, which begins to make Bolívar think that the long-awaited liberation of Caracas is going to be more difficult than he thought and that in order to achieve it, it will be necessary to solve key problems and make substantial changes in its struggle, its strategy, its routes, and in the very structure of its troops.

The task that Bolívar assumes: defining and solving those essential problems on which the achievement of Independence depends and making the necessary changes for this, is not at all easy because it is something that must be resolved in the middle of a war that requires prompt decisions and that Like any armed conflict, it is full of rivalries, internal crises and enemy threats. That is why the problems are mixed, they are ridden, and the ideas and possible solutions are only outlined in the middle of that picture. But they are achieved. And it is thanks to this that it is possible to specify and order them as I will try to do in what follows.

In a first phase, the most urgent, there are four main problems that must be solved: 1. Define the vital issue of leadership, which can only be that of Bolívar himself; 2. To have as soon as possible a true army, capable of facing the final battle that is already coming and of winning it; 3. Legitimize the war for independence by endowing it with an elected central power and objectives accepted by all, defined democratically; and 4. Provide that legitimate power with instruments and means of propaganda. These four are then joined by other key and urgent problems that will have to be defined as soon as they arise and which I will examine later.

Leadership was a contentious issue. Bolívar's had already been questioned. Puerto Cabello lost in 1812, which led to the defeat of the First Republic. He made the Admirable Campaign in 1813, but lost the Second Republic in 1814. In 1816, when the invasion of Los Cayos was prepared in Haiti, there was resistance to his being the leader and his absence in Ocumare weighed in the loss of that invasion. Another was prepared from Haiti, Petión demanded that Bolívar lead it and this time everything worked. Since then he has been the leader, organizes Guayana and meets with Páez, who accepts his leadership. But there are problems with the orientals: Mariño, Piar and Arismendi. He had freed Margarita by rejecting Morillo. Mariño was the Liberator of the East and his invasion by Paria preceded that of Bolívar in 1813, liberating the east of the country and defeating Monteverde first. Bolívar had Piar shot, an extreme event, but he needed to convince Mariño and Arismendi of his leadership. And also to Páez, who accepted him as a leader, but did what he wanted. His llaneros fought in the plains where they were invincible and even defeated Morillo, but they refused to fight in mountainous areas that affected the cavalry and because they knew that the invincible ones were the Spanish infantry. The problem was as urgent as it was difficult to solve, and Bolívar had to solve it.

 

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