Saturday, April 20

Why the sword of Bolívar is so important for Colombia

  • It is the sword of the independence hero Simon Bolivar, stolen in 1974 by the M-19 guerrilla

The investiture ceremony of Gustavo Petro as Colombia’s first leftist ruler had an unexpected pause on account of a sword loaded with symbolism and that ended up sowing discord between the incoming and outgoing governments.

“As president of Colombia I ask the Military House to bring the sword of Bolívar. It is an order of the popular mandate and of this president,” Petro said in his first decision as soon as he was sworn in.

Only until the weapon was taken from the presidential headquarters to the Bolivar plaza, where the act was taking place, the new president gave his investiture speech.

It is the sword of the independence hero Simon Bolivar. stolen in 1974 by the M-19 guerrillas, of which Petro was a part, the sword was returned in 1991 after the disarmament of that organization.

The now former president Iván Duque, staunch opponent of Petro, refused to give it up for the ceremony.

Finally it was taken to the Plaza de Bolívar in a glass case by four members of the presidential guard who complied with the first order of the new president.

“Arriving here, next to this sword, for me is a lifetime, a resistance. This sword represents too much for us.” Peter pointed out.

Among those invited to the ceremony was Carlos Sánchez, a veteran former M-19 guerrilla who participated in the robbery of the sword

Gathered with other former comrades-in-arms in front of the museum from which they extracted it, Sánchez recalls the exact spot where you parked the car that afternoon of January 17, 1974.

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Breaking the window to take the sword

He was waiting for the departure of two guerrillas, including Álvaro Fayad, who dressed in a Mexican zarape entered the Quinta de Bolívar, he broke the glass showcase where the sword was and took it.

“They came out with their swords under their sarapes, they got into the car and, when I went to start it, it turned off”, Sánchez said in dialogue with AFP.

Finally, he says, he was able to turn it on with the help of strangers, no chase or shots involved.

Sánchez then placed the sword on a map of Latin America and he took a photo in which a machine gun and an M-19 sign also appear.

The image was published in the local press with the caption: “Bolivar’s sword appeared. It’s in Latin America!” It was the letter of introduction of a new nationalist urban guerrilla.

That same year, Sánchez handed over the rusty gold-handled weapon to the then guerrilla commander, Jaime Bateman, in Bogota.

From there the mystery surrounds the relic, which went through several hiding places to avoid the fierce search military until ending up in Cuba.

In 1990 the M-19 signed peace and became a political party and the following year the leader Antonio Navarro traveled to Venezuela to receive the sword of the Cuban diplomat Norberto Hernández, According to what Navarro himself told the Cambio portal.

The sword reappeared in public in July 2020, when Duque took her to the government palace to commemorate the 237th anniversary of the birth of Bolívar.

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Duke he showed it to Petro in a private meeting after the victory of the ex-guerrilla in the presidential elections in June.

“The sword has so many stories that today it will add one more: of why it took so long to arrive at this square”, commented the new ruler.

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