Photo: kienyke.com

The year 1830 started with Bolívar’s call for the Constituent Congress, in Bogota. The President Libertador was visibly ill when he appeared on January 15, as confirmed by several witnesses. He imposed Antonio José de Sucre as Congress Speaker and Santa Marta bishop, José María Estévez, as vice-president. Strangely, he called the event the “admirable Congress,” which was anything but, especially for him, who attended amidst the deepest of sorrows. Such is the tone of the speech with which he resigned the Presidency and abandoned public life. He appointed Domingo Caicedo as interim president and finished his speech by saying: “Fellow citizens! I blush when I say that independence is the only thing we’ve acquired at the expense of others.”

He had received a letter from Páez in December, saying it was impossible to stop Venezuela’s separatist will, something to be discussed at the Congress, which the Libertador obviously refused to do. He knew Colombia’s dissolution was inevitable; other assemblies were held in 1829, calling citizens to express themselves about the Constitution they wanted: most moved in favor of Colombia’s separation and against Bolívar. So it wasn’t Páez alone supporting this task, as toxic historiography claims, it was also the majority’s will. The Municipality of Valencia issued a resolution, on November 29, 1829, quietly expressing the will of the Congress: “Venezuela must not remain united to New Granada and Quito, because the laws that apply to those territories were not meant for this one, as it’s entirely different in customs, climate and productions, and because they lose validity and strength across such a large span.”

Bolívar had said his last farewell to the great love of his life, his “adorably mad” Manuela, in Bogota. In July, he received other fatal news, perhaps the worst of them: Sucre had been murdered.

On January 13, General Páez assumed the agreement’s mandate with the resolution of the Assembly of Valencia and called for a Constituent Congress, as well as an Executive Cabinet. The Congress was installed in La Casa de la Estrella, in Valencia, May 6, 1830. On May 13, Colombia’s southern department split and established the independent State of Ecuador, under the leadership of Venezuelan Juan José Flores. Bolívar received these news as he travelled to the Colombian coast, defeated and ill. He’d said his last farewell to the great love of his life, his “adorably mad” Manuela, in Bogota. In July, he received other fatal news, perhaps the worst of them: Sucre had been murdered.

Marshal Sucre understood that his work at Bolívar’s side was taking a dark turn and decided to go back to Quito with his wife, Mariana Carcelén, marchioness of Solanda, and their small daughter. He left Bogota for Quito avoiding the path of Buenaventura (that would take him through the Pacific Ocean to Guayaquil), instead choosing to travel by land, which forced him to cross Popayan and Pasto, a historically anti-bolivarian and pro-royalist area. He was murdered with four shots very near the Berruecos forest on the morning of June 4, 1830, when he was crossing the wilderness with a small entourage (less than ten companions).

There’s no doubt about who did it: Apolinar Morillo, José Erazo, Juan Gregorio Sarría, Juan Cuzco, Andrés Rodríguez and Juan Gregorio Rodríguez, a party of guerrilla men, mercenaries and brigands. As for the masterminds, in 1839, Erazo was imprisoned for other motives, and Morillo confessed they did it at the behest of general José María Obando, who was part of the Libertador’s political enemies. There are also letters incriminating general Juan José Flores, who had particular interest in preventing Sucre’s return to Ecuador, as he could challenge his leadership. Also, there’s evidence that general José Hilario López was part of the plot. In any case, it was clearly a politically-driven murder, committed by Bolívar’s enemies who saw Sucre as his legitimate successor.

Sucre was truly an exceptional character in many ways: his virtues were particularly highlighted by his civility.

Much has been written about this. Some try to put the blame on Flores, others on Obando. According to investigations, the person who directly hired the killers was Obando, but Flores and López were both in agreement. Morillo was executed in Bogota’s plaza mayor in 1842, while the other masterminds fared better or died before the trial. If Bolívar truly had a worthy successor, that scarcely 35-year-old prospect died on the forest road between Colombia and Ecuador. It was the last straw for Bolívar’s ailments, who was by then on the coast seeking to leave for Europe, but old and fighting a severe lung infection.

It’s well known that Bolívar held Sucre in extremely high regard. In a letter of February 9, 1825, to Francisco de Paula Santander, he said: “The more I know about your government, the more I realize that you are the hero of American administration, your glory and Sucre’s are unparalleled. If I knew envy, I would envy you both. I am a man of hardships; you are the man of laws and Sucre is the man of war.” Indeed, Sucre’s military accomplishments were undeniable and Bolívar held his magnanimity with his defeated enemies, his charisma and his considerable modesty in great esteem. Sucre was truly an exceptional character in many ways: his virtues were particularly highlighted by his civility.

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