Meaning of the Decree of War to the Death of Simón Bolívar

This June 15 marks the 209th anniversary of the proclamation of the War to the Death decree by the Liberator Simón Bolívar in the city of Trujillo, western Venezuela.

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Through this decree, Simón Bolívar asks his compatriots to give a clear response to the crimes committed by the Spanish against the people, after the fall of the First Republic.

For some historians, the War to the Death decree of 1813 was extremely cruel, but others classify it as necessary, since it was the only means to terrify the Spanish, who for several centuries had murdered Venezuelans.

The decree was considered by Bolívar as the fundamental law of the Republic and ratified on September 6, 1813 at the Puerto Cabello headquarters, an event considered by some historians as a “Second Decree of War to the Death”.

“Spaniards and Canarians! Count on death even if you are indifferent, if you do not actively work in favor of the freedom of America. Americans! Count on life even when you are guilty,” says the most outstanding paragraph of the decree.

Meaning of the War to the Death decree

According to the historian and university professor Luís García, beyond terrifying the Spanish and those who have committed crimes against the Venezuelan people, the War to the Death decree allowed Simón Bolívar to meet the groups and people affected by the independence cause.

According to García, the meaning of the proclamation for the fight for independence was to open up the patriot side and thus form the independence forces to face the Spanish Army after the fall of the first republic.

Luís García indicated that from the legitimate legal point of view death and whoever opposed the fight for independence was going to take up arms.

On July 6, 1816, Simón Bolívar decided to humanize the independence struggle and proclaimed the following words “(…) The war to the death that our enemies have waged against us will cease on our part: we forgive those who surrender, even if they are Spanish. No Spaniard will suffer death outside the battlefield.”

On November 26, 1820, Simón Bolívar decides to put an end to the dispute that the people were experiencing, which is why he celebrates in Trujillo, a city where the “war to the death” was decreed, the War Regularization Treaty, which annuls the proclamation of 1813.

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