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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 16:05 GMT
Chavez demands Bolivar bone test
Hugo Chavez delivers a speech in front of a giant bust of Simon Bolivar in Caracas (image from July 1999)
Mr Chavez often uses images of Bolivar as a backdrop for speeches
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said the coffin of 19th Century revolutionary Simon Bolivar should be opened to find out how he died.

Speaking on the anniversary of his hero's death, Mr Chavez said an investigation was needed because some writings suggest he was murdered.

Most accounts maintain Bolivar died from tuberculosis in 1830.

One historian challenged Mr Chavez to produce a single piece of evidence to suggest foul play.

Simon Bolivar is credited with liberating Venezuela and much of Latin America from Spanish rule and is the inspiration behind Mr Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution Movement.

'Moral obligation'

The Venezuelan leader questioned even whether his bones would be found in his coffin, which is interred in a pantheon in Caracas.

"Who knows if they even made Bolivar's bones disappear?" he asked during a five-hour speech on TV.

"We have to determine it now. We have the moral obligation to dispel this mystery, to open... this sacred coffin and check the remains."

Mr Chavez pledged "an investigation with all the resources Venezuela can offer".

Speaking to BBC Mundo, historian Elias Pino Iturrieta called on Mr Chavez to produce a "single scrap of evidence to suggest Bolivar did not die of tuberculosis but was murdered".

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