A Florida man filed a lawsuit in Miami federal court Monday, demanding a judge to order the government of Venezuela to return what he claims is rightfully his -Simón Bolívar artifacts.
The lawsuit contends Venezuela borrowed items of the 19th century South American independence leader from Ricardo Devengoechea in 2007 and never returned them. A featured item includes a lock of Bolívar’s hair used by Venezuela to verify the authenticity of his remains buried there.
Other key artifacts include epaulets from a uniform worn by Napoleon Bonaparte, a liberation medal awarded to Bolívar by the government of Perú, as well as numerous documents and letters. The lawsuit states the items were given to Devengoechea’s great-great Colombian grandfather by Bolívar himself.
According to Reuters, the complaint says the items were “taken by the Venezuelan government under the guise of a cooperative investigation with Ricardo Devengoechea into Venezuela’s history.”
The court document also states Venezuela allegedly sent a private jet to Florida to pick up Devengoechea in 2007 and transport the artifacts to the country. He said he spent nearly a month as a guest of Hugo Chávez’s government.
Chávez had Bolívar’s bones exhumed for examination in 2010, ordered a new mausoleum, and unveiled a 3D image of his face based on scans of the Venezuelan hero’s skull.
The complaint also claims that in 2011 Devengoechea met with officials from Venezuela’s Consulate in Miami to make arrangements for the return of the artifacts. However, he states, his requests were ignored.
Bolívar is revered for being a military leader who freed many parts of South America from Spanish rule.
The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington has not commented on the lawsuit.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.