History of Venezuela
Part of a series on the
|History of Venezuela|
- 1 Pre-Columbian period in Venezuela
- 2 Spanish rule
- 3 Venezuelan independence
- 4 1830–1908
- 5 1908–1958
- 6 1958–1999
- 7 1999-present
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Pre-Columbian period in Venezuela
Archeologists have discovered evidence of the earliest known inhabitants of the Venezuelan area in the form of leaf-shaped flake tools, together with chopping and plano - convex scraping implements exposed on the high riverine terraces of the Pedregal River in western Venezuela. Late Pleistocene hunting artifacts, including spear tips, come from a similar site in northwestern Venezuela known as El Jobo. According to radiocarbon dating, these date from 13,000 to 7000 BC. Taima-Taima, yellow Muaco, and El Jobo in Falcón are some of the sites that have yielded archeological material from these times. These groups co-existed with megafauna like megateriums, glyptodonts, and toxodonts. Archaeologists identify a Meso-Indian period from 7000–5000 BC to 1000 AD. In this period, hunters and gatherers of megafauna started to turn to other food sources and established the first tribal structures. Beginning around 1000 AC archaeologists speak of the Neo-Indian period, which ends with the European Conquest and Colony period. In the 16th century, when Spanish colonization began in Venezuelan territory, the population of several indigenous peoples, such as the Mariches (descendants of the Caribes), declined. Historians[who?] have proposed many reasons for this decline, including exposure to European diseases and the systematic elimination of indigenous tribes for control of resources valued in Europe. Native caciques (leaders), such as Guaicaipuro (c. 1530–1568) and Tamanaco (died 1573), attempted to resist Spanish incursions, but the newcomers ultimately subdued them. Historians agree that the founder of Caracas, Diego de Losada, ultimately put Tamanaco to death.
Christopher Columbus sailed along the eastern coast of Venezuela on his third voyage in 1498, the only one of his four voyages to reach the South American mainland. This expedition discovered the so-called "Pearl Islands" of Cubagua and Margarita off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. Later Spanish expeditions returned to exploit these islands' once abundant pearl oysters, enslaving the indigenous people of the islands and harvesting the pearls so intensively that they became one of the most valuable resources of the incipient Spanish Empire in the Americas between 1508 and 1531, by which time both the local indigenous population and the pearl oysters had become devastated.
The second Spanish expedition, led by Alonso de Ojeda, sailing along the length of the northern coast of South America in 1499, gave the name Venezuela ("little Venice" in Spanish) to the Gulf of Venezuela—because of its imagined similarity to the Italian city.
Klein-Venedig (Little Venice) was the most significant part of the German colonization of the Americas, from 1528 to 1546, in which the Augsburg-based Welser banking family obtained colonial rights in Venezuela Province in return for debts owed by Charles I of Spain. The primary motivation was the search for the legendary golden city of El Dorado. The venture was initially led by Ambrosius Ehinger, who founded Maracaibo in 1529. After the deaths of first Ehinger (1533) and then his successor Georg von Speyer (1540), Philipp von Hutten continued exploration in the interior, and in his absence from the capital of the province the crown of Spain claimed the right to appoint the governor. On Hutten's return to the capital, Santa Ana de Coro, in 1546, the Spanish governor Juan de Carvajal had Hutten and Bartholomeus VI. Welser executed. Subsequently Charles revoked Welser's charter.
By the middle of the 16th century not many more than 2,000 Europeans lived in present-day[update] Venezuela. The opening of gold mines at Yaracuy led to the introduction of slavery[when?], at first involving the indigenous population, then imported Africans. The first real economic success of the colony involved the raising of livestock, much helped by the grassy plains known as llanos. The society that developed as a result — a handful of Spanish landowners and widely-dispersed native herdsmen on Spanish-introduced horses — recalls primitive feudalism, certainly a powerful concept in the 16th-century Spanish imagination that (perhaps more fruitfully) bears comparison in economic terms with the latifundia of antiquity.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the cities that constitute today's Venezuela suffered relative neglect. The Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru (located on the sites formerly occupied by the capital cities of the Aztecs and Incas, respectively) showed more interest in their nearby gold and silver mines than in the remote agricultural societies of Venezuela. Responsibility for the Venezuelan territories shifted to and between the two Viceroyalties.
In the 18th century a second Venezuelan society formed along the coast with the establishment of cocoa plantations manned by much larger importations of African slaves. Quite a number of black slaves also worked in the haciendas of the grassy llanos. Most of the Amerindians who still survived had perforce migrated to the plains and jungles to the south, where only Spanish friars took an interest in them — especially the Franciscans or Capucins, who compiled grammars and small lexicons for some of their languages. The most important friar misión (the name for an area of friar activity) developed in San Tomé in the Guayana Region.
The Province of Venezuela came under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (established in 1717). The Province became the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1777. The Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas held a close monopoly on trade with Europe. The Guipuzcoana company stimulated the Venezuelan economy, especially in fostering the cultivation of cacao beans, which became Venezuela's principal export. It opened Venezuelan ports to foreign commerce, but this recognized a fait accompli. Like no other Spanish American dependency, Venezuela had more contacts with Europe through the British and French islands in the Caribbean. In an almost surreptitious, though legal, manner, Caracas itself had become an intellectual powerhouse. From 1721 it had its own university, which taught Latin, medicine, and engineering, apart (of course) from the humanities. Its most illustrious graduate, Andrés Bello (1781–1865), became the greatest Spanish American polymath of his time. In Chacao, a town to the east of Caracas, there flourished a school of music whose director José Ángel Lamas (1775–1814) produced a few but impressive compositions according with the strictest 18th-century European canons.
Word of Spain's troubles in 1808 in the Napoleonic Wars soon reached Caracas, but only on 19 April 1810 did its "cabildo" (city council) decide to follow the example set by the Spanish provinces two years earlier. On 5 July 1811, seven of the ten provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela declared their independence in the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence. The First Republic of Venezuela was lost in 1812 following the 1812 Caracas earthquake and the Battle of La Victoria (1812). Simón Bolívar led an "Admirable Campaign" to retake Venezuela, establishing the Second Republic of Venezuela in 1813; but this did not last either, falling to a combination of a local uprising and Spanish royalist reconquest. Only as part of Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada in 1819-20 did Venezuela achieve a lasting independence from Spain (initially as part of Gran Colombia).
On 17 December 1819 the Congress of Angostura declared Gran Colombia an independent country. After two more years of war, which killed half of Venezuela's white population, the country achieved independence from Spain in 1821 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Venezuela, along with the present-day[update] countries of Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, formed part of the Republic of Gran Colombia until 1830, when Venezuela separated and became a separate sovereign country.
The First Republic
Some Venezuelans began to grow resistant to colonial control towards the end of the eighteenth century. Spain's neglect of its Venezuelan colony contributed to Venezuelan intellectuals' increased zeal for learning. The colony had more external sources of information than other more "important" Spanish dependencies, not excluding the viceroyalties, although one should not belabor this point, for only the mantuanos (a Venezuelan name for the white Creole elite) had access to a solid education. (Another name for the mantuanos class, grandes cacaos, reflected the source of their wealth. To this day[update] in Venezuela the term can apply to a presumptuous person.) The mantuanos showed themselves presumptuous, overbearing, and zealous in affirming their privileges against the pardo (mixed-race) majority of the population.
The first organized conspiracy against the colonial regime in Venezuela occurred in 1797, organized by Manuel Gual and José María España. It took direct inspiration from the French Revolution,] but was put down with the collaboration of the "mantuanos" because it promoted radical social changes.
European events sowed the seeds of Venezuela's declaration of independence. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe not only weakened Spain's imperial power but also put Britain (unofficially) on the side of the independence movement. In May 1808, Napoleon demanded and received the abdication of Ferdinand VII of Spain and the confirmation of the abdication of Ferdinand's father Charles IV. Napoleon then appointed as King of Spain his own brother Joseph Bonaparte. That marked the beginning of Spain's own War of Independence from French hegemony and partial occupation before the Spanish American wars of independence even began. The focal point of Spanish political resistance, the Supreme Central Junta, was formed to govern in the name of Ferdinand. The first major defeat that Napoleonic France suffered occurred at the Battle of Bailén in Andalusia (July 1808). (At this battle Pablo Morillo, future commander of the army that invaded New Granada and Venezuela; Emeterio Ureña, an anti-independence officer in Venezuela; and José de San Martín, the future Liberator of Argentina and Chile, fought side by side against the French General Pierre Dupont.) Despite this Spanish victory, the French soon regained the initiative and advanced into southern Spain. The Spanish government had to retreat to the island redoubt of Cádiz. Here the Supreme Central Junta dissolved itself and set up a five-person regency to handle the affairs of state until the Cortes Generales could convene.
Word of Spain's troubles in 1808 in the Napoleonic Wars soon reached Caracas, but only on 19 April 1810 did its "cabildo" (city council) decide to follow the example set by the Spanish provinces two years earlier. Other provincial capitals — Barcelona, Cumaná, Mérida, and Trujillo among them — followed suit. Although the new Junta of Caracas had self-appointed élite members who claimed to represent the pardos (free blacks and even slaves), the new government eventually faced the challenge of maintaining the alliance with the pardos. Given recent history these groups still had grievances against the mantuanos. A segment of the mantuanos (among them 27-year-old Simón Bolívar, the future Liberator) saw the setting up of the Junta as a step towards outright independence. On 5 July 1811, seven of the ten provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela declared their independence in the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence.
The Venezuelan War of Independence ensued. It ran concurrently with that of New Granada. The First Republic of Venezuela was lost in 1812 following the 1812 Caracas earthquake and the Battle of La Victoria.
The campaign of 1813 and the Second Republic
Bolívar arrived in Cartagena and was well received, as he was later in Bogotá, where he joined the army of the United Provinces of New Granada. He recruited a force and invaded Venezuela from the southwest by crossing the Andes (1813). His chief lieutenant was the headstrong José Félix Ribas. In Trujillo, an Andean province, Bolívar emitted his infamous Decree of War to the Death with which he hoped to get the pardos and any mantuano who was having second thoughts on his side. At the time that Bolívar was victorious in the west, Santiago Mariño and Manuel Piar, a pardo from the Dutch island of Curaçao, were successfully fighting royalists in eastern Venezuela. Quickly losing ground (much as Miranda had a year earlier) Monteverde took refuge in Puerto Cabello, and Bolívar occupied Caracas, re-establishing the Republic on 6 August 1813, with two "states", one in the west headed by Bolívar and one in the east headed by Mariño. But neither the successful invasions nor Bolívar's decree were provoking a massive enrollment of pardos in the cause of independence. Rather it was the other way around. In the llanos, a populist Spanish immigrant caudillo, José Tomás Boves, initiated a widespread pardo movement against the restored Republic. Bolívar and Ribas held and defended the mantuano-controlled center of Venezuela. In the east, the royalists started recovering territory. After suffering a setback, Mariño and Bolívar joined their forces, but they were defeated by Boves in 1814. Republicans were forced to evacuate Caracas and flee to the east, where, in the port of Carúpano, Piar was still holding out. Piar, however, did not accept Bolívar's supreme command, and once again Bolívar left Venezuela and went to New Granada (1815) (see Bolívar in New Granada).
Gran Colombia and Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada
In Spain in 1820, liberal sections of the military under Rafael del Riego established a constitutional monarchy, which precluded new Spanish invasions of America. Before his recall to Spain, Morillo signed a truce with Bolívar. Morillo left Miguel de la Torre in command of the royalist forces.
The truce ended in 1821 and in Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada Bolívar had all available forces converge on Carabobo, a hilly plain near Valencia, to face de la Torre and Morales. The defeat of the Spanish right in the Battle of Carabobo, which is credited to the British Legions whose commander Thomas Farrier fell, decided the battle. The remnants of the royalists tried to resist in Maracaibo and Puerto Cabello but by 1824 all had been reduced by Mariano Montilla and Jose Prudencio Padilla. After Carabobo, a congress met in Cúcuta, Santander's birthplace, and approved a federalist constitution for Gran Colombia.
Independence from Gran Colombia
In Venezuela, nominally a province of Gran Colombia, José Antonio Páez, backed by the former mantuanos (and now by the ruling clique in Caracas), tentatively initiated the separation of Venezuela in 1826. Bolívar returned post-haste to Bogotá, where vice-president Santander complained about Venezuelan insubordination. Bolívar traveled to Caracas and seemingly put Páez in his place (1827). Sucre left Bolivia the same year. Santander expressed disappointment and furthermore opposed Bolívar's plans to implant the Bolivian constitution in Great Colombia, for which a convention was convoked by Bolívar in the town of Ocaña. Thus began the rivalry between Santander and Bolívar.
In 1828, in view of the political opposition he faced both in Venezuela and in New Granada and because his Great Colombia had started to disintegrate, Bolívar named himself dictator. He escaped an assassination attempt with the help of his mistress, Manuelita Sanz, a pardo woman from Quito. Santander was exiled, but Jose Prudencio Padilla, the pardo general who had helped corner Morales after Carabobo in Maracaibo, was executed[by whom?] instead. The emboldened Peruvians now invaded Guayaquil. Bolívar had to return to Quito in 1829 to repulse them, which didn't take much doing, for the invasion had petered out before Bolívar arrived. Back in Bogotá, Bolívar pleaded for unity and, though he had offered to resign various times during his career, this time, when Great Colombia had a new constitution (not Bolívar's Bolivian one) and a president, Joaquin Mosquera, Bolívar finally did resign in 1830. At that point, Páez not only had declared the second independence of Venezuela but also had promoted a campaign of vituperation against Bolívar. Seeing the state of things, Quito followed suit under Venezuelan general Juan José Flores, and Sucre was assassinated while riding alone through a thick forest on his way to that city. A downcast Bolívar rode to the coast with the intention of leaving the country, but he was truly exhausted and very sick. He died near Santa Marta in Colombia at the age of 47.
Following the Venezuelan War of Independence (part of the Spanish American wars of independence), Venezuela initially won independence from the Spanish Empire as part of Gran Colombia. Internal tensions led to the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830/31, with Venezuela declaring independence in 1831. For the rest of the nineteenth century, independent Venezuela saw a range of caudillos (strongmen) compete for power. Leading political figures include José Antonio Páez (a leading figure particularly 1829–1847), Antonio Guzmán Blanco (1870–1887) and Cipriano Castro (1899–1908).
In a succession of rebellions, the Federal War (1858–1863) was particularly bloody and saw the establishment of the modern system of States of Venezuela (replacing the Provinces of Venezuela largely inherited from the colonial era). The start of the 20th century saw several notable international crises: the Venezuela Crisis of 1895 under Joaquín Crespo (regarding a dispute with Britain over Guayana Esequiba) and the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903 (regarding Venezuela's refusal to pay foreign debts) under Cipriano Castro.
Juan Vicente Gómez (1908–1935)
López Contreras and Medina Angarita (1935–1945)
El Trienio Adeco (1945–1948)
El Trienio Adeco was a three-year period in Venezuelan history, from 1945 to 1948, under the government of the popular party Democratic Action (Accion Democratica, its adherents adecos). The party gained office via the 1945 Venezuelan coup d'état against President Isaías Medina Angarita and held the first elections with universal suffrage in Venezuelan history. The Venezuelan general election, 1947 saw Democratic Action formally elected to office, but it was removed from office shortly after in the 1948 Venezuelan coup d'état.
There was no particular incident that set off the bloodless 1948 coup, which was led by Delgado Chalbaud. There was no popular opposition. This might have meant that the odds were too great or that the general populace had not noticed any particular improvement in their lives despite the incessant government propaganda. All prominent adecos were expelled. The other parties were allowed but muzzled.
Venezuela saw ten years of military dictatorship from 1948 to 1958. After the 1948 Venezuelan coup d'état brought an end to a three-year experiment in democracy ("El Trienio Adeco"), a triumvirate of military personnel controlled the government until 1952, when it held presidential elections. These were free enough to produce results unacceptable to the government, leading them to be falsified and to one of the three leaders, Marcos Pérez Jiménez, assuming the presidency. His government was brought to an end by the 1958 Venezuelan coup d'état, which saw the advent of democracy with a transitional government under Admiral Wolfgang Larrazábal in place until the December 1958 elections. Prior to the elections, three of the main political parties (with the notable exclusion of the Communist Party of Venezuela) signed up to the Punto Fijo Pact power-sharing agreement.
The Betancourt administration
Leoni and first Caldera administrations
First Carlos Andrés Pérez administration
Herrera Campins and Lusinchi administrations
Second Pérez administration
Pérez proved less generous with hand-outs than previously. Despite being elected after a populist, anti-neoliberal campaign during which he described the IMF as "a neutron bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing" and painted World Bank economists as "genocide workers in the pay of economic totalitarianism", he had become a closet liberalizer and globalizer. Moisés Naím, later an influential journalist in the United States and the editor of the journal Foreign Policy, served as Pérez's economic adviser and defined the presidential economic agenda, which included no price controls, privatizations, and laws (or their elimination) to attract foreign investment. Naím began at the lowest rung of economic liberalization, which was freeing controls on prices and a ten percent increase in the cost of gasoline, which in Venezuela is sacrosanctly very low. The increase in petrol price fed into a 30 percent increase in fares for public transportation. In February 1989, barely into his second term, Pérez faced a popular uprising, which he had the army crush with a death toll of 276, according to government officials. It is known as the "caracazo" (from "Caracas"), where the rioting and looting took place on an unforeseen scale. (Chávez at that time was working on a political science degree at the Simón Bolívar University.)
Pérez and Naím went on with their reforms, which had the full backing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Venezuelan economy started picking up but only slightly. Rightly or wrongly, Pérez, who after his first presidency had become a rich man, was singled out[by whom?] as Mr. Corruption himself.
The MBR officers started plotting seriously, and on 4 February 1992 they struck. Chávez was a lieutenant-colonel, but generals were involved in the coup attempt. They saw as their first priority the capture Pérez, who had recently returned from a junket. They almost had him cornered in the presidential palace, but he managed to escape to the presidential residence and from there he got loyal troops to corner Chávez in turn and to arrest him. In exchange for prompting his co-conspirators to lay down their arms, Chávez, fully uniformed and unbowed, gained permission to speak on television to the entire nation. This led to quite some discussion after he said his objectives hadn't been reached "just yet". Several civilians and military were killed[by whom?] during the uprising.
On 27 November 1992, officers of higher rank than Chávez tried to overthrow Pérez, but on this occasion the authorities suppressed the conspiracy easily. Pérez's downfall came when a legal process was begun to force him to reveal how he had used a secret but legal presidential fund, which he resolutely resisted. With the supreme court and congress ranged against him, Pérez was imprisoned — for a while in a detention center, then later under house-arrest. In 1993 Pérez handed over the presidency to Ramón J. Velásquez, an adeco politician/historian who had been his presidential secretary. Though nobody has charged Velásquez with corruption, his son became involved in an illegal pardon for drug traffickers but was not charged. Velázquez oversaw the elections of 1993, and these were at once familiar and unique.
Second Caldera administration
Caldera, who had been candidate for the presidency six times and won once, wanted to have another go, but COPEI this time resisted, led by Herrera Campins, and Caldera founded his own brand-new political movement, called Convergencia. COPEI chose a mediocrity from within its ranks. The adecos chose Claudio Fermín. Petkoff had seen the futility of trying again and backed Caldera. Even Velázquez got into the act. When the returns were in, Caldera won and in the process shattered the strict bipolarity thesis. Abstentions reached a record of 40%. The main reason Caldera, who was 86 years old, won was in essence the same as for Pérez's victory in 1973: Everybody knew him, and the middle classes, probably decisive for the only time in Venezuela's history, thought that he could do the miracle that had been expected of Pérez. That is, in some manner to get the country back on track to the "good old times".
Once back in the presidential palace, Caldera had to confront the Venezuelan banking crisis of 1994. He re-imposed exchange controls, which Pérez's administration had lifted as part of a general financial liberalization (unaccompanied by effective regulation, which contributed to the banking crisis). The economy had suffered under the falling oil price, which led to a collapse in government revenues. The steel corporation Sidor was privatized, and the economy continued to plummet. Fulfilling an election promise, Caldera released Chávez and pardoned all the military and civilian conspirators during the Pérez regime. The economic crisis continued, and by the 1998 elections the traditional political parties had become extremely unpopular; an initial front-runner for the presidency in late 1997 was Irene Saez. Ultimately Hugo Chávez Frías was elected President.
Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution
Hugo Chávez, a former paratroop lieutenant-colonel who led an unsuccessful coup d'état in 1992, was elected President in December 1998 on a platform that called for the creation of a "Fifth Republic", a new constitution, a new name ("the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela"), and a new set of social relations between socioeconomic classes. In 1999, voters approved a referendum on a new constitution and in 2000, re-elected Chávez, also placing many members of his Fifth Republic Movement political party in the National Assembly. Supporters of Chávez call the process symbolised by him the Bolivarian Revolution and were organised into different government-funded groups, including the Bolivarian Circles.
In April 2002, Chávez was briefly ousted from power in the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt following popular demonstrations by his opposers, but he was returned to power after two days as a result of popular demonstrations by his supporters and actions by the military.
Chávez also remained in power after an all-out national strike that lasted more than two months in December 2002–February 2003, including a strike/lockout in the state oil company PDVSA and an August 2004 recall referendum. He was elected for another term in December 2006. In December 2007 in a constitutional referendum, Chávez suffered his first electoral defeat when the voters rejected constitutional changes proposed by the president, some of which would have increased the power of the presidency. The referendum saw a very high level of abstention by the standards of recent polls in Venezuela. However, in February 2009 Chavez called another referendum, proposing the removal of term limits for all elected officials (previously, the constitution limited presidents to two terms, and other officials also had term limits). The referendum took place on February 15, 2009, and was approved.
The 2010 parliamentary elections saw a new opposition electoral coalition, the Coalition for Democratic Unity, win nearly as large a share of the vote as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) but with only 65 seats compared to PSUV's 98. The election was preceded by an electoral reform that favoured PSUV by giving more weight to the countryside. The 2012 presidential elections saw Hugo Chávez re-elected by a substantial margin, but he died in office in early 2013. He was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro (initially as interim President before narrowly winning the 2013 presidential elections).
On 13 May 2013, President Nicolas Maduro initiated one of his first plans, Plan Patria Segura, saying "we have decided to fight to build a secure homeland". The plan included the placement of 37,000 authorities throughout the country. The goal of Plan Patria Segura to disarm, prevent organized crime and drug enforcement. The methods of accomplishing these tasks were through surveillance, checking documents, verification checkpoints and to help guide communities.
A year after the plan was initiated, no changes in crime had been reported since murder rates throughout the country remained the same.
In October 2013, Maduro requested an enabling law to rule by decree in order to fight corruption and to also fight what he called an 'economic war'. On 24 October, he also announced the creation of a new agency, the Vice Ministry of Supreme Happiness, to coordinate all social programmes. In November 2013, weeks before the local elections, President Maduro used his special decree powers and ordered the military to take over appliance stores. Analysts said that the move amounted to a "cannibalizing" of the economy and that it might lead to even more shortages in the future. An article by The Guardian noted that a "significant proportion" of the subsidized basic goods in short supply were being smuggled into Colombia and sold for far higher prices. In February 2014, the government said it had confiscated more than 3,500 tons of contraband on the border with Colombia—food and fuel which, it said, was intended for "smuggling" or "speculation." The president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, said that the confiscated food should be given to the Venezuelan people, and should not be “in the hands of these gangsters.”
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- History of the Americas
- History of Latin America
- History of South America
- Politics of Venezuela
- Presidents of Venezuela
- Second Republic of Venezuela
- Spanish colonization of the Americas
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