Justo Rufino Barrios

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Justo Rufino Barrios (July 19, 1835 – April 2, 1885) was a President of Guatemala known for his liberal reforms and his attempts to reunite Central America.

Justo Rufino Barrios in 1884

Barrios was born in the village of San Lorenzo, in the department of San Marcos. He was known from his youth for his intellect and energy, went to Guatemala City to study law, and became a lawyer in 1862. In 1867, revolt broke out in western Guatemala, which many residents wished to return to its former status of an independent state as Los Altos. Barrios joined with the rebels in Quetzaltenango, and soon proved himself a capable military leader, and in time gained the rank of general in the rebel army. In July 1871, Barrios, together with other generals and dissidents, issued the "Plan for the Fatherland" proposing to overthrow Guatemala's long entrenched Conservadora (conservative) administration; soon after, they succeeded in doing so, and General García Granados was declared president and Barrios commander of the armed forces. While Barrios was back in Quetzaltenago, García Granados was overthrown by a revolt. Barrios again marched on the capital and became the new president. The Conservative government in Honduras gave military backing to a group of Guatemalan Conservatives wishing to take back the government, so Barrios declared war on the Honduran government. At the same time, Barrios, together with President Luis Bogran of Honduras, declared an intention to reunify the old United Provinces of Central America.

Jose Rufino Barrios, 1880

Barrios instituted a number of reforms, including freedom of the press. He attacked the Catholic Church, limiting its power and confiscating its property. He was elected President in May 1873.

Barrios oversaw substantial cleaning and rebuilding of Guatemala City, and set up a new and accountable police force. He brought the first telegraph lines and railroads to the Republic. He established a system of public schools in the country.

In 1879, a constitution was ratified for Guatemala (the Republic's first as an independent nation, as the old Conservador regime had ruled by decree). In 1880, Barrios was reelected President for a six-year term. Barrios unsuccessfully attempted to get the United States of America to mediate the disputed boundary between Guatemala and Mexico.

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras agreed to reform the Central American Union, but then Salvadoran President Rafael Zaldivar decided to withdraw from the union, and sent envoys to Mexico to join in an alliance to overthrow Barrios. Mexican President Porfirio Díaz feared Barrios' liberal reforms and the potential of a strong Central America as a neighbor if Barrios' plans bore fruit. Díaz sent Mexican troops to seize the disputed land of Soconusco. Meanwhile, Barrios was personally leading the army into El Salvador, where he was killed at Chalchuapa, El Salvador. Much of the hope for a reunited Central America died with him.

Today, his portrait is on the five quetzal bill in Guatemala and the city and port of Puerto Barrios, capital of Izabal, bears his name.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Miguel García Granados
President of Guatemala
Succeeded by
Alejandro M. Sinibaldi