1958 Venezuelan coup d'état

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La Vaca Sagrada, in which Marcos Pérez Jiménez fled to the Dominican Republic.

The 1958 Venezuelan coup d'état took place on 23 January 1958, when the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was overthrown.

A transition government under first Adm. Wolfgang Larrazábal and then Edgar Sanabria was put in place until December 1958 elections saw Democratic Action candidate Rómulo Betancourt elected and take office on 13 February 1959.

One of Caracas' neighbourhoods, Barrio 23 de Enero (23 January neighbourhood), is named for the event.


On 23 January 1958, a civilian-military movement overthrew the government of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The closest precedent for such an event occurred on 1 January of the same year, when warplanes soared into the sky over waking Caracas. The shock was tremendous, even for the supporters of the government, as one month before, there had been a referendum to extend the mandate of Pérez Jiménez to solidify his regime and legitimize the armed forces.

The causes that led to the fall of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez were twofold. Firstly, the military crisis, originating from the above event on 1 January 1958 disrupted the absolute power that until then had belonged to the Armed Forces. A crisis occurred in the leadership of both the Air Force Base in Boca de Río, near the city of Maracay, and the armored body Urdaneta Caracas headquarters commanded by Lt. Col. Hugo Trejo. Secondly, the political crisis within the government itself from the breakdown and fragmentation caused by the December 1957 plebiscite resulted in two successive cabinet changes on 10 and 13 January 1958.

Since the events of 1 January, the Pérez Jiménez regime had begun to publish various manifestos against shaky government that were signed by men and women representing different fields of economic activity, professional, cultural and public, as well as pronouncements of national institutions such as the College of Engineering, the Venezuelan Association of Journalists, labor federations and business sectors, which, until then, had not openly expressed their rejection of the dictatorship. All street actions against the regime peaked in the general strike on 21 January, mobilized by the union of the various political parties, along with students, business leaders and the masses.

In the early hours of 23 January, despite having the support of an important sector of the Armed Forces, Pérez Jiménez decided to abandon the Miraflores Palace and move to La Carlota Airport, located in the city of Caracas, to embark upon a plane to the Dominican Republic. At news of the overthrow, the people took to the streets, looting the houses of the regime's supporters, attacking the headquarters of the National Security and lynching officials.

Also destroyed was the headquarters of the government newspaper El Heraldo. Moreover, in a few hours the Miraflores Palace became the meeting place of the rebels and many political leaders, who proceeded to appoint a Provisional Government Junta that replaced the ousted regime. The Board constituted Adm. Wolfgang Larrazábal, president along with Cols. Luis Carlos Araque, Pedro José Quevedo, Roberto Casanova and Abel Romero Villate. At dawn of 23 January, Venezuelans celebrated the fall of Pérez Jiménez, while protesting the presence of the Governing Board and Romero Casanova Villate perejimenismo members, which eventually were forced to resign and be replaced on 24 January by businessmen Eugenio Mendoza and Blas Lamberti.

To facilitate the work of the Governing Board and the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, a caretaker cabinet was established, composed of lawyers, businessmen and executives and Col. Jesús María Castro León of the Ministry of Defence. Subsequently, the Governing Board called elections for December of that year, released political prisoners across the country, expanding the Patriotic Meeting with representatives of independent sectors, appointing journalist Fabricio Ojeda as chair. It also began the process of punishing returning Jimenista exiles.

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