Marcos Pérez Jiménez

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Marcos Pérez Jiménez
Marcos Pérez Jiménez.jpg
President of Venezuela
In office
2 December 1952 – 23 January 1958
Provisional until 19 April 1953
Preceded byGermán Suárez Flamerich
Succeeded byWolfgang Larrazábal
30th Commander-in-Chief of the Venezuelan Army
In office
November 1948 – August 1954
Preceded byCarlos Delgado Chalbaud
Succeeded byHugo Fuentes
Minister of Defense
In office
18 October 1948 – 1 January 1952
Preceded byCarlos Delgado Chalbaud
Succeeded byJesús M. Castro León
Personal details
BornMarcos Evangelista Pérez Jiménez
(1914-04-25)25 April 1914
Táchira, Venezuela
Died20 September 2001(2001-09-20) (aged 87)
Alcobendas, Spain
Spouse(s)Flor María Chalbaud
Children4 daughters
Alma materMilitary academy of Venezuela
ProfessionMilitary officer
Military service
Allegiance Venezuela
Service/branchVenezuelan Army
Years of service1931–1958
RankRGeneralDivision 1.jpg Divisional General

Marcos Evangelista Pérez Jiménez (25 April 1914 – 20 September 2001) was a Venezuelan military and general officer of the Army of Venezuela and the leader of Venezuela from 1950 to 1958, ruling as unelected military strongman from 1948 to 1950 and as President from 1952 to 1958.

His ruling period is characterized by the rise of oil prices[1][2] facilitating public works achievements, thanks to the war in Korea.[3] He followed the previous programs to eradicate many of Venezuela's rapidly growing slums, but mainly in Caracas. During the governments of Juan Vicente Gómez, Eleazar López Contreras and Isaías Medina Angarita, were created these programs.[4][5][6][7] Pérez presided over one of the most repressive governments in Latin America. His government's National Security (Seguridad Nacional, secret police) was extremely repressive against critics who tried to overthrow him by planting bombs against him and ruthlessly hunted down and imprisoned those who opposed his rule.

As a result of the debts contracted by the dictatorship,[8] the discontent of the national private sector, the adverse position of the Catholic Church[9], the cruelty of the dictatorship[10], the massive demonstrations against repression by the government and the predicted economic crisis, Marcos Pérez Jiménez was deposed in a coup d'état by disgruntled sectors within the Armed Forces of Venezuela on January 23, 1958[11][9].. The expansion of the Venezuelan economy was based on the indebtedness of the Venezuelan nation and that was one of the causes of the economic crisis in Venezuela in the sixties[11], in which important projects such as the El Recreo Urban Center of Marcel Brauer on Casanova Avenue (Sabana Grande) were paralyzed. In the 1960s, the construction sector suffered a deep crisis as a result of the economic waste of the Pérez Jiménez government. The sectors that defend militarism have promoted the management of Pérez Jiménez, in order to delegitimize the Civil Power. Pérez Jiménez then went into exile in the Dominican Republic and the United States from where he was extradited from the city of Miami. Finally he resided in Spain under the protection of the Franco regime. The CIA report in 1961 states that the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez generated the economic crisis that Venezuela experienced in the 1960s.[12]

Early life, education and early career[edit]

Marcos Evangelista Pérez Jiménez was born in Michelena, Táchira State. His father, Juan Pérez Bustamante, was a farmer; his mother, Adela Jiménez, a schoolteacher. Pérez Jiménez attended school in his home town and in Colombia, and in 1934, he graduated from the Military academy of Venezuela, at the top of his class. He subsequently studied at Chorrillos Military School in Peru.

In 1945, Pérez Jiménez participated in a coup that helped install the founder of the Democratic Action, Rómulo Betancourt, as President of the Revolutionary Government Junta. The government would later become known as El Trienio Adeco. After a constitutional change providing universal suffrage, elections were held in 1947 that resulted in the election of a party member, Romulo Gallegos.

1948 coup d'etat[edit]

Fears of cuts in pay for soldiers and a lack of modernized army equipment led Pérez Jiménez and Lt. Colonel Carlos Delgado Chalbaud to stage another coup in 1948. Betancourt and Gallegos were exiled, political parties were suppressed, and the Communist Party was once again banished by the Military Junta headed by Delgado Chalbaud, Luis Felipe Llovera Páez and Pérez Jiménez.

After a clumsily arranged kidnapping that ended in the murder of Delgado Chalbaud, the Military Junta changed its name to a Government Junta, and reorganized itself with Pérez Jiménez pulling the strings of puppet President, Germán Suárez Flamerich.


A house of Marcos Pérez Jiménez that featured fountains, a pool, an elevator, an observatory and tunnels.

The junta called an election for 1952 in order to elect a Constituent Assembly that would elect a president and draft a new constitution. When early results showed that the opposition was well on its way to victory, the junta halted the count. On 2 December 1952, it released "final" results that showed the pro-junta "Independent Electoral Front" (FEI) winning a majority of assembly seats. On the same day, the junta dissolved itself and turned over power to the military, who then made Pérez provisional president. The Constitutional Assembly, comprising only FEI delegates after an opposition boycott, formally elected him president on 19 April 1953. Soon afterward, it enacted a constitution that gave the president virtually unlimited powers to take measures he deemed necessary to protect national security, peace and order.[13] For all intents and purposes, it transformed Pérez Jiménez' presidency into a legal dictatorship.

Pérez Jiménez (widely known as "P.J.") changed the name of the country, which had been "United States of Venezuela" since 1864, to the "Republic of Venezuela". This name remained until 1999, when it was changed to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by a Constitutional referendum. (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela.)

During his government, Pérez Jiménez undertook many infrastructure projects, including construction of roads, bridges, government buildings, large public housing complexes and the symbolic Humboldt Hotel & Tramway overlooking Caracas. Most of these projects had already been initiated by the governments of López Contreras, Medina Angarita and Trienio Adeco.[14][15] The economy of Venezuela developed rapidly during his term, but Perez Jimenez generated a huge debt that had to be paid by Rómulo Betancourt. The price for his "development" was really high.

Intolerant of criticism, Pérez and his government ruthlessly pursued and suppressed the opposition. Opponents of his regime were painted as communists[16] and often treated brutally.[17] On 12 November 1954, Pérez was awarded the Legion of Merit by the government of the United States.[18][19] Foreign capital and immigration were also highly promoted during his presidency, especially from European communities such as those of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese origin. The immigration started before, however. During the governments of Eleazar Lopez Contreras and Isaías Medina Angarita, large waves of immigrants had already been experienced. [20] In 1938, several ships of Jewish immigrants left Hamburg (Germany). Venezuela was the only country that received them, despite the threats of Hitler. Venezuelan laws prohibited López Contreras from accepting the entry of Jews, but López Contreras made the sacrifice of receiving the refugees.

According to some political scientists, the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez could have been personalist [21]. In the last years of his government, Marcos Pérez Jiménez had stopped listening to his own Ministers, according to their statements[22].Pérez Jiménez did not listen to anyone, according to the confession of his Ministers. Public debt accumulated[23] and Pérez Jiménez changed the subject. The national businessmen were dissatisfied with their government, as a result of corruption, the bad conditions to make a business in Venezuela, the concessions of the transnationals, etc. It is still discussed whether the Pérez Jiménez government was nationalist or not. [24] According to IESA researchers, the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez was not characterized by being a nationalist and liberal government[24]. Democratic sectors have pointed out that this was an authoritarian government, subservient to transnational corporations, undemocratic and not very liberal. [25] Pérez Jiménez defended himself in his book Frente a la Infamia, but avoids addressing the issue of public debt. [26] The most balanced sectors of national life have suggested that the government of Pérez Jiménez is the antecedent of the statism of democratic governments, although some media have created another opinion matrix. It is prudent to point out that statism had begun before Pérez Jiménez and this became the line of government from López Contreras. The 1947 constitution reaffirmed it. [27] It should be noted that state capitalism can be successful in some cases. The issue has been addressed from different perspectives.

Pérez Jiménez was up for reelection in 1957. By this time, the opposition had been so cowed that Pérez Jiménez could not possibly have been defeated. However, he dispensed with even those formalities. Instead, he held a plebiscite in which voters could only choose between voting "yes" or "no" to another term for the president. Predictably, Pérez Jiménez won by a large margin, though by all accounts the count was blatantly rigged.

Economy and the Venezuelan debt[edit]

State interventionism[edit]

The government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez had strong elements of Keynesianism. During Pérez Jiménez's administration, the State intervened areas of the economy that were previously carried out by private companies. By September 1952, the CVF had - wholly or partially - electric power plants, a textile industry, a vegetable oil plant, a sugar plantation and refinery, farms, a diamond mine, silos, beef cattle and milk , milk pasteurization plants and canned fish companies. The national private sector did not have strong incentives to grow. [28] Although some sectors have promoted it as a government of liberal capitalism, the truth is that state capitalism was the economic line of government. The State was the great national shareholder of big hotel chains like Sheraton. The economic policies of Pérez Jímenez can be considered a precedent of those applied by subsequent democratic governments. [29] Most of the investments came from the United States of America and the transnationals of this country were the great beneficiaries of the economic measures adopted during their government.[28] National private entrepreneurs criticized Pérez Jiménez's government for its excessive intervention in the economy and for the privileges that transnationals had.[14] The CIA recognizes in its reports that the government of Pérez Jiménez caused the subsequent economic crisis of the 1960s.[30]

The economic indicators of Venezuela during the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez showed growth in some sectors of the economy (construction), low inflation and high levels of employment, although the balance of payments and government finances showed a worrying fiscal disorder[31].Venezuela's debt grew more than 25 times and went from 175 million to more than 4 thousand 500 million dollars in just 5 years (approximately 40 billion dollars in 2018). The malaise for the debts of Venezuela reached the barracks and the national business. Pérez Jiménez responded that: "there is no debt, but commitments". The Finance Minister failed to convince Pérez Jiménez to order the cancellation of debts.[32] As of January 14, 1958, the Venezuelan business community decided to divorce itself completely from the regime, nine days before the final collapse. [31] Fiduciary currencies lose value over time. It is not the same to talk about a dollar of 1958, that of a dollar in 2018. There are calculators that estimate the purchasing power of the dollar spent today.

Venezuelan debt[edit]

The expansion of the Venezuelan economy was based on the indebtedness of the Venezuelan nation and that was one of the causes of the economic crisis in Venezuela in the 1960s[33], in which important projects such as the Urban Center El Recreo de Marcel Brauer on Avenida Casanova (Sabana Grande) were paralyzed.[34] Under the doctrine of the "New National Ideal" was carried out the continuity of the modernization project of Venezuela, based on what had been previously planned by Juan Vicente Gómez (the Modern State father in a Weberian sense in Venezuela), Eleazar López Contreras and Isaías Medina Angarita, going from having rural populations to being one of the references of modernism in Latin America[33].

The 1950s have been considered an economic bubble that was based on oil production and public works construction[23][35][15]. Oil production went from 1.80 million barrels per day (quoted at 2.14 dollars) to 2.77 million barrels per day (quoted at 2.65 dollars), according to data from the Ministry of Energy and Mines. In turn According to the Statistics Division of the United Nations in its Statistical Yearbook of 1964, the growth of the Venezuelan economy from 1952 to 1958 was the highest in the Western Hemisphere, above powers such as the United States, and the United Kingdom. It should be noted that, most economies that grow at very high rates without having experienced a war, may be experiencing some kind of economic bubble. The ambitious program of public works and investments in basic industries had a cost that exceeded the fiscal availabilities. Public credit was not used formally and a high floating debt was incurred, derived more than anything from back payments from public works contractors and, on the other, in strong commitments made by autonomous institutes and companies of the State through the issuance of titles and promissory notes.[23] Venezuela did not have the ideal rate of economic growth.

Venezuela's growth was not sustainable in this period. The debt of private construction companies had grown disproportionately and that was one of the reasons that led to Marcos Pérez Jiménez's departure from power. The finances of many construction companies felt the imminence of a bankruptcy. The government had to go to the autumn of new oil concessions in 1956 and 1957 to solve the financial difficulties and the huge debt that had been incurred. Thanks to these concessions, the Government received 2.188 billion bolivars as tax revenue and that allowed it to mitigate the effects of Venezuela's deteriorating fiscal situation. Fred Levy noted that the balance of payments and government finances were evidence of the fiscal disorder of the dictatorship.[36]

Venezuelan bolivar[edit]

Some Venezuelan journalists have pointed out that the Venezuelan bolivar came to be worth more than the US dollar, but this has been refuted by economists, academics and researchers. According to some notes published in the news website Caraota Digital, the Venezuelan bolivar became the first reserve currency in the world and surpassed the US dollar [37]. According to data from Central Bank of Venezuela [38] and the National Academy of Economic Sciences[39][40] , between 1953 and 1957 Venezuela had a fixed official exchange of 3.35 Bs. Per US dollar. The annual reports of the Bank for International Settlements also confirm that the Venezuelan currency never came to be worth more than the US dollar.[41] This suggests that, it has been an urban legend that the bolivar came to surpass the US dollar.[42] What is certain is that the Venezuelan currency had greater stability. It should be noted that the controls on the Venezuelan currency already existed and that is why the exchange rate was set by the Central Bank of Venezuela. The exchange rate was not floating and fixed by the markets. [40] The economist Pedro Palma calls this scheme the system of fixed and differentiable exchange rates (1941-1960).

Ciudad Vacacional Los Caracas[edit]

The Ciudad Vacacional Los Caracas was originally an agricultural community for the leprosy patients that had to be isolated, as part of the Sanitary Plans of the Ministry of Health. Marcos Pérez Jiménez changed his use and turned the Colonia Agrícola-Leprosario into a holiday town, harming the sick. [43] Actually, this was a project of the government of Isaías Medina Angarita, but the propaganda apparatus of the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez has sold it as his own. The change of destiny of the agricultural community was one of the greater gestures of cruelty of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

Originally, the conception of the Agricultural-Leprosarium Colony of Los Caracas, pursued from the beginning the integration of its inhabitants with the natural environment, in a symbiosis of urban life inserted in the middle of a nature with minimal intervention of man. Both in its origin as a care center for Hansen's disease or leprosy, and in its transformation into a holiday resort, this semi-utopian ambition of its planners is present, which coincided with the old western nineteenth-century ambition to harmonize city and nature. The government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez gave priority to recreation, beautification of cities and tourism. Health was not a priority for Pérez Jiménez. [43]

Also, the government was characterized by excessive repression of dissent. The historian Manuel Vicente Magallanes, prisoner of the dictatorship, told that in the National Security premises of the whole republic the political prisoners were subjected to the following forms of torture: ice chamber, ring, blows with steel balls, electric headbands , planks, tortoles and other refined forms of physical abuse. At that time, Plaza Colón of Los Caobos neighborhood was the epicenter of the student protests. In the celebration of the day of the race in 1951, several Venezuelans who fought for freedom were captured: José Amin, Miguel Astor Martínez, Antonio Avila Barrios, Francisco Barrios, Federico was, Gerardo was, Luis José was, Dario Hernández, Manuel Vicente Magallanes, Eloy Martínez Méndez, Meza Espinosa Salon and Juan Regalado. This group was known as "The Twelve Apostles", for having been 12 people arrested in the demonstrations on October 12. The twelve apostles were forced to stand together for three days, deprived of doing the most elementary needs. Then, each one was tortured in a personalized way. [44]

Infrastructure projects[edit]

Continuity of infrastructure projects[edit]

The media and the "perezjimenista" propaganda apparatus have spread that Pérez Jiménez carried out the great works in infrastructure that exist today in Venezuela[45], but that has not been supported by the great academies, chambers of commerce, universities and national associations[46][47]. It has been suggested that the merit that Pérez Jiménez has received should be shared between the previous and subsequent governments, since most of the public works he executed had not been planned by him. Neither Pérez Jiménez initiated the construction of these works and the distribution of merit according to the contribution of each government has been unfair.. [47] President Marcos Pérez Jiménez gave continuity to the Venezuelan modernization project, previously planned by Eleazar López Contreras, Isaías Medina Angarita and the Triennium. As Juan Martín Frechilla points out, the Rotival Plan had been planned before Pérez Jiménez and was executed in the governments of López Contreras and Isaías Medina Angarita. The construction of the Simón Bolívar Center Towers began in the 1940s, but they were completed by Pérez Jiménez. It is possible to emphasize that, some works initiated by him, were culminated by Rómulo Betancourt, like the Cable car of Mérida. [47]

The works of the government of Marcos Pérez Jiménez were the following:

  • Paseo Los Próceres.
  • Hotel Humboldt
  • Neighborhood 2 de Diciembre, Ciudad Tablitas, Artigas, Lomas de Urdaneta, Propatria, etc.

Projects that were culminated by the democratic governments, after the military government of Pérez Jiménez:

  • Teleférico de Mérida. Culminated by Rómulo Betancourt, in spite of the economic crisis that generated the debt of Pérez Jiménez.
  • The Rinconada Racetrack.

Some of the projects that were planned and started by Eleazar López Contreras, Isaías Medina Angarita and the Adeco Triennium, but that Pérez Jiménez continued:

  • Caracas - La Guaira Highway.
  • Simón Bolívar Center and Torres del Silencio
  • Regional Highway of the Center.
  • Valle-Coche highway.
  • Urdaneta Avenue.
  • Francisco de Miranda Avenue.
  • Libertador Avenue.
  • Francisco Fajardo Highway
  • Caracas Cable Car
  • Military Circle of Caracas.
  • The University City of Caracas (executed between 1944 and 1970).

Projects of previous governments, but that Pérez Jiménez changed its use:

  • The Vacational City "Los Caracas", formerly a community for leprosy patients. Pérez Jiménez damaged them when he turned it into a vacation town.

Cabinet (1952–1958)[edit]

Removal from power[edit]

The first public demonstration against the Pérez Jiménez regime occurred on March 27, 1957. Aaron Copland had come to Caracas to conduct the first Venezuelan performance of his Lincoln Portrait. A New York Times reviewer said it had a "magical effect" on the audience. As Copland recalled, "To everyone's surprise, the reigning dictator, who had rarely dared to be seen in public, arrived at the last possible moment." On that evening actress Juana Sujo performed the spoken-word parts of the piece. When she spoke the final words, "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people (del pueblo, por el pueblo y para el pueblo) shall not perish from the earth," the audience rose and began cheering and shouting so loudly that Copland could not hear the remainder of the music. He continued, "It was not long after that the dictator was deposed and fled from the country. I was later told by an American foreign service officer that the Lincoln Portrait was credited with having inspired the first public demonstration against him. That, in effect, it had started a revolution."[49][50]

Statue of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in Michelena, Táchira

In January 1958 there was a general uprising, leading to the 1958 Venezuelan coup d'état that deposed Pérez; with rioting in the streets, he left the country, paving the way for the establishment of the Punto Fijo Pact.


Pèrez fled to the United States, where he lived until 1963, when he was extradited to Venezuela on charges of embezzling $200 million during his presidential tenure. The 1959–63 extradition of Perez, related to Financiadora Administradora Inmobiliaria, S.A., one of the largest development companies in South America, and other business connections, is considered by academicians to be a classic study in the precedent for enforcement of administrative honesty in Latin American countries.[51]

Upon arrival in Venezuela he was imprisoned until his trial, which did not take place for another five years. Convicted of the charges, his sentence was commuted as he had already spent more time in jail while he awaited trial. He was then exiled to Spain. In 1968, he was elected to the Senate of Venezuela for the Nationalist Civic Crusade, but his election was contested, and he was kept from taking office. A quick law was passed whereby former prisoners were excluded from participating in the governmental process.

He died in Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain, at the age of 87 on 20 September 2001.

Legacy and controversy[edit]

The admiration of Hugo Chávez[edit]

On April 25, 2010, former President Hugo Chávez commented on his program Aló Presidente: "I think that General Pérez Jiménez was the best president that Venezuela had in a long time. (...) It was better than Rómulo Betancourt, it was better I'm not going to name them (...) They hated him because he was a soldier. " He also added: "Look, if it had not been for General Pérez Jiménez, do you think we would have Fuerte Tiuna, the Academy, EFOFAC, the Military Circle, Paseo Los Próceres, Caracas-La Guaira highway, the superblocks of 23 de Enero, the highway of the Center, the Cableway of Caracas, Guri? ", asked.[52]

New National Ideal[edit]

The period of Pérez Jiménez in power is remembered historically as a government of nationalist roots. His government was based on an ideological pragmatism characterized by the Doctrine of National Well, that the regime expressed in the New National Ideal would be the philosophical beacon to guide the actions of the government.

His political legacy known perezjimenismo was upheld by the Cruzada Cívica Nacionalista (CCN; Nationalist Civic Crusade) party, which held seats in Congress from 1968 to 1978. In recent years there has been a revival of perezjimenismo and the New National Ideal, with numerous groups revising and upholding the legacy of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.[53][54]

Time magazine[edit]

In 1955, Time Magazine had on its cover Marcos Pérez Jiménez and the balance on its management was regular. Time Magazine talked about the economic boom that Venezuela experienced as a result of its oil production and the growth of the construction sector, but also mentioned the growing debt of the South American country and the social problems it faced. [55] According to Time Magazine, government obligations in foreign currency were not canceled when due. Venezuela did not pay its commitments on time. Time Magazine denounced that the public debt in the dependencies of the Government continued its ascending course, without it was seen an effort to control it. Investors could not calculate the amount of that public debt.

In this period the construction of the main communication routes in the country was advanced, which united both the west, center and east of the country, as well as industrial conglomerates and great monuments. It should be noted that most of the works were already planned from the government of Eleazar López Contreras, Isaías Medina Angarita and Trienio Adeco, so the merit must be shared among several governments. [56] The democratic governments finished paying the debts contracted, although the sectors that defend the militarism have refused to recognize it.

Personal life[edit]

Pérez had four daughters with his wife, Flor Chalbaud.[57]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Germán Suárez Flamerich
President of Venezuela
Succeeded by
Wolfgang Larrazábal