History of Venezuela
History of colonization
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador Venezuela was first colonized
by Spain in 1522. Indeed, the Spanish Empire's first permanent South American
settlement was in what is now Cumaná. Most of Venezuela eventually
became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada; portions of eastern Venezuela
became part of New Andalusia. After a series of unsuccessful uprisings,
Venezuela under the leadership of Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan
who was a marshal in the French Revolution declared independence
from Spain on July 5, 1811. However, full sovereignty over Venezuelan
territory was only achieved after Simón Bolívar, El Libertador,
aided by General José Antonio Páez and especially the then
General Grand Marshall Antonio José de Sucre, whose battle plan
Bolívar chose to follow, won the Battle of Carabobo on June 24th
1821, and after José Prudencio Padilla won the Naval Battle of
Lake Maracaibo on July 24th 1823.
The castillo Santa Rosa was a Spanish colonial fort used to defend Margarita
Island from pirates and foreign invadersNew Granada's congress gave Bolívar
control of the Granadian army, he then led several countries to freedom
and created a new republic called Colombia (also known as Great or Greater
Colombia to differentiate it from the Republic of Colombia) consisting
of what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela. He then led the
army towards the south, liberating Peru and founding Bolivia (named after
the Libertador, formerly a part of Peru, known as 'Alto Peru') from the
Spaniards. Antonio José de Sucre, who won many battles for Bolívar,
was to become his natural successor, until he was murdered in Berruecos.
Venezuela became, after the war of independence, along with Colombia and
Ecuador, part of the Republic of Gran Colombia (República de Gran
Colombia) until 1830, when the country separated through a rebellion led
by José Antonio Páez and declared itself a sovereign republic.
Páez became the first president of Venezuela.
Much of Venezuela's 19th- and early 20th-century history was characterized
by political instability, political struggle and dictatorial rule.
Following the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the temporary
demise of caudillismo (authoritarian rule), democratic struggles eventually
forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics
in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition
of democratic civilian rule, though even this has not been without conflict.
19th century: Independence
The 19th of April, 1810. Painting by Juan Lovera. (1835)The Venezuelans
began to grow restive under colonial control toward the end of the eighteenth
century. The Napoleonic Wars in Europe weakened Spain's imperial power
and the Venezuelans achieved home rule after a coup on April 19, 1810,
and later declared independence from Spain on July 5, 1811. The war for
independence ensued. On December 17, 1819 the Congress of Angostura established
Gran Colombia's independence from Spain. After several 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 what are now Colombia,
Panama, and Ecuador, was part of the Republic of Gran Colombia until 1830,
when Venezuela separated and became a sovereign country. Much of Venezuela's
19th century history was characterized by periods of political instability,
dictatorial rule of the caudillos, and revolutionary turbulence. Starting
in 1870, Venezuela experienced increasing economic and political centralization.
Antonio Guzmán Blanco (1870-1888) took control over customs revenues
through an alliance with regional caudillos and the financial sector.
Cipriano Castro (1899-1908) and Juan Vicente Gómez (1908-1935)
founded a professionalized army with a centralized command structure.
These institutions were vital in ensuring that, in contrast to other oil
abundant countries, Venezuela would experience growing political stability
as a result of the influx of oil revenues that occurred after 1920. (Rodríguez
and Gomolin, 2006)
Rómulo BetancourtFor a complete list of Venezuelan leaders, see
List of Presidents of Venezuela.The first
half of the 20th century was marked by periods of authoritarianism
including dictatorships by General Juan Vicente Gómez from 1908
to 1935, when Venezuela became a major oil exporter. A military junta
ruled after his death. Leftist Dr. Rómulo Betancourt and the Acción
Democrática (AD, "Democratic Action party") won a majority
of seats in a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution in 1946.
A well-known writer, Rómulo Gallegos, candidate of Betancourt's
party, became Venezuela's first democratically elected president in 1947.
Within eight months, Gallegos was overthrown by a military-backed coup
led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who was himself ousted in 1958.
Since the overthrow of Pérez Jiménez
and the military's withdrawal from direct involvement in national politics,
Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of civilian democratic rule,
of which Rómulo Betancourt, president from 1958 to 1964, laid the
foundation. In the 1960s, the AD and the Christian Democratic Comité
de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI)
parties agreed to limit Venezuela's elections to an exclusive competition
between these two parties, a system known as puntofijismo. February
27, 1989 saw a wave of protests, riots and looting known as the Caracazo,
where it is estimated that thousands of Venezuelans were killed after
the then-president Carlos Andrés Pérez, a member of the
AD political party, decided to suspend the constitutional rights of the
citizens, thus allowing the armed forces to confront the rioters by violent
means. This led to the failed coup attempts of 1992. In 1998, Hugo Chávez,
a leader of the February 1992 coup attempt, was elected President, ending
the era of political domination by the AD and COPEI.