PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Liberals vs. Conservatives
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Venezuela
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Control of the Venezuelan
OUTCOME: After a seesaw war, the Liberals, in the
person of Antonio Guzmán Blanco, assumed control
of the government.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
The Liberal regime of Juan Falcón (1820–70), introduced after the Venezuelan Civil War (1858–1864), brought a government so decentralized that all semblance of authority broke down. Into the resulting power vacuum stepped the caudillos, the warlords who controlled Venezuelan provinces on the local level. They vied violently with one another for control of the larger government.
In response to the growing chaos, José Tadeo Mona-gas (1784–1868), one of the brothers whose rule had been toppled in March 1858, led a Conservative revolt against Falcón, who, in 1868, was ousted. Monagas assumed the presidency, but died (of natural causes) within months of taking power. The coup d’état, followed by the death of Monagas, brought an increase in the nation’s instability and full-scale renewal of civil war.
To counter the Conservative revolt initiated by Mona-gas, the caudillo Antonio Guzmán Blanco (1829–99) led a Liberal counterrevolution, which, after two years of bitter fighting, succeeded in toppling the Conservative regime. In 1870, Guzmán Blanco stepped into the presidency and was elected by popular vote three years later. Although he was a Liberal, Guzmán Blanco instituted a benevolent dictatorship, by which he introduced many social reforms. Venezuela’s economy improved, and its level of literacy rose. However, the president’s suppression of the Roman Catholic Church brought a new coup d’état in 1888–89, when Guzmán Blanco was traveling abroad. He never returned to Venezuela but lived in Parisian exile until his death in 1899.