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XXVII

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 995 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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XXVII. 32negro slaves were introduced; but less attention was given by the Spaniards to this region than to other parts of Spanish America, which were known to be rich in the precious metals. In r810 Venezuela rose against the Spanish yoke, and on the 14th of July r81I the independence of the territory was proclaimed. A war ensued which lasted for upwards of ten years and the principal events of which are described under BoLIven (q.v.), a native of Caracas and the leading spirit of the revolt. It was not till the 3oth of March 1845 that the independent of the republic was recognized by Spain in the treaty of Madrid. Shortly after the battle of Carabobo (June 24. 1821), by which the power of Spain in this part. of the world was broken, Venezuela was united with the federal state of Colombia, which embraced the present Colombia and Ecuador; but the Venezuelans were averse to the Confederation, and an agitation was set on foot in the autumn of 1829 which resulted in the issue of a decree (December 8) by General Paez dissolving the union, and declaring Venezuela a sovereign and independent state. The following years were marked by recurring attempts at revolution, but on the whole Venezuela during the period 1830-1846 was less disturbed than the neighbouring republic owing to the dominating influence of General Paez, who during the whole of that time exercised practically dictatorial power. In 1849 a successful revolution broke out and Paez was driven out of the country. The author of his expulsion, General Jose Tadeo Monagas, had in 1847. been nominated, like so many of his predecessors, to the presidency by Paez, but he was able to win the support of the army and assert his independence of his patron. Paez raised the standard of revolt, but Monagas. was completely victorious. For ten years, amidst continual civil war, Monagas was supreme. The chief political incident of his rule was a decree abolishing slavery in 1854. General Juan Jose Falcon, after some years of civil war and confusion, maintained himself at the head of affairs from 1863 to 1868. In 1864 he divided Venezuela into twenty states and formed them into a Federal republic. The twenty parties whose struggles had caused so much strife and bloodshed were the Unionists; who desired a centralized government, and the Federalists, who preferred a federation of semi-autonomous provinces. The latter now triumphed. A revolt headed by Monagas broke out in 1868, and Falcon had, to fly the country. In the following year Antonio Guzman Blanco succeeded in making himself dictator, after a long. series of battles in which he was victorious over the Unionists. . For two decades after the close of these revolutionary troubles in 187o the supreme power in Venezuela was, for all practical purposes, in the hands of Guzman Blanco. Ile evaded the clause in the constitution prohibiting the election of a president for successive terms of office by invariably arranging for the nomination of some adherent of his own as chief of the executive, and then pulling the strings behind this figurehead. The tenure of the .presidential office was for two years, and at every alternate election Guzman Blanco was declared to be duly and legally chosen to fill the post of chief magistrate of the republic. In 1889 there was an open revolt against the dictatorial system so long in vogue; and President Rojas Paul, Blanco's locum, tenons, was forced to flee the country and take refuge in the Dutch colony of Curacoa. A scene of riot and disorder was enacted in the Venezuelan capital Statues of Blanco, which had, been erected in various places in the city of Caracas, were broken by the mob, and wherever a portrait of the dictator was found it was torn to. pieces. No follower of the Blanco regime was safe. An • election was held and General Andueza Palacios was nominated president. A movement was set on foot for the reform of the constitution, the principal objects of this agitation being to prolong the presidential term to four years, to give Congress the right to choose the president of the republic, and to amend certain sections concerning the rights of persons taking part in armed insurrection arising out of political issues. All might have gone well for President Palacios had he not supposed that this extension of the presidential, period_ might be made to apply to. himself. II arranged by the local authorities in conformity with instructions from headquarters. In these circumstances the administration of public affairs fell into the hands' of an oligarchy, who governed the country to suit their own convenience. President Castro was for eight years a dictator, ruling bycorrupt and revolutionary methods, and in defiance of obligations to the foreign creditors of the country. The wrongs inflicted by' him on companies and individuals of various nationalities, who had invested capital in industrial enterprises in Venezuela, led to a blockade of the Venezuelan ports in 1903 by English, German and Italian warships: Finding that diplomacy was of no avail to obtain the reparation from Castro that was demanded by their subjects, His attempt to force this question produced violent opposition in 1891, and ended in a rising headed by General Joaquin Crespo. This revolt, which was accompanied by severe fighting, ended in 1892 in the triumph of the insurgents, Palacios and his followers being forced to leave the country to save their lives. General Crespo became all-powerful; but he did not immediately accept the position of president. The reform of the constitution was agreed to, and in 1894 General Crespo was duly declared elected to, the presidency by Congress for a period of four years; One of the clauses of the refornied constitution' accords belligerent rights to all persons taking up arms against the state authority, provided they can show that their action is the outcome of political motives. Another clause protects the property of rebels against confiscation. Indeed, a premium on armed insurrection is virtually granted. In April 1895 the long-standing dispute as to the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela was brought to a crisis by the action of the Venezuelan authorities he arresting Inspectors Barnes and Baker, of the British Guiana police, with a few of their subordinates, on the Cuyuni river, the charge being that they were illegally exercising the functions of British officials in Venezuelan , territory. Messrs Barnes and Baker were subsequently released, and in due course made their report on the occurrence. For the moment nothing more was heard of this boundary .question by the public, but General Crespo instructed the Venezuelan minister in Washington to ask for the assistance of the United States in the event of any demand being made by the British Government for an indemnity. Whilst this frontier difficulty was still simmering, an insurrection against General Crespo was fomented by Dr J. P. Rojas Paul, the representative of the Blanco regime, and came to a head in October 1895, risings occurring in the northern and southern sections of the republic. Some desultory fighting took place for three or four months, but the revolt was never popular, and was completely suppressed early in 1896. The Guiana boundary question began now to assume an acute stage, the Venezuelan ,minister in Washington having persuaded President Cleveland to take up the cause of Venezuela in vindication of the principles of the Monroe doctrine. On the 18th of December 1895 a message was sent to the United States Congress by President Cleveland practically stating that any attempt on the part of.the British Government to enforce its claims upon Venezuela as regards the boundary between that country and Guiana without resort to arbitration would be considered as a casus belli by his government. The news of this message caused violent agitation in Caracas and other towns. A league was formed binding merchants not to deal in goods of British origin; patriotic associations were established for the purpose of defending Venezuela against British aggression, and the militia were embodied. The question was subsequently arranged in 1899 by arbitration, and by the payment of a moderate indemnity to the British officers and men who had been captured. Diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had been . broken off in consequence of the dispute, were resumed in 1897: In 1898 General Crespo was succeeded' as president by Senor Andrade, who had represented Venezuela in Washington during the most acute stage of the frontier 'question.' Towards the end of the year a revolutionary movement took place with the object of ousting Andrade from power. The insurrection was crushed, but in one of the final skirmishes a chance bullet struck General Crespo, who was in command of the government troops, and he died from the effects of the wound. ' A subsequent revolt overthrew President Andrade in 1900. General Cipriano Castro then became president. During 1901 and 1902 the internal condition of the country remained disturbed, and 'fighting went on continually between the government troops and the revolutionists. The inhabitants of Venezuela have a right to vote for the -members of Congress, but in reality this privilege is not exercised by them. Official nominees are as a rule returned without any opposition, the details of the voting having been previouslythe three powers unwillingly had recourse to coercion. The president, however, sheltered himself behind the Monroe doctrine and appealed to the government of the United States to intervene, The dispute was finally referred by mutual consent to the Hague Court of Arbitration. The Washington government had indeed no cause to be well disposed to Castro, for he treated the interests of Americans it Venezuela with the same high-handed contempt for honesty and justice as those of Europeans. The demand of the United States for a revision of what is known as the Olcott Award in connexion with the Orinoco Steamship Company was in 1905 met by a refusal to reopen the' case. Meanwhile the country, which up to the blockade of 1903 had been seething with revolutions, now became much quieter. In 1906, the president refused to allow M. Taigny, the French minister, to land, on the ground that he had broken the quarantine regulations. In consequence, France broke off diplomatic relations. In the following year, by the decision of the Hague Tribunal, the Venezuela government had to pay the British, German and Italian claims, amounting to 691,16o; but there was still £840,000 due to other nationalities, which remained to be settled. The year 1907 was marked by the repudiation of the debt to Belgium, and fresh difficulties with the United States. Finally, in 1908 a dispute arose with Holland on the ground of the harbouring of refugees in Curacoa. The Dutch Minister was expelled, and Holland replied by the despatch of gunboats, who destroyed the Venezuelan fleet and blockaded the ports. In December General Castro left upon a visit to Europe, nominally for a surgical operation. In his absence a rising against the dictator took place at Caracas, and his adherents were seized and imprisoned. Juan Vincenti Gomez, the vice-president, now placed himself at the head of affairs and formed an administration. He was installed as president,' in June 1910.
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