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Castro, Cipriano (1858–1924)

Castro, Cipriano (1858–1924)

Cipriano Castro (b. 12 October 1858; d. 4 December 1924), president of Venezuela (1899–1908). Born and raised in Capucho, Táchira, Castro attended schools in Colombia. During the 1880s and 1890s he brought Colombian liberalism to his native Venezuela when he participated in Tachiran politics.

In 1899, Castro launched his Revolution of Liberal Restoration against the government of President Ignacio Andrade, whom he defeated in a campaign that lasted from 23 May to 22 October. He established a coalition government that even included some of the Caracas liberals whom he had overthrown. Basically, Castro attempted to continue the process of centralization begun by Antonio Guzmán Blanco, but financial problems and a series of major conflicts with foreign powers restricted his government. His personal behavior further inhibited his effectiveness as a national leader.

During his reign, Castro adopted a highly nationalistic policy. In 1902, his belligerence led to a blockade of Venezuela by European powers. The intervention of the United States eventually ended the blockade, but Castro remained hostile to foreign governments, including that of the United States. In retaliation for the blockade, Castro closed most Venezuelan ports to trade from the Antilles and imposed a 30-percent surcharge on all goods shipped from the British West Indies.

As a dictator, Castro faced a number of revolts, most notably those led by Manuel Antonio Matos (1902–1903), José Manuel "El Mocho" Hernández (1900), and Antonio Paredes (1907). Over 12,000 died in the fighting. These struggles, and the nation's fiscal difficulties, meant that Castro accomplished very little in the way of reform. He enriched friends and allies through monopoly concessions but did little to improve the nation's transportation, sanitation, or education facilities.

In December 1908, Castro left Venezuela to seek medical treatment in Europe for a urinary tract infection caused by his heavy drinking, use of aphrodisiacs, and venereal disease. Upon his departure, Juan Vicente Gómez seized power. Castro died in exile in Puerto Rico.

See alsoVenezuela since 1830 .


William M. Sullivan, "The Rise of Despotism in Venezuela: Cipriano Castro, 1899–1908" (Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1974).

José Rafael Pocaterra, Memorias de un venezolano de la decadencia (1979).

Cipriano Castro, El pensamiento político de la Restauración Liberal, 2 vols. (1983); La oposición a la dictadura de Cipriano Castro (1983).

Carlos Siso, Castro y Gómez: Importancia de la hegemonia andina (1985).

Mariano Picón-Salas, Los días de Cipriano Castro (1986).

For more general treatment, see Edwin Lieuwen, Venezuela (1961); Guillermo Morón, A History of Venezuela, edited and translated by John Street (1964); Judith Ewell, Venezuela: A Century of Change (1984).

Additional Bibliography

McBeth, B.S. Gunboats, Corruption, and Claims: Foreign Intervention in Venezuela, 1899–1908. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Torres Iriarte, Alexander. "Anarquía, traición y locura en 1899: Breves consideraciones histórico-historiográficas acerca de la Revolución Liberal Restauradora." Boletín de la Academia Nacional de la Historia (Venezuela) 68:200 (July-September 2004): 145-162.

                              Winthrop R. Wright

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