Federal War (Venezuela, 1859–1863)

views updated

Federal War (Venezuela, 1859–1863)

Federal War (Venezuela, 1859–1863) the most significant civil strife in Venezuela since the War of Independence. When the consensus among the political elite that had dominated the republic dissolved after 1830, a prolonged period of political instability ensued. Several factors led to war, including social problems inherited from the struggle for independence, tensions among the diverse economic and political groups, a succession of armed movements in rural areas, and hopes for change in the centralist-federalist model of government adopted in 1830. The Conservative Party, under the leadership of Jose Antonio Páez (until his defeat in August 1849), advocated a strong central government. Its supporters consisted of the commercial elite concentrated in Caracas. The Liberals, on the other hand, argued for greater regional autonomy. Their ranks consisted mostly of the remnants of the old landed aristocracy and new groups that arose as a result of the privileges and land grants bestowed upon them for their role in the wars of independence.

After José Tadeo Monagas was driven from power by the March Revolution of 1858—in which both Liberals and Conservatives participated—a new regime was set up under General Julián Castro. This government did not satisfy the aspirations to power of many Liberals, however, and the members of the Conservative Party fended off Liberal opposition until Castro issued a decree on 7 June 1858 expelling the most prestigious liberal leaders from the country.

The political conflict resulted in diverse armed uprisings, an atmosphere of profound political confusion, and the adoption on 31 December 1858 of a new fundamental charter produced by both Conservatives and Liberals (except for those in exile). Since this charter did not authorize the adoption of a federal system, federalists in exile began plotting a revolution to drive the Conservative majority from power.

On 20 February 1859 in the city of Coro, the federalists took over the military headquarters, proclaiming the creation of a federation, the abolition of the death penalty, universal suffrage, and political pluralism. This was the start of war. Fighting broke out in various parts of the country, and the war went on for four years until, in April 1863, the signing of the Treaty of Coche put an end to it.

After the war, there was no modification of Venezuela's economic or social structure. However, it did result in the establishment of a federal system that in the 1990s still underpinned the national Constitution. It also produced a caudillo-centered political system that was dominated by the Liberal Party, the political victor of the war.

See alsoVenezuela, Political Parties: Conservative Party; Venezuela, Political Parties: Liberal Party; Venezuela: Venezuela since 1830.


Joaquín Gabaldón Márquez, Documentos políticos y actos ejecutivos y legislativos de la Revolución Federal desde el 20 de febrero de 1859 hasta el 18 de marzo de 1864 (1959).

Lisandro Alvarado, Historia de la Revolución Federal en Venezuela (1975).

Adolfo Rodríguez, Exequiel Zamora (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Banko, Catalina. Las luchas federalistas en Venezuela. Caracas, Venezuela: Monte Avila Editores Latinoamericana: Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos, 1996.

                                               InÉs Quintero

About this article

Federal War (Venezuela, 1859–1863)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article


Federal War (Venezuela, 1859–1863)