Limantour, José Yves (1854–1935)
Limantour, José Yves (1854–1935)
José Yves Limantour (b. 26 June 1854; d. 26 August 1935), Mexican secretary of the treasury (1892–1911), a leader of the científicos. In 1892 Limantour became secretary of the treasury in the government of Porfirio Díaz after serving for a year as oficial mayor of the ministry under Matías Romero. Faced with a severe economic crisis, he initially was forced to secure a series of foreign loans at disadvantageous terms, to maintain Mexico's solvency, but eventually he reformed government finances to the extent that he produced a surplus in 1895 and for years thereafter. In 1899 he renegotiated the nation's foreign loans at significantly better rates.
His most pressing dilemma, however, was the decline in the value of silver during the 1890s. He determined that the best solution was to convert Mexican currency to the gold standard, and he did so in 1904.
Limantour presided over the period of Mexico's most dynamic economic development until after 1940. His policy was based on the encouragement of foreign investment. After 1900, however, Limantour, like Díaz, became increasingly concerned about the vast economic presence of U.S. investors in the country. In 1902, worried by the likelihood that the two largest U.S.-owned railroad companies, the Mexican Central and the Mexican National, would swallow up other lines, Limantour initiated the government purchase of two railroad companies, the Interoceanic and the National. When this jeopardized the delicate financial situation of the Mexican Central, Limantour engineered its takeover by the government in 1906. Two years later, he merged all these lines together to form the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico. In 1908 Limantour sponsored a new banking law that reined in the unfettered growth of banks and attempted to curb abuses and corruption that marked the banking system.
Despite his reforms, the Mexican economy experienced a severe downturn in 1907 due to the decline in mineral prices on the world market. Foreign investment temporarily dried up and the country plunged into a depression, which, when coupled with a series of disconcerting political developments, badly destabilized the Díaz regime.
Between 1900 and 1910 Limantour led the científicos, one of two major factions within the Díaz dictatorship. Technocrats who sought to modernize the nation through positivist principles, they believed fervently in rational decision making. The opposing faction was a group of Porfirian generals, the most notable of whom was Bernardo Reyes Ogazón, the political boss of Nuevo León. Their politics centered around personal relations with those who depended on their goodwill.
The rivalry between Limantour and Reyes took in more importance in 1904, when the aged dictator agreed to run for president for another term with a vice president for the first time. Two years earlier the finance minister had won a cabinet struggle that resulted in Reyes's ouster as minister of war and he triumphed again when Díaz chose científico stalwart Ramón Corral Verdugo as his vice president. During this period, the científicos obtained the governorships of several key states. The division in Porfirista elite ranks badly weakened the government when it confronted the challenge of rebellion in 1910.
On 25 May 1911 Limantour resigned his post as finance minister and went into exile in France, where he lived for the next twenty-four years.
Daniel Cosio Villegas, ed., Historia moderna de México, 9 vols. (1955–1970).
Charles Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth Century Mexico (1989).
José Y. Limantour, Apuntes sobre mi vida pública (1965).
Antonio Manero, La revolución bancaria en México (1957).
Walter F. McCaleb, Present and Past Banking in Mexico (1920).
Maria y Campos, Alfonso de. José Yves Limantour: El caudillo mexicano de las finanzas, 1854–1935. Mexico City: Grupo Condumex, 1998.