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The Second Venezuelan Republic

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The Second Venezuelan Republic

Simon Bolivar

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The Second Venezuelan Republic:

After recapturing Caracas from Royalist forces in August of 1813, Liberator Simon Bolivar proclaimed the Second Venezuelan Republic: the first one had lasted from 1810 to 1812 and had been crushed by Spanish and Royalist forces led by Juan Domingo de Monteverde. The second Venezuelan Republic was plagued by warring between patriot and royalist forces and lasted only for about a year or so from 1813-1814.

The First Venezuelan Republic:

Led by ardent patriots like Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda, Venezuela declared a provisional independence from Spain on April 19, 1810: it was only supposed to last until Napoleon restored the rightful Spanish monarchs to the throne of Spain. On July 5, 1811, the congress voted in favor of a total break from Spain and full independence. The First Venezuelan Republic was doomed by two factors: royalist resistance led by Juan Domingo de Monteverde and a devastating earthquake on March 26, 1812. By July of 1812 the Republic was in ruins and the leaders, including Bolivar, went into exile.

The Admirable Campaign:

Bolívar went to New Granada (now Colombia) and secured a commission as an officer in the independence movement. Given 200 men and command of a remote outpost, Bolivar made a name for himself attacking Spanish strongholds. By early 1813 he was leading a sizeable army back into Venezuela. He brilliantly attacked the Spanish where they were least expecting him and made a dash to Caracas in August, 1813, driving the Spanish away. His march to Caracas became known as the Admirable Campaign. On August 7, 1813, Bolivar declared the foundation of a new nation, referred to by historians as the Second Venezuelan Republic.

The Second Republic:

Bolívar had outsmarted the royalist and Spanish commanders, but he had not crushed their armies. Although eastern Venezuela was held by patriot forces under Santiago Meriño, Manuel Piar and others, there were still formidable royalist armies in the west and on the coast. Bolivar scored victories against royalist forces at the battles of Apure and Uspino and was named dictator and Liberator by the people of Caracas, although he had little time to govern as most of his time was spent in the field. Still, as 1813 drew to a close, Bolívar seemed to have things in hand when a grave threat came from an unexpected place.

Boves and the Infernal Legion:

Tomas Boves, a smuggler and criminal, had been freed from jail in the town of Calabozo by Spanish forces. Although the Spanish-born Boves was not native to the harsh Venezuelan plains, he had a natural connection to the tough men and women who lived there. Promising to give land and power to the poor plainsmen, he quickly raised an army of skilled lancers known as "The Infernal Legion." They were ferociously loyal to the man they called "Taita" or "Father." The savage army of plainsmen, fighting for the Spanish but really only loyal to Boves, caught Bolívar and the republicans off guard.

Fall of the Second Republic:

Boves won the First Battle of La Puerta, putting him in position to take Caracas. After General José Félix Ribas’ last-ditch effort to keep him out of Caracas was successful, Bolívar and Santiago Meriño followed Boves onto the plains. This was a mistake, as Boves’ horsemen devastated the patriot force at the Second Battle of La Puerta on June 15, 1814. With the patriots in disarray, Boves was able to take first Valencia and then Caracas, thus ending the Second Venezuelan Republic.

Legacy of the Second Republic:

The Second Venezuelan Republic lasted only about a year and therefore wasn't around long enough to really leave much of a lasting legacy. Bolívar, made dictator by acclamation, spent almost the whole time fighting off royalist threats from the likes of Monteverde and Boves. The republic, in any event, didn't extend far beyond Caracas, as much of Venezuela was held by Spanish forces the whole time.

The Second Venezuelan Republic is notable for a few things, however. It was Bolívar's first taste of absolute dictatorial powers: during the First Republic he had shared ultimate power with Francisco de Miranda. Despite his later denials, Bolívar never lost the desire for political power.

In terms of the struggle against the Spanish, the Second Republic marks the time of the worst atrocities on both sides. During the Admirable Campaign, Bolívar had decreed "War to the Death." Under this decree, any Spaniards he found who were not actively serving the patriot cause would be put to death. Not even neutral Spaniards were to be spared. This decree was fuel for royalist leaders who in turn stepped up their atrocities against suspected patriot sympathizers. Taita Boves and the Infernal Legion in particular were legendary for grisly rapes and murders in towns and cities recently recaptured from patriot forces.

Sources:

Harvey, Robert. Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2000.

Lynch, John. The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826 New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986.

Lynch, John. Simon Bolivar: A Life. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.

Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars, Volume 1: The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899 Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2003.

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