Foreign Support for Venezuelan Political Exiles during the Regime of Juan Vicente Gomez: The Case of Mexico, 1923-33

By McBeth, Brian S. | The Historian, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Foreign Support for Venezuelan Political Exiles during the Regime of Juan Vicente Gomez: The Case of Mexico, 1923-33


McBeth, Brian S., The Historian


THE HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA is littered with examples of the direct and indirect involvement of the United States in the internal affairs of certain countries that make up the region. (1) Less well known in the historiography of the area is the interference by various Latin American countries in the internal affairs of other nations of the region. This is true in the case of Venezuela during the twenty-seven-year dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez (1908-35) when a number of countries including Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peril, and Mexico at various times helped the Venezuelan political exiles in their fight against the regime. (2) Only Mexico showed open hostility toward Gomez, breaking off diplomatic relations for almost ten years, from 29 October 1923 to 24 July 1933.

In their endeavors to topple Gomez, the Venezuelan exiled groups received the active support of President Alvaro Obregon (1920-24), President Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-28), and during the Maximato period (1928-34), when Calles, known as the "Jefe Maiximo," wielded the power behind Presidents Emilio Portes Gil (1928-30), Pascual Ortiz Rubio (1930-32), and Abelardo L. Rodriguez (1932-34). The financial and material help given to the Venezuelan exiles conformed to Mexico's foreign policy of influencing the internal affairs of other countries, especially in Central America, to adopt their own brand of nationalism to counterbalance the influence of the United States in the region. Mexico's support focused initially on the former "caudillo" members of Gomez's government exiled in Colombia, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Europe, and the United States, such as Francisco Linares Alcantara, former Interior Minister, Leopoldo Baptista, former Secretary General, and Regulo Olivares, former Defense Minister. Mexico's help later shifted to support people with a left-wing ideology, such as Gustavo Machado, Carlos Leon, the federal district governor in 1909 who later professed to hold leftist views, and the adventurer Emilio Arevalo Cedeno. This study examines the support and encouragement given by the Mexican government during the 1920s and early 1930s to certain Venezuelan exiles in their struggle to eliminate the Gomez regime.

Mexico's Foreign Involvement

Although the involvement of the Mexican government to influence the internal affairs of Venezuela is not generally known, Mexico's embroilment in Central America, especially Nicaragua with Augusto Cesar Sandino, is well documented. (3) According to Salisbury, Mexico considered Central America as its "natural sphere of influence," with the country playing "the role of a regional powerbroker ... as a logical and consistent element in its foreign policy agenda." Consequently, Mexico's support for the liberals in the region during the 1920s was "anything but an isolated phenomenon insofar as its relations with the isthmian region are concerned," and the Nicaraguan liberals often looked at Mexico "for assistance in their long-standing conflict with their conservative opponents." (4) Mexico's intervention in Central America prior to its involvement in Venezuela showed a consistent Mexican foreign policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Its struggle against Gomez was not an isolated incident.

Mexico's involvement in Nicaragua started in 1909 when the government of Porfirio Diaz (1884-1911) helped the Nicaraguan administration of Jose Santos Zelaya (1893-1909) to minimize Guatemalan influence in the region. When U.S. intervention toppled Zelaya in 1909, (5) Diaz gave him asylum against the wishes of the U.S. government. Diaz also helped Jose Madriz, Zelaya's successor, both politically and militarily. (6) The Venustiano Carranza administration (1915-20), which came to power after the turbulent years following the fall of the Diaz dictatorship in 1911, increased Mexico's involvement in the country. (7) Carranza thought that other nations in Latin America could use the Mexican revolution as a model to start their own reforms against the conservative elites. …

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