CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
Less than ten years after Rómulo Gallegos was ousted from the presidential office, a triad comprised of the military, politicians and ordinary citizens put an end to the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, whose efforts at modernization never managed to outweigh his regime's trampling over freedom and human rights. On that January 23rd, Venezuelan representative democracy was born, as a result of a comprehensive agreement deemed the Punto Fijo Pact, executed on that very same year
It was just a matter of time. The people took to the streets to celebrate the fall of the tyrant (Photo: Juanito Martínez Pozueta / Andrés Mata Foundation)
When the "Sacred Cow," a moniker used to refer to the presidential plane, left the runway of La Carlota Airport before the dawn of January 23rd, carrying Marcos Pérez Jiménez, in the midst of celebrations throughout the streets of Caracas, civilians attacked the main station of the National Security (a political police force), freed inmates and lynched several police officers.
In the aftermath of the public consultation in December and its fraudulent results, discontent grew within the armed forces and centered on a personalist government that murdered, imprisoned and forced into exile members of the opposition; expelled political parties; dissolved unions; and repressed freedom of the press. And so, on January 1st, Caracas residents were awoken by the sound of warplanes being repelled by land forces. The forces in Maracay rose in arms and two tank divisions, commanded by Colonel Hugo Trejo, left the Urdaneta barracks in Caracas and headed for the capital city of central Aragua state instead of Miraflores, where the government offices are located.
Though the rebellion was subdued, the deep military crisis became evident and the head of the armed forces, General Rómulo Fernández, urged Pérez Jiménez to dismiss Laureano Vallenilla Lanz, the minister of Internal Affairs, as well as Pedro Estrada, the Director of National Security. In spite of those changes, the rebellion continued to consolidate, and civil society began to take part in large demonstrations.
On January 17th, the Military Committee for Freedom took a stance against the government, the Patriotic Board called for a general strike to take place on the 21st and the masses flooded the streets. Dozens of civilians fell down victim to police gunfire. Public outlash intensified on the 22nd and by sundown the marine and the troops in Caracas rebelled as well. At 1:00 a.m. Pérez Jiménez fled toward Santo Domingo. Simultaneously, Marine Commander Wolfang Larrazábal was sworn in as president of the government junta, accompanied by a group of military officers and civilians. Political prisoners were released, and the junta promised to restore democracy.
On May 13th, US Vice-President Richard Nixon visited Caracas and the vehicle he was in was attacked by a mob. On July 23rd, Jesús María Castro León, in the midst of accusations of orchestrating a coup attempt, was dismissed from his duties as minister of Defense. In October, Larrazábal, Betancourt and Caldera launched their presidential campaigns.
On the 31st day of that month, Caldera (Copei), Betancourt (AD) and Jóvito Villaba (URD) signed the Punto Fijo Pact. In November, Edgard Sanabria was appointed president of the government junta. On December 7th, Betancourt won the presidential election. On December 19th, the Income Tax Law was amended, and oil companies raised their contributions from 51 percent to 66 percent. On February 1st, the United States launched the Explorer, its first satellite, into orbit. In October, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected Pope and became John XXIII.
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