VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > E. Latin America and the Caribbean, 1914–1945 > 2. South America > i. Venezuela
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1908)
i. Venezuela
Dictatorship of JUAN VICENTE GÓMEZ (1857–1935), who served during this period as either president or chief of the army. Gómez pursued a policy of nepotism and took care to have a congress entirely subservient to him. The period was marked by striking material progress: administrative reforms were adopted, finances stabilized (national debt liquidated, 1930), schools built, and commerce and industry encouraged. At the center of this development was the opening of the Venezuelan oil fields in 1918, which soon made the country a leading oil producer. Oil quickly supplanted coffee and other agricultural products as the main source of Venezuelan wealth. It also allowed new oil-based elites to challenge the old agricultural oligarchy for political power. At the same time, the oil and industrial development led to the creation of new working and middle classes. Oil workers organized the Syndicalist Labor Federation of Venezuela in 1928, which found support among many student groups. The latter became active opponents of the dictatorship.  1
1920, March 3
Venezuela maintained neutrality during the First World War, but joined the League of Nations.  2
The government arrested a group of radical students, leading to numerous worker and student demonstrations and to an abortive general strike. The incident became an important symbol for future radicals and moderates.  3
1929, 1931
Revolts led by Gen. Arévalo Cedeño were put down, as were other opposition movements directed against the Gómez regime.  4
1935, Dec. 18
Death of President Gómez ended the dictatorship. Gen. Eleazar López Contreras became provisional president and succeeded in suppressing the strikes and movements that broke out after the death of the strongman.  5
1936, April 25–1941
Gen. Eleazar López Contreras was elected president.  6
1936, July 16
A new constitution provided that the president's term should be limited to five years, with no eligibility for reelection.  7
1937, Jan
Elections were held for about one-third of the seats in Congress. These turned out to be a decisive victory for the Left parties, whereupon (Feb. 4) the government arrested many of the leaders of the Left (including newly elected congressmen) on the charge of Communism. Most of these leaders were exiled, and most of the leftist organizations (including the Federation of Students) were dissolved. The president then undertook to suppress the Left, but at the same time embarked on a far-reaching program of social reform designed to meet the needs and demands of the lower classes and to check the spread of support for leftist movements.  8
The Second World War greatly increased demand for Venezuelan petroleum, causing a boom in oil-industry profits and revenues. (See Venezuela)  9
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.