New National Ideal in Venezuela 1952-1957

[ 1952 - 1957 ]

The next five years saw a brutal dictatorship in a country that by now was notorious as the almost archetypical home of Latin American dictators. A regressive new constitution reverted to indirect elections for president by a puppet legislature. Pedro Estrada, described by historian Hubert Herring as "as vicious a man hunter as Hitler ever employed," headed the vast National Security Police (Seguridad Nacional--SN) network that rounded up any opposition, including military officers, unable to escape. Hundreds, if not thousands, were brutally tortured or simply murdered at the notorious Guasina Island concentration camp in the Orinoco jungle region. Labor unions were harassed, and the Venezuelan Confederation of Labor was abolished and replaced by a confederation under the control of the FEI. When the Central University of Venezuela became a center of opposition to the regime, it was simply shut down. Strict controls over the press recalled the worst days of the Gómez regime. Political power concentrated around Pérez and an inner circle of six tachirense colonels who held key cabinet positions. Pérez revived Gómez's old "Democratic Caesarism" doctrine and gave it a new name, the "New National Ideal," under which politics would be deemphasized in favor of material progress (dubbed the "conquest of the physical environment" by apologists for the dictatorship).

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