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Venezuelan War of Independence

The First Republic

The French invasion of Spain in 1808 led to the collapse of the Spanish Monarchy. Most subjects of Spain did not accept the government of Joseph Bonaparte, placed on the Spanish throne by his brother, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France. At the same time, the process of creating a stable government in Spain, which would be widely recognized throughout the empire, took two years. (See Junta (Peninsular War).) This created a power vacuum in the Spanish possessions in America, which created further political uncertainty. On 19 April 1810 the municipal council of Caracas headed a successful movement to depose the Spanish Governor and Captain General, Vicente Emparan. A junta was established in Caracas, and soon other Venezuelan provinces followed suit. The Caracas Junta called for a congress of Venezuelan provinces to establish a government for the region. Initially both the Junta and Congress upheld the "rights of Ferdinand VII," meaning that they recognized themselves to still by part of the Spanish Monarchy, but had established a separate government due to the French invasion of the Peninsula. As the Congress deliberated, a faction proposing outright independence quickly won favor. Persons such as Francisco de Miranda, a long-term Venezuelan expatriate, and Simon Bolivar, a young, Criollo aristocratboth influenced by Age of Enlightenment ideas and the example of the French Revolutionlead the movement. The Congress declared Venezuela's independence on 5 July 1811, establishing the Republic of Venezuela.

Even before the Congress began its sessions in November 1810, a civil war started between those who supported the juntas, and eventually independence, and royalists who wanted to maintain the union with Spain. Two provinces, Maracaibo and Guayana, and one district, Coro, never recognized the Caracas Junta and remained loyal to the governments in Spain. Military expeditions to bring Coro and Guayana under the control of the Republic failed. In 1811 an uprising in Valencia against the Republic was successfully suppressed. By 1812 the situation increasingly became aggravated for the young Republic. It was short of funds, Spanish Regency set up a blockade (although it was easily bypassed by British and American merchant ships), and on 26 March 1812, a devastating earthquake hit republican areas. In these desperate moments, Miranda was given dictatorial powers, nevertheless he was unable to stem the royalist advance headed by Captain Domingo de Monteverde. By midyear, after the Battle of San Mateo, the Republic collapsed. Miranda capitulated to Monteverde and signed an armistice on 25 July 1812.

The Second Republic

Bolivar and other republicans continued the resistance from other parts of Spanish South America and the Caribbean, or organized guerrilla movements in the interior of the country. In 1813 Bolivar joined the army of United Provinces of New Granada. After winning a series of battles, Bolivar received the approval of the New Granadan Congress to lead a liberating force into Venezuela in what became known as the Admirable Campaign. At the same time, Santiago Marino invaded from the northeast in an independently organized campaign. Both forces quickly defeated the royalist troops in various battles, such as Alto de los Godos. Bolivar entered Caracas on 6 August 1813, proclaiming the restoration of the Venezuelan Republic and his supreme leadership of it, something which was not fully recognized by Marino based in Cumana, although the two leaders did cooperate militarily.

Resistance to the Republic this time came from the people of the vast southern plains, the Llaneros, who organized under the command of Spanish immigrant, Jose Tomas Boves. The war was transformed. The Llaneros had a dislike for the urban and elite Criollos who lead the independence movement. Boves's Llanero army routinely killed white Venezuelans. The Llanero army routed the patriots in the center of the country. Finally Boves marched towards Caracas, forcing the Republicans to flee to the east of the country, ending the second republic. Boves died shortly thereafter in battle, but the country had been returned to royalist control.

Royalist restoration

Boves's locally-raised Llanero army was replaced in 1815 by a formal expedition sent from Spain under the leadership of Pablo Morillo. It was the largest expedition the Spanish had ever sent to the Americas. The Llaneros were either demobilized or incorporated into the expeditionary units. The republican patriots found themselves once more dispersed, and again the war took a local character. Different patriot guerrilla bands formed, but could not agree on a united leadership, much less a united strategy. One group of patriots launched an expedition to eastern Venezuela that ended in failure. Bolivar thereafter sought to join forces with Manuel Piar, another patriot leader but differences between them prevented a united republican front. Bolivar then went to the Llanos where he joined forces with Jose Antonio Paez, but a failed attack on central Venezuela forced Bolivar to retreat back to Apure. Morillo counterattacked successfully but was defeated at the Battle of Las Queseras del Medio. A long-term stalemate ensued in which the royalists controlled the highly-populated, urban north and the republicans the vast, under-populated plains of the south.

Consolidation of independence

In 1819, to break this impasse Bolivar invaded New Granada, which had been reconquered by Morillo's expeditionary force three years later. Bolivar decisively defeated the royalists at Boyaca. With the liberation of New Granada, the republicans had a significant base from which to attack Morillo's forces. A republican Congress at Angostura (today Ciudad Bolivar), which already had a small New Granada delegation, declared the union of New Granada and Venezuela in a Republic of Colombia (the Gran Colombia of contemporary accounts) to present a united front against the Spanish Monarchy.

In 1821 the Colombian army won a decisive victory at the Battle of Carabobo, after which the only cities in the hands of the royalist forces were Cumana, which fell shortly thereafter, and Puerto Cabello, which managed to resist a siege before finally capitulating in October 1823.


The Spanish sent a fleet in 1823 to reconquer the country but were defeated at the Battle of Lake Maracaibo. The fight for independence, which killed half of Venezuela's white population, was finally over in Venezuela. In the following years Venezuelan forces, as part of the army of Gran Colombia, continued campaigning under the leadership of Bolivar to liberate the southern parts of New Granada and Ecuador. Once this was accomplished, Gran Colombia continued its fight against the Spanish in Peru and Bolivia, completing the efforts of Chilean and Argentine patriots, such as Jose de San Martin, to liberate southern South America.

See also

Captaincy General of Venezuela

Gran Colombia

Military career of Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar

Spanish American wars of independence

Latin American wars of independence

History of Venezuela

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Venezuelan War of Independence

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