The Monagas and the civil wars The growing political crisis was brought to a head in 1848 by General José Tadeo Monagas. Although elected president as a Conservative in 1846, he soon gravitated toward the Liberals. He intimidated the Conservative congress and appointed Liberal Party ministers. When Páez rebelled in 1848, Monagas defeated him and forced him into exile. The decade 1848–58 was one of dictatorial rule by José Tadeo Monagas and his brother, General José Gregorio Monagas, who alternated as president during the period.
The church lost its tax immunity and its educational monopoly, and the army was shorn of its autonomy; thus, state supremacy was achieved. The government then began to reconstruct the war-torn economy by putting finances in order, establishing firm lines of foreign credit, and amortizing the national debt. It also constructed new roads to promote domestic commerce and facilitate coffee and cacao exports. In contrast to the troubled times that preceded and followed it, the 1830–48 period of Conservative Party domination was an era of political stability, economic progress, and responsible administration.
His forces were opposed by large royalist armies including a cavalry unit of llaneros (cowboys of the Llanos frontier), who were under the command of José Tomás Boves. In 1815 the Spanish general Pablo Morillo landed with an expeditionary force that spearheaded the reconquest of much of New Granada. Morillo administered the region in a heavy-handed fashion, however, and many of the Creole elites who had initially supported him soon conspired for his defeat. Llaneros and blacks also deserted the royalist cause and joined Bolívar, whose army was further augmented by a legion of British and Irish mercenaries; the new republican government of Haiti also sent aid.
General Guzmán Blanco rallied the Liberals to his cause, overthrew the Conservatives, and assumed power in 1870. The reigns of Guzmán Blanco and Crespo Guzmán Blanco’s triumphal entry into Caracas in April 1870 halted the political chaos and economic stagnation that had plagued the nation since 1858.
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The new president took to the field himself and subjugated the country in less than two years; he thereupon launched a broad program of reform and development. A new constitution in 1872 proclaimed representative government, suffrage for all males, and direct election of the president. Economic reforms, such as restoration of the nation’s credit by means of new bond issues and generous concessions to foreign investors, gave further evidence of Guzmán Blanco’s apparent devotion to Liberal Party principles.
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