Pérez Jiménez, Marcos

Pérez Jiménez, Marcos
born April 25, 1914, Michelena, Venez.
died Sept. 20, 2001, Madrid, Spain

Soldier and president of Venezuela (1953–58).

He graduated from the Venezuelan Military Academy and in 1945 and 1948 participated in coups d'état. Appointed to the presidency by the military and elected in 1953 by the constituent assembly, which he controlled, he embarked on a program of vast public works. He and his associates received commissions on every project. His regime was marked by extravagance, corruption, police oppression, unemployment, and high inflation. He was forced out of office in 1958 and later jailed for embezzling government funds. His repeated attempts to reenter political life were thwarted.

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▪ 2002

      Venezuelan military dictator (b. April 25, 1914, Michelena, Venez.—d. Sept. 20, 2001, Madrid, Spain), headed a regime (1952–58) that was defined by its brutal suppression of dissent, ambitious public-works schemes, and widespread corruption, Pérez Jiménez attended the Venezuelan Military Academy from 1931 to 1934, graduating as a second lieutenant. In 1939–40 he studied at the Superior War School in Peru. He held a number of powerful positions in the military, including chief of the army staff (1945), chairman of the joint chiefs of staff (1946), and minister of defense (1946–52). Pérez Jiménez took part in a military coup in 1945 that ousted the dictator Gen. Isaias Medina Angarita and installed the democratic government of Rómulo Gallegos. In 1948 he was part of a three-man junta that overthrew Gallegos and then ruled until 1952. In 1952 Pérez Jiménez was declared president, and his appointment was confirmed by the parliament in 1953. Using his dreaded National Security police, he repressed all opposition—jailing and torturing critics—and censored the press, abolished labour unions, closed the national university, and earned the enmity of the Roman Catholic Church. His public-works projects included tunneling a highway from Caracas through the mountains to the Caribbean Sea. His regime was corrupt, and the country suffered high inflation. Nonetheless, as an anticommunist who controlled major oil supplies, he was supported by the U.S. In a plebiscite in 1957, Pérez Jiménez was confirmed for a second five-year term, but increasing unrest, which culminated in a general strike, forced him to flee the country on Jan. 23, 1958. He went to the Dominican Republic and then to the U.S. He was extradited in 1963 to stand trial for embezzlement but was freed in 1968 and went to live in Madrid.

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▪ president of Venezuela
born April 25, 1914, Michelena, Venezuela
died September 20, 2001, Madrid, Spain
 professional soldier and president (1952–58) of Venezuela whose regime was marked by extravagance, corruption, police oppression, and mounting unemployment.

      A graduate of the Venezuelan Military Academy, Pérez Jiménez began his political career in 1944, participating in the coups d'état of October 1945 and November 1948. After the second coup he served as a member of the military junta that ruled Venezuela. In December 1952 he became provisional president by designation of the armed forces—an appointment confirmed by the constituent assembly of 1953, which, under his control, elected him to a five-year presidential term (1953–58).

      Financed by income from oil royalties, Pérez Jiménez began a vast program of public works, including the construction of highways, hotels, office buildings, factories, and dams. Pérez Jiménez and his associates received a commission from every project. The ubiquitous secret police, the ruthless suppression of opponents, the closing of the university, the silencing of the press, rampant inflation, and the jailing of five priests led the church to ally itself with the opposition parties, the dissatisfied workers, and younger military men who felt excluded from the rewards of the administration. After being forced out of office in January 1958, Pérez Jiménez fled to the United States, reportedly taking with him approximately $200 million.

      In 1963 Pérez Jiménez was extradited by the United States to stand trial for embezzlement of government funds. After serving five years in jail, he was released and went to Spain in August 1968. Elected to the Venezuelan Senate in 1969 in absentia, his election was annulled on the grounds that he was not a registered voter in Venezuela. In March 1972 in Madrid he announced his candidacy for president in the forthcoming elections. He returned once more to Caracas in May 1972, but his visit prompted riots in the city, and he returned to Spain.

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Universalium. 2010.

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