Photo: Digital Question, retrieved.

Germany and England watch alarmed as Venezuela draws closer to defaulting on its debt. The drop on coffee prices, as well as other calamities, made it impossible for the Caribbean nation to pay its debts. The loan contracted with Berlin’s Disconto Gesellschaft in 1896, to honor the contract signed by Guzmán Blanco with railway construction companies, had a particularly heavy load on the national budget. The initial German-British demand was later joined by Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Mexico, all looking for their own overdue payments.

On December 9, 1902, the German and English navies blocked the La Guaira port; four days later, Puerto Cabello is bombed; on December 17, they take positions before the San Carlos Fortress in the bar of the Maracaibo Lake; an Italian ship anchors at the mouth of the Orinoco river.

Cipriano Castro’s reaction was immediate. He asked historian Eloy González to write a statement condemning the blockade, including the famous “The insolent boot of the Foreigner has desecrated the Homeland’s sacred soil!” The blockade had galvanized the various national forces around Castro, even those opposing him.

The blockade had galvanized the various national forces around Castro, even those opposing him.

It would be, however, another influence the one to solve it all: the United States of North America, presided by Theodore Roosevelt, saw the episode as a perfect example of Public International Law, and called on the Monroe Doctrine, conceived by James Monroe, according to which, “America for Americans” also meant that Europe for Europeans. In other words: if any European power attempted to invade American territory, the United States would face it. On the other hand, the United States would never try to invade any European territory or a territory near Europe’s sphere of influence.

Castro accepted (or called for) the intervention of the United States. On February 13, 1903, the Protocol of Washington was signed by Herbert W. Bower, literally establishing that Venezuela was forced to: “Yield with this purpose in favor of the British government, starting on March 1, 1903, thirty percent of monthly payment of customs revenue from La Guaira and Puerto Cabello, which can’t be used for other purposes.” Once the document was signed, the European ships left our coasts and the blockade ended.

Recent research reveals that Germany had planned for a more extended conflict, including troops on the ground and a sort of permanent domain. However, the matter was international and Roosevelt, who seemed aware of these plans, couldn’t allow European powers to invade the American continent.

The blockade strengthened Castro’s grip on power and even allowed him to incorporate “El Mocho” Hernández, an unpredictable and belligerent soldier and politician, into his government. The events cleared the way for Castro, who reformed the Constitution, taking advantage of the new winds.

We can’t forget that the debt came from contracts signed by Guzmán Blanco with railway companies. Whether the railways should’ve been built or not, in the knowledge that fares would generate massive loans, is a matter open to debate. That’s why the German and the English blocked the ports: either you pay or we invade. Times were different then. The United States’ Monroe Doctrine saved us.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. @RafaelArraiz:

    1) Venezuelan governments then and now have the bad reputation of never paying back its foreign debt. Go to any big lender and ask.

    2) Teddy Roosevelt indeed sent the European back but he continued the blockade until the debt was finally paid through International arbitration (another tale to tell).

    3) Teddy cared nothing for the savages in Venezuela. Teddy another great American Populist, simply protected US interest by sending back Europe forces back home. Your representation that Monroes doctrine somehow saved Venezuela is no least than ridiculous.

    4) So you can improve your ”history” record, please find facts in Teddy Roosevelt own writings and many journals. Specifically to this sad event, you wrongly describe at the end, please read the ”Rosevelt Corollary” so you can understand the facts around preventing Germans landing on Venezuelan beaches. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27552743?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    5) please use serious books like David McCullough ”Mornings on Horseback” (available in Amazon) or TR journal of that typical sad period of Venezuela

    http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/atf/cf/%7B01a413bf-e254-454d-b340-8502d6ea02de%7D/TRA_JOURNAL_2009_SUMMER.PDF

    The latter can be downloaded to your Kindle for free.

    6) after rereading the true history, please rewrite your piece of crap narrative.

    • You are right. Mexico is also a United States of America, even though people there came up with a proper name as well. He meant Gringolandia or Usonia.

      • @Kepler: it’s clear that education wherever you got it didn’t help you much. Implying that Mexico belongs to the USA is insulting.

        If by any chance you live in this blessed land and you keep using those even more insulting expression of Gringolandia and Usonia, then proves the case of the majority of Venezuelans being simply indecent and disrespectful.

        You like taking advantage of all the good of the USA but hate it at the same time, you should go home and enjoy your adored left Maduro.

        Thanks,

        • Kepler’s point, Pepe, was that Mexico also calls itself “Estados Unidos”, but in their case it’s Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

          I also recall “Estados Unidos de Venezuela” on some coins from the 60’s and 70’s

          • @RobertoN: Then free education for all. Estados Unidos de Venezuela was the official name of Venezuela, adopted in the 1864 constitution under the Juan Crisóstomo Falcón government. This remained the official name until 1953, when the constitution of that year renamed it ”The Republic of Venezuela”.

            Venezuela was a federation-like, as Brazil or Mexico. You ought to refer to the constitution in-force to know the exact name of the country and for what reason.

            Who knows, had Venezuela remained Federal like the USA, the current catastrophic situation would have been radically different

            Are you defending its insults too?

            Thanks

  2. What would have been the consequences if Teddy had not intervened ?? would german and british forces have occupied pieces of venezuelan territory and transformed them in to ‘protectorates’ , was that a better consequence for Venezuela had teddy held his hand….., , sometimes the best result is not in itself desirable only less undesirable than other alternatives…..happens all the time ……!!

    • The Germans successfully conquered Colonia Tovar, which to me was always the most civil, cleanest, and highest functioning part of the country!

  3. There is shame in every country’s history and good. American businesses have exploited other countries and also invested in the growth of many nations. One test of the good or evil of a country is what they do after winning a war. America, with allies, defeated Japan and Germany (twice). What happened after those defeats? Compare the historic records of powerful nations and decide.

  4. Teddy Roosevelt had bigger fish to catch in Panama (Panama Canal). He had won the war against Spain. And Venezuela was just a money problem.

    I insist the writer’s conclusion about the Monroe Doctrine saving Venezuela (of what?) is stupid and baseless.

    • +1000

      Monroe doctrine did not prevent poor planning and gubmint corruption in VZ. What happened from a blockade standpoint has nothing to do with how it looks today.

      I get the sickening feeling that folks are hinting at the US get involved in VZ based on a doctrine that does not apply to the situation at hand.

      • @Mitchell: I would be the first to ride my wheelchair (with my best friend 1911 .45) to rightly protest any hint of US getting involved or sending the marines over to Venezuela. That’s why since the beginning of this discussion I’m begging this ”historian” to remove his references to the Monroe doctrine. So we agree to agree, don’t we?

  5. Patience, Rafael, patience–the Monroe Doctrine is very much alive and well, and, as a last resort, will have to be enforced in the case of Venezuela….

    • I guess I just don’t see what the upside would be from the US getting involved militarily.

      Pottery Barn policy predicates a different course of action.

      I for one will not send a family member to die on foreign soil and Venezuela when their own people are perfectly capable of taking matters into their own hands but choose not to.

      When the resistance starts kidnapping government officials and holding their families hostage and making examples of those that have corrupted the country then I will share more sympathy to their plight.

      Right now the only people in control on the streets are gangs and thugs that are behind the government anyways. socialism down there still has not been played out and we have not seen the end of it no use jumping the gun.

      • It is to the U.S.’s advantage to continue not intervening in Venezuela’s example to the world of complete Socialism Cluster-Fuck. I believe that (hopefully) locally a push-back militarily might happen in a year most. However, if the Regime over-steps (Cuba is being careful to avoid this–intl. terrorism/intl. military participation-e.g.,recent rumor of Iran sending a warship, of all things/mass famine/civil war/etc.), then the U.S. will act with force.

  6. So now after Venezuela doesn’t repay China or Russia, they are been conquered anyway, modern style. No ships or troops are needed to buy a 3rd world country in debt.

    Venezuela is being conquered and mortgaged for decades to come anyway, with the same results the Germans and British wanted over a century ago, or the Spanish Conquistadors way before that: to get to the riches and for massivr pilfering, exactly what the Chinese are doing today.

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