Rómulo Betancourt

Biography of Rómulo Betancourt

Romulo Betancourt He was a politician, journalist and twice President of Venezuela. He was born on February 22, 1908 in Guatire, Miranda, Venezuela.

His parents were Luis Betancourt, a Canarian immigrant, and his mother, the Venezuelan Virginia Bello. He had two sisters: María Teresa and Helena. His full name was Romulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello.

While studying Law at the Central University of Venezuela, he joins the so-called Generation of 28, to fight against the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez. He was imprisoned for two months. He participates in the failed coup on April 7 and goes into exile in Curaçao.

At 23 he traveled to Colombia, where he met with other exiles, writes the Barranquilla Plan and founds the Revolutionary Left Alliance (ARDI).

He moved to Costa Rica, where he married his fighting partner, Carmen Valverde in 1932, with whom he had his only daughter, Virginia.

In 1941 he founded the party Democratic Action (AD) and travels the country from end to end, selecting a team of collaborators committed to political and economic transformation.

After the coup d’état of October 18, 1945, against General Medina Angarita, he assumed the Presidency of the Revolutionary Government Junta until 1948. In the years of the Betancourt administration, the economic, political and social foundations of the Modern Venezuela.

In 1946, the first elections by direct, universal and secret suffrage were held in Venezuela to elect the Constituent Assembly.

In 1947 he is elected Romulo Gallegos as President of the Republic, being overthrown the following year by his own Minister of Defense, Carlos Delgado Chalbaud.

Betancourt goes into exile again, now to Cuba. The coup d’état against Gallegos began almost a decade of dictatorial military governments in Venezuela. So Betancourt continued fighting from exile to achieve the freedom of Venezuela.

Until on February 9, 1958, he returned to Venezuela, after the fall of the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, on January 23, 1958. Betancourt supports the constitution of a Civic-Military Government Junta chaired by Rear Admiral Wolfgang Larrazábal .

In November 1958, he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the republic, with the support of his party, Acción Democrática. On December 7, 1958, Rómulo Betancourt was elected president with more than 49% of the votes, and on February 13, 1959, he assumed the position of Constitutional president.

On January 23, 1961, he promulgated the new Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, which was in force until 1999.

In December 1961, Romulo Betancourt receives John F. Kennedy during the first official visit of a president of the United States to Venezuela.

Jacqueline Kennedy and Romulo Betancourt

This visit served for both presidents to sign the agreement of the “Alliance for Progress”, A US aid program to counteract the advance of the Cuban revolution in Latin America.

This period was characterized by efficient use of oil revenues and administrative honesty. He focused his attention on improving the quality of life of the most humble people, through the promotion of industrial production, to generate jobs.

After handing over the Presidency in 1964, Betancourt He decided to retire from political life and traveled to the United States to eventually reside in Bern, Switzerland.

In 1968, he remarried Renée Hartman and in 1973, he declined the presidential nomination offered by his party. On September 13, 1976, during the acts of the 35th anniversary of Acción Democrática, Romulo was elected President of the party for life.

Rómulo Betancourt died in New York on September 28, 1981, at the age of 73, due to a stroke.

Rómulo Betancourt’s publications

His publications are composed of books, articles and essays, which reflect his vision on democracy and the politics of Venezuela and America.

His most important books are:

  • The Footprints of the Hoof (1929), story of the 1928 student rebellion.
  • Venezuela’s oil and dictatorships (1937)
  • Venezuelan problems (1940)
  • Venezuela: Politics and Oil (1956)
  • Latin America: Democracy and Integration (1978)
  • October 18, 1945: Genesis and Accomplishments of a Democratic Revolution (1979)

From his student days to his time in exile, he wrote about democracy, oil, dictatorship, politics, and the situation in Venezuela. His reflections on what he lived through during his long political life are compiled in an archive of 40,000 documents written between 1917-1981.

All these writings are in the custody of the Rómulo Betancourt Foundation, in Caracas.

The attack on Rómulo Betancourt

On June 24, 1960, just after nine in the morning, when he was on his way to the military events planned to celebrate the anniversary of the “Battle of Carabobo” and the “Army Day”. President Romulo Betancourt He was the victim of an attack with explosives, in Paseo Los Próceres, in Caracas.

The injuries received by the president were: burns to both hands and face, impaired vision in the right eye and partial deafness as a result of the explosion. The explosive-incendiary material was placed in a car parked a few minutes before the passage of the presidential caravan, which violated security protocol.

This fact was the proof itself that some members of the National Armed Forces were part of the conspiracy.

As the presidential caravan passed the car bomb, it exploded with a powerful charge of dynamite and flammable gelatin.

The attack caused the death of two people: the head of the military house, Ramón Armas Pérez, and the student, Juan Eduardo Rodríguez, an occasional passerby.

The Minister of Defense, Josué López Henríquez, his wife and the driver of the vehicle, Azael Valero, were also injured with generalized first and second degree burns.

Twenty-four hours after the attack, a Rómulo Betancourt, in pain and convalescence, denounced those responsible for the assassination attempt. Betancourt he accused the Dominican dictatorship, holding it responsible for the dead and wounded, to prevent Venezuela’s advance on the democratic path.

The attack on Rómulo Betancourt It is the only assassination attempt in the modern history of the country, of which there is evidence.

Romulo Betancourt and Pedro Trebbau

Death of Romulo Betancourt

The death of Rómulo Betancourt occurred in New York, on September 28, 1981, at the Doctor’s Hospital, after suffering a massive stroke.

Romulus had traveled to New York on September 7, 1981, accompanied by his second wife, Renée Hartmann Viso. He used to do it every year, starting in 1977, to rest and work on his Memories.

He did not leave fortune assets and his legacy is reflected in his documents, which were compiled by the Rómulo Betancourt Foundation, in Caracas.

Until his death, he maintained an active intellectual life, cultivating friendship and the art of conversation, enjoying good Venezuelan Creole food and preserving his keen sense of humor.

His remains were transferred to Caracas, being veiled at the headquarters of the Democratic Action party, in the El Paraíso urbanization. His coffin was carried, by his supporters, from there to the Eastern Cemetery in La Guairita, located about 10 kilometers away.

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