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President Venustiano Carranza

Opposition to Díaz grew during the later years of Díaz's rule, and liberal reformers rose against Díaz in 1910, following yet another fraudulent reelection. Regional caudillos, some of whom were little more than bandits, soon joined the movement. Various rival factions struggled for supremacy in confused fighting. The principal leaders were Villa, Orozco, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, and Álvaro Obregón.

Born in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, to Colonel Jesús Carranza and María de Jesús Garza, Venustiano Carranza was educated at the Fuente Athenaeum in Saltillo and the Mexico City Preparatory School. Carranza started his political career as mayor of Cuatro Ciénegas in 1887, and served again from 1894 to 1898. He was local deputy, substitute federal deputy, senator for his state, and interim governor of Coahuila in 1908.

Carranza was one of the first to join the anti-reelectionists. Madero made him the Minister of War and the Navy of his provisional cabinet in Ciudad Juárez. He took charge of the government of Coahuila and, after Madero's assassination, he issued the Plan of Guadalupe on March 26, 1913, in which Victoriano Huerta and the legislative and judicial powers were repudiated. Proclaimed the first chief of the constitutionalist army (because of the 1857 Constitution), Carranza began his march to Sonora.

After the fall of Huerta in 1914, Venustiano Carranza entered Mexico City on August 20, 1914. Carranza, chief of the northern coalition, invited all revolutionary leaders to a military conference at Aguascalientes to determine the future course of Mexico. A split developed almost immediately: on one side were Carranza, Obregón, and supporters of the plans of San Luis Potosí and Guadalupe; on the other side were Zapata, Villa, and the supporters of the Plan of Ayala. The disagreements between the first chief and General Francisco Villa became evident, and Villa rebelled when Carranza asked him to attend the October 1, 1914 convention, convoked to settle some of the most serious problems of the revolutionary movement.

At the convention, which is held in Aguascalientes, Francisco Villa was removed from his leadership of the Division of the North, and Carranza was removed from his position as first chief. The convention chose Eulalio Gutiérrez, who had the support of the Villistas and the Zapatistas, as provisional president.

However, Carranza ignored the results of the Aguascalientes Convention and abandoned the capital, establishing his government in Veracruz, where with Obregón's support he established a dissident government. The country went through another period of civil war and anarchy in which four governments claimed to represent the will of the people: Carranza in Veracruz, Obregón in Mexico City (after Gutiérrez had left the city and established his headquarters in Nuevo León), Roque González Garza (supported by the Zapatistas), and Villa in Guanajuato. Villa's defeat by Álvaro Obregón in the Battle of Celaya (April 6-15, 1915) was one of the factors that make possible the return of the First Chief to Mexico City.

Carranza emerged as the victorious commander of the revolutionary forces. His government was soon recognized by the United States, and his troops were supplied by munitions abandoned when United States forces left Veracruz. United States support for Carranza prompted an aggressive reaction from Villa. After 1916 Villa frequently raided United States border towns and then retreated to Mexico. United States General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing's troops crossed the border in pursuit of Villa several times during 1917. Despite Villa's "victories" over Pershing, the true victor was Carranza.

To consolidate his power further and to institutionalize the Revolution, he called for a meeting at Querétaro, where the constitutionalists drew up a new supreme law for Mexico. The Congress of Querétaro met from December 1, 1916, to January 31, 1917. In commemoration of that event, the inauguration of all Mexican constitutional presidents has taken place on December 1.Carranza presented his draft of a constitution to the congress. The draft was similar in many ways to the constitution of 1857, but gave extensive powers to the executive. The final version of the constitution of 1917, however, gave additional rights to the Mexican people. It was the fruit of the Revolution--an expression of popular will that guaranteed civil liberties, no presidential succession, and protection from foreign and domestic exploitation to all Mexicans.

On February 5, the 1917 Constitution was adopted. The next day, Venustiano Carranza called for the election of deputies, senators and the president of Mexico. He won the elections and on May 1, 1917, Venustiano Carranza becomes the Constitutional president of Mexico.

Conditions in Mexico were again close to chaos: the economy had deteriorated during the years of civil war, communications had been seriously disrupted, and shortages had led to rampant inflation. Land and labor remained the basic issues for the Mexican people, but Carranza chose to overlook the constitutional provisions dealing with these issues and returned lands expropriated during the Revolution. Despite the president's opposition, public enthusiasm for the labor provisions of Article 123 led to the creation in 1918 of the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos--CROM), which would unify and lead the labor movement in the years ahead. Meanwhile, Mexico took advantage of United States involvement overseas in World War I, its attention and troops distant from any further intervention in Mexico.

In 1918 parts of the country still saw military action; the fighting was particularly fierce in Morelos. The Zapatistas in that area, who had very specific grievances, wanted more than a constitution. In March 1919, Zapata sent an open letter to Carranza, hoping by this means to bring the Zapatistas' demands before the whole population. Zapata expected that Carranza, once confronted by public pressure, would be willing to address the Zapatistas' grievances. Carranza's response was very different, however. Jesús M. Guajardo, a colonel in the federal army, was contracted to deceive Zapata by offering allegiance to the revolutionaries. Zapata's cautious acceptance of Guajardo's protests of loyalty led to a meeting on April 10, 1919, in Zapata's territory. As Zapata entered the meeting area, Guajardo's men appeared ready to fire a salute in his honor but instead they fired point-blank, killing the peasant leader and thereby eliminating the last significant military opposition.

As the 1920 presidential election drew near, Carranza seemed inclined towards the candidacy of the loyal subordinate Ignacio Bonillas, Mexico's ambassador in the United States, to serve as a puppet president, and against the opposition candidates Álvaro Obregón and Pablo González. This caused Plutarco Elías Calles, Álvaro Obregón and Adolfo De la Huerta, all from Sonora, to lead a revolt. Under the Plan of Agua Prieta, they raised a constitutionalist army of northerners and marched to Mexico City. They receive the support of most of the army, forcing Carranza to abandon Mexico City and to head for Veracruz by train. Deep in the mountain range of Puebla, in a place called Tlaxcalantongo, Carranza was assassinated while on the road to exile by the forces of General Rodolfo Herrero on May 21, 1920. De la Huerta served briefly as provisional president, but was replaced in November 1920 by Obregón, who was elected to a four-year term. Shortly thereafter, Villa accepted a peace offer from the federal government.

Throughout his lifetime, Venustiano Carranza always demonstrated his interest in two main issues: oil and land. The January 6, 1915 law was without a doubt the most important legislation on agrarian matters. This law establishes the principles of what is known as the Mexican agrarian reform.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:01:23 ZULU