Dictatorship and Politics

Intrigue, Betrayal, and Survival in Venezuela, 1908–1935

Brian S. McBeth

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Dictatorship and Politics presents the first major study of General Juan Vicente Gómez’s regime in Venezuela from 1908 to 1935 and the efforts of Gómez’s enemies to overthrow him during his twenty-seven years in power. In this reappraisal of the Gómez regime, Brian S. McBeth demonstrates that Gómez’s success in withstanding opponents’ attacks was not only the result of his political acumen and ruthless methods of oppression. The political disagreements, personal rivalries, financial difficulties, occasional harassment by foreign powers, and at times plain bad luck of his opponents, usually in exile, were important contributing factors in the failure of their plots to overthrow him. In examining the opposition to the Gómez dictatorship, McBeth also intentionally removes the politics of oil from the center stage of the regime’s foreign relations and instead focuses on the tolerance and intolerance by foreign governments of the exiles’ activities.

This monumental work of scholarship—encompassing political correspondence, personal memoirs, newspapers, British and U.S. sources, and various public and private archives in Venezuela—is without parallel in the existing scholarly literature for this period of Venezuelan history. Historians, as well as political scientists working on themes related to dictatorships and opposition, will find the book of interest.

Brian S. McBeth is a Senior Common Room Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He is the author of a number of books, including Juan Vicente Gómez and the Oil Companies in Venezuela.

“This book makes an original and important contribution to the study of Venezuela’s politics and international relations during the period when Juan Vicente Gómez ruled the nation. The massive research underlying this work is without parallel in the existing scholarly literature for this period of Venezuelan history. It will be the standard work on its subject for years to come.” —Douglas Yarrington, Colorado State University


“McBeth builds on his previous Venezuelan research with this account of the 25 conspiracies and 12 invasions that tried to unseat Juan Vincente Gómez over his 27-year dictatorship (1908-1935). The author’s prodigious archival research leads him to conclude that Gómez survived because of his sagacity, but the evidence suggests that the exiles did not present much of a challenge. . . . This detailed narrative fills out the history of the Gómez years. . . .” — Choice

“This is a well written, richly detailed, and very traditional history of Venezuelan politics during the rule of el benemérito Juan Vicente Gómez. The author’s central thesis is that Venezuelan historiography exaggerates in depicting the Gomez regime as a totally ruthless and effective tyranny.” — Hispanic American Historical Review

“. . . One of the most nuanced and thorough assessments of the Gomez era to date. McBeth’s analysis of Gomez, extremely well grounded in a vast collection of primary sources, shows Gomez as a much more complicated figure, a savvy politician who was as aware of his political strengths and weaknesses as he was a complex internal and international political dynamics . . . A history that will become the standard on the Gomez regime for years to come.” — The Americas

“Brian S. McBeth adds to our understanding of early twentieth-century Venezuela with a detailed history of the nation’s politics during the rule of Juan Vicente Gómez. . . . McBeth chronicles the turbulence of these years, marked by almost constant plotting against the government, including several significant expeditions against Gómez, some of which had popular support.” — American Historical Review

“In his encyclopaedic analysis of the politics of the Gómez regime, the author depicts Gómez as neither a simple tyrant nor a puppet of foreign interests, but as a consummately skilled politician who enjoyed broad domestic support. The author also provides a detailed and thoroughly researched account of the evolving opposition to the regime.” — Latin American Studies

“. . . An incredibly fascinating read . . . This book throws light on the murky world of Venezuelan politics where nothing is as it appears. This book is not for the faint-hearted nor is it light holiday reading. Similarly, it is not for beginners to the study of Venezuelan political history. However, we should all try to read it. Brian McBeth is to be congratulated for attempting such a difficult project.” —_The Bulletin of Spanish Studies_

“In his encyclopedic analysis of the politics of the Gomez regime, the author depicts Gomez as neither a simple tyrants nor a puppet of foreign interests, but as a consummately skilled politician who enjoyed broad domestic support. . . . McBeth’s work represents a major scholarly achievement in Venezuelan history . . . This is an essential book for anyone interested in modern Venezuelan history, and provides interesting insights into the contemporary political dynamics of that country.” — The Journal of Latin American Studies