Wednesday 19th of June 2019

when the US was defending Venezuela's independence...

german boats bomb venezuela 1902-03

The Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03[a] was a naval blockade imposed against Venezuela by the United KingdomGermany and Italy from December 1902 to February 1903, after President Cipriano Castro refused to pay foreign debts and damages suffered by European citizens in recent Venezuelan civil wars.


Castro assumed that the United States Monroe Doctrine would see the US intervene to prevent European military intervention. However, at the time, US president Theodore Roosevelt and the Department of State saw the doctrine as applying only to European seizure of territory, rather than intervention per se. With prior promises that no such seizure would occur, the US was officially neutral and allowed the action to go ahead without objection. The blockade saw Venezuela's small navy quickly disabled, but Castro refused to give in, and instead agreed in principle to submit some of the claims to international arbitration, which he had previously rejected. Germany initially objected to this, arguing that some claims should be accepted by Venezuela without arbitration.

President Roosevelt forced the Germans to back down by sending his own larger fleet under Admiral George Dewey and threatening war if the Germans landed.[1] With Castro failing to back down, US pressure and increasingly negative British and American press reaction to the affair, the blockading nations agreed to a compromise, but maintained the blockade during negotiations over the details. This led to the signing of an agreement on 13 February 1903 which saw the blockade lifted, and Venezuela commit 30% of its customs duties to settling claims. 

When the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague subsequently awarded preferential treatment to the blockading powers against the claims of other nations, the US feared this would encourage future European intervention. The episode contributed to the development of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, asserting a right of the United States to intervene to stabilize the economic affairs of small states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts, in order to preclude European intervention to do so.


At the turn of the 20th century, German traders dominated Venezuela's import/export sector and informal banking system. Most of these, however, had little influence in Berlin - rather it was German industrialists and bankers, including those associated with building railroads, who had connections and influence.[2] The revolutionary turmoil of the last decade of the 19th century in Venezuela saw these suffer, and send "a stream of complaints and entreaties for protection" to Berlin. Matters were particularly bad during the Venezuela civil war of 1892 which had brought Joaquín Crespo to power, which saw six months of anarchy with no effective government,[3] but the civil war of 1898 again saw forced loans and the taking of houses and property.[4] In 1893 the French, Spanish, Belgian and German envoys in Caracas had agreed that joint action was the best route for settling claims from the 1892 civil war, but in the event reparations in that case had been paid.[5]

While German investment in Venezuela was substantially less than in countries such as Argentina or Brazil, Krupp's Great Venezuela Railway Company, valued at 60m marks, was "individually one of the more valuable German South American ventures",[6] and despite a renegotiation of the concession terms in 1896, payments were irregular after 1897 and stopped in August 1901.[6] In addition, Cipriano Castro, one of a succession of Venezuelan caudillos (military strongmen) to seize the Presidency, halted payment on foreign debts after seizing Caracas in October 1899.[7] Britain had similar grievances, and was owed the bulk of the nearly $15m of debt Venezuela had obtained in 1881 and then defaulted on.[8]

In July 1901 Germany urged Venezuela in friendly terms to pursue international arbitration[9] via the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.[7] Between February and June 1902 the British representative in Venezuela sent Castro seventeen notes about the British government's concerns, and did not even receive a reply to any of them.[8] Castro assumed that the United States Monroe Doctrine would see the US intervene to prevent European military intervention. Theodore Roosevelt (US President September 1901 – March 1909), however saw the Doctrine as applying to European seizure of territory, rather than intervention per se.[7] As Vice-President, in July 1901, Roosevelt said that "if any South American country misbehaves toward any European country, let the European country spank it,"[10] and reiterated that view to Congress on 3 December 1901.[11]


Read more:–1903


How the wheels turn...

pirates of the caribbean...

Picture at top: French Magazine Le Parisien on the attack of German Boats on San Carlos de la Barra Fortress, Venezuela, 1903...


In 1666 the French pirate Jean David Nau El Olonés with a fleet of 8 ships and 650 men entered from the Gulf of Venezuela into to the mouth of Lake Maracaibo where the Castle of San Carlos was located armed with 16 guns and attacked the fort. After an exchange of artillery, the pirates captured the fort in less than three hours. In March of 1669, the town refugees took shelter in the fort during the sacking of Maracaibo by the English pirate Henry Morgan. Upon learning of the futility of escaping Lake Maracaibo by crossing the castle, Morgan tried to negotiate with the Spaniards by asking a ransom for hostages from the town. In response, Alonso de Espinosa, commanding officer of the castle, was given a large sum of gold and silver plus some cattle in payment, but Espinosa refused categorically to let them go. The next day, Morgan devised a trick to escape by simulate a ground attack on the site at night. The Spanish hurriedly abandoned the fort, while some soldiers remained in the castle attempting to block access back to the sea, without success. Morgan returned to Jamaica on May 14, 1669 under warnings from the English governor Thomas Modyford before claims of the misdeeds they committed were received in London. In 1823, the fort was attacked and taken by a Venezuelan squadron commanded by Admiral José Prudencio Padilla, in what was known as "The Forcing of the Barra de Maracaibo" which also allowed the Venezuelan ships to enter the lake and attack a Spanish fleet in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo.

In the nineteenth century Venezuela achieved independence and the fort continued to be maintained as part of the country's defences. It saw action in the Bombardment of Fort San Carlos when it was attacked by the Imperial German Navy during the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03.

It also served as a prison, imprisoning such figures like included the writer Eduardo López Bustamante, who wrote poetry during his captivity.


Read more: