Second Venezuela Crisis

Border disputes and the Powers

South America 1903.0117

Second Venezuela Crisis

The Acre dispute, Venezuela crises, South America in WWI, and the Chaco War (17 January 1903)

Historical Map of South American nations

Following Venezuela's refusal to pay its foreign debts, Britain, Germany, and Italy blockaded the country in late 1902, seizing most of the Venezuelan navy. The United States at first accepted this action but was antagonized when the Germans escalated the intervention by bombarding Fort San Carlos. Under US pressure, the two sides agreed to a compromise and the Europeans withdrew.

Main Events

Second Acrean Revolution

A mostly Brazilian force built around the river steamer Solimões raided the Puru River in the Bolivian territory of Acre, capturing a Bolivian launch and declaring a new Republic of Acre under the presidency of Rodrigo de Carvalho. The force attacked Puerto Alonso (Porto Acre) around Christmas, but was repelled, losing its main armament of a cannon and machine gun in the process.

Counani Award

In 1898, Brazil and France brought their dispute over the Cunani River region to the Arbitration Commission of Geneva in Switzerland. On 1 December 1900, the Swiss commission ruled in favor of the Brazilians (represented by the Baron of Rio Branco), leading Brazil to incorporate the territory into state of Pará the following year. Despite the award, an Adolphe Brezet proclaimed himself President of the Free State of Counani in 1904; however, this claim was more a front for Brezet's fraudulent schemes than a genuine movement.

Hay-Pauncefote Treaty

The United States of America, represented by John Hay, and the United Kingdom, represented by Lord Pauncefote, signed the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, nullifying the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850 and giving the United States the right to construct and control a canal across the Central American isthmus to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Pacts of May

Argentina and Chile signed four protocols - the so-called Pacts of May - in Santiago de Chile, bringing an end to a naval arms race which the two countries had been involved in since the 1890s. The pacts also made Argentina renounce interfering in Chilean affairs in the Pacific, with both parties agreeing to a structure to resolve territorial disputes. As a result of the protocols, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom demarcated the Argentina-Chile boundary in the Cordillera of the Andes on 20 November 1902.

Third Acrean Revolution

Finding it difficult to manage Acre, Bolivia leased the territory to the US-based Bolivian Trading Company in December 1901, drawing protests from Brazil and Peru. In August 1902, Gaucho and former soldier José Plácido de Castro led a revolt of Brazilian troops and settlers in Acre, proclaiming an independent republic. Despite initial setbacks, Plácido soon captured a number of settlements, taking Puerto Alonso/Porto Acre - the regional capital and last Bolivian stronghold in the territory - on 24 January 1903.

Second Venezuela Crisis

Britain, Germany, and Italy blockaded Venezuela over its refusal to pay foreign debts and damages suffered by European citizens in the recent civil war. At first the United States did not intervene, as the Monroe Doctrine only covered seizure of lands in the Americas not blockades. However, as the crisis escalated and Venezuela refused to back down, the US pressured a compromise where Venezuela agreed to commit 30% of its customs duties to settling claims.

Bombardment of Fort San Carlos

Two German warships - the gunboat SMS Panther and the cruiser SMS Falke - attempted to chase a Venezuelan schooner into Lake Maracaibo, only to be fired on by the garrison of Fort San Carlos. The warships returned fire, withdrawing after half an hour. Four days later, the Panther returned with the protected cruiser SMS Vineta, reducing the fort in an 8-hour bombardment and killing 25 civilians. This escalation of the Venezuela blockade, which had not been approved by the British, raised tensions between the US and Germany.

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