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Victoriano Huerta

Victoriano Huerta

(1850 – 1916)

By all historical accounts, Victoriano Huerta was a drunkard, a liar, a thief, and a traitor. Most people consider him the worst villain of the Mexican revolution. Although he fought alongside Francisco I. Madero, and defended Madero’s presidency against several uprisings (including the one engineered by Pascual Orozco), he ultimately betrayed Madero. After that, Huerta became president. When he himself was overthrown in 1914, he went to Europe, and then returned to the United States to plot another coup with his former enemy, Pascual Orozco. He would never return to Mexico.

Huerta was born in Jalisco, near the center of Mexico and studied at the Colegio Militar (the military academy) in Mexico City. He became a general in the federal army of dictator Porfirio Díaz, but when Díaz was overthrown and Madero became President, Huerta remained in the federal army, serving Madero.

In that capacity, Huerta fought against the Zapatistas, but Madero removed him, thinking that the Zapatistas would respond better to the diplomatic approach of Felipe Ángeles, another general who had originally served Díaz, and then turned to Madero. Friction grew between Huerta and Madero, and as U.S. Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson began to doubt Madero’s ability to maintain order, Huerta orchestrated a coup with Wilson’s blessing. Huerta was able to remove – and ultimately assassinate — President Francisco Madero and Vice-President Pino Suarez.

As president, Huerta earned both the hatred of Mexicans who did not want another, and even fiercer, dictator after Díaz, as well as the distrust of the U.S. government. The new U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson, recalled Henry Lane Wilson, and ordered that the Mexican port of Veracruz be seized when it was discovered that German ships were bringing arms (ironically, American arms) to Huerta.

The seizure lasted longer than the remainder of Huerta’s presidency – which ended in July, 1914, on the eve of Europe’s entry into World War I. He was forced into exile as the “Constitutionalists,” the combined forces of Venustiano Carranza, Álvaro Obregón, and Francisco Villa defeated his federal troops in battles all across the northern half of the country.

Huerta traveled around Europe for a short period of time, but came to the U.S. in 1915, planning another coup. At one point, he met up with his old foe, Pascual Orozco, and they explored the possibility of returning to Mexico City together, and regaining power.

It was not to be. Huerta and Orozco were both arrested in New Mexico, close to the Texas border. Although Orozco escaped (and was subsequently killed, attempting to return across the border), Huerta never fully regained his freedom, and died on U.S. territory early in 1916 — of cirrhosis of the liver.

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