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Juan Vicente Gómez (July 24, 1857December 17, 1935) was a military general and president of Venezuela on three occasions from 1908 until his death in 1935.

A supporter of Cipriano Castro through his exile in Cuba, Gómez became his senior advisor and, in 1902, head of the military, responsible for suppressing several major revolts against the government. Gómez seized power from Castro on December 20, 1908, while Castro was in Europe for medical treatment.

As president, Gómez managed to deflate Venezuela's staggering debt by granting concessions to foreign oil companies. This, in turn, won him the support of the United States and Europe and economic stability. Though he used the money to launch an extensive public works program, he also received generous cutbacks, increasing his personal fortune enormously. Because of his contributions to the country's development, the Congress bestowed the title of El Benemérito (the Meritorious One) on him. In contrast, his opponents, who disained his brutal tactics at home, referred to him as El Bagre (the Catfish), a snide reference to his bushy moustache and outward appearance.

On April 19, 1914, Gómez ostensibly stepped down from office in favor of provisional president Victoriano Márquez Bustillos, though he continued to rule the country from his home in Maracay. He returned to office on May 3, 1915, ruling until April 22, 1929. Though he was reelected to a new term of office by the Congress, he declined to return to the capital, and Juan Bautista Pérez assumed the presidency, though Gómez remained the final authority in the country. On June 13, 1931, Congress forced Perez to resign, and elected Gómez president again. This time, he resumed office, ruling the country until his death.

Gómez's rule of Venezuela is a controversial period in the country's history. He brough wealth to the country, particularly after the discovery of petroleum in Lake Maracaibo in 1918, and he used that wealth to develop a modern infrastructure. Nevertheless, he also enriched himself and held basic democratic principles in disdain. Though he never married, Gómez fathered as many as one hundred children, many of whom he appointed to public office, sparking charges of nepotism.

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