José Santos Zelaya

Last updated
Jose Santos
Jose Santos Zelaya cph.3a03378.jpg
President of Nicaragua
In office
25 July 1893 21 December 1909
Vice President Anastasio J. Ortiz 1893–1894 Francisco Baca 1894–1896
Preceded by Joaquín Zavala
Succeeded by José Madriz
Personal details
José Santos Zelaya López

1 November 1853
Died17 May 1919 (aged 65)
New York City
Political partyLiberal Party

José Santos Zelaya López (1 November 1853 in Managua – 17 May 1919 in New York City) was the President of Nicaragua from 25 July 1893 to 21 December 1909. [1]

Managua Place in Nicaragua

Managua is the capital and largest city of Nicaragua, and the center of an eponymous department. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua, it had an estimated population 1,042,641 in 2016 within the city's administrative limits and a population of 1,401,687 in the metropolitan area, which additionally includes the municipalities of Ciudad Sandino, El Crucero, Nindirí, Ticuantepe and Tipitapa.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

President of Nicaragua head of state and head of government of Nicaragua

The President of Nicaragua officially known as the President of the Republic of Nicaragua is the head of state of Nicaragua. The office was created in the Constitution of 1854. From 1825 until the Constitution of 1838, the head of state of Nicaragua was styled simply as Head of State, and from 1838 to 1854 as Supreme Director.


Early life

He was a son of José María Zelaya Irigoyen, who was originally from Olancho, Honduras, and his mistress Juana López Ramírez. His father José María was married to Rosario Fernández.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.


Zelaya was of Nicaragua's Liberal party and enacted a number of progressive programs, including improved public education, railroads, and established steam ship lines. He also enacted constitutional rights that provided for equal rights, property guarantees, habeas corpus, compulsory vote, compulsory education, the protection of arts and industry, minority representation, and the separation of state powers. [2] However, his desire for national sovereignty often led him to policies contrary to colonialist interests.

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

Progressivism is the support for or advocacy of social reform. As a philosophy, it is based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition.

Habeas corpus is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful.

In 1894, he took control of the Mosquito Coast by military force; it had long been the subject of dispute, and was home to a native kingdom claimed as a protectorate by the British Empire. Indeed, Nicaragua (and before that Spain) had always claimed the Caribbean Coast, but "Zambos" pirates (former African runaway slaves mixed with local Indians) and part of the Misquito Indians (probably with the Sumos and Ramas as well), together with the military support of the British Marines, tried to create a colonial British settlement (Greytown, nowadays Puerto Zelaya[ citation needed ]). This is similar to the cases of Belize and Guatemala, except that Belize has been an independent nation since 1981. Zelaya's fortitude paid off, and the United Kingdom, which probably did not wish to go to war over this distant land of the Empire, recognized Nicaraguan sovereignty over the area. The strategic value of this land led to the name "Vía del Tránsito" ("Route of Traffic"). Both the United Kingdom and the USA wanted the control of this route, which connected the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Coast across the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua. At this point, the Panama Canal did not exist, and the USA was rising as a new continental power. Cornelius Vanderbilt became the owner of the steamboats in the San Juan River, but he was later expropriated by William Walker.

Mosquito Coast former protectorate of the United Kingdom

The Mosquito Coast, also known as the Miskito Coast and the Miskito Kingdom, historically included the kingdom's fluctuating area along the eastern coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras. It formed part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskito Amerindians and was long dominated by British interests. The Mosquito Coast was incorporated into Nicaragua in 1894; however, in 1960, the northern part was granted to Honduras by the International Court of Justice.

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Reelection, possibility of a canal, and response from the US

José Santos Zelaya was reelected president in 1902 and again in 1906.

The possibility of building a canal across the isthmus of Central America had been the topic of serious discussion since the 1820s, and Nicaragua was long a favored location. When the United States shifted its interests to Panama, Zelaya negotiated with Germany (who happened to be in the middle of a cold war with the U.S over Caribbean ports) and Japan in an unsuccessful effort to have a canal constructed in his state. Fearful that president Zelaya might generate an alternative foreign alignment in the region, the U.S. labeled him a tyrant in opposition to U.S. planned hegemony. [3]

Canal Man-made channel for water

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

Nicaragua Canal proposed shipping route across Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan Canal, formally the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project was a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Scientists were concerned about the project's environmental impact, as Lake Nicaragua is Central America's key freshwater reservoir while the project's viability was questioned by shipping experts and engineers.

José Zelaya had the project of reuniting the Federal Republic of Central America, with, he hoped, himself as national president. With this aim in mind, he gave aid to liberal federalist factions in other Central American nations. This threatened to create a full scale Central American war which would endanger the United States Panamanian canal and give European nations, such as Germany, an excuse to intervene to protect the collection of their bank's payments in the region or if failing that then demand a land concession.

The Zelaya administration had growing friction with the United States government, for example while the French government had inquired to the U.S. whether a loan to Nicaragua would be deemed unfriendly, the U.S. Secretary of State required the loan to be conditional on U.S. relations. After the loan was pending on the Paris stock exchange, the U.S. further isolated Nicaragua by claiming any money Zelaya would receive "would be without doubt spent to purchase munitions to oppress his neighbors" and in "hostility to peace and progress in Central America." The US State Department also demanded that all investments in Central America would also need be approved by the U.S. as a means to protect U.S. interests and to overthrow president Zelaya according to a French minister. [4]

The U.S. started giving financing aid to his Conservative and Liberal opponents in Nicaragua who broke out in open rebellion in October 1909, led by Liberal General Juan J. Estrada. Nicaragua sent its forces into Costa Rica to suppress Estrada's pro U.S. destabilizing forces, but U.S. officials deemed the incursion as an affront to Estrada's aims and attempted to coerce Costa Rica into acting first against Nicaragua, but Foreign Minister Ricardo Fernández Guardia assured Calvo that Costa Rica was determined "not to enter such dangerous actions as those proposed by Washington." It "considered the joint action proposed contrary to the Washington treaty and desired to maintain a neutral attitude." [5] Costa Rican officials considered the United States a more serious threat to Central American peace and harmony than Zelaya's Nicaragua. Costa Rica Foreign Minister Fernández Guardia insisted, "We do not understand here what interests can the Washington government have that Costa Rica assumes a resolutely aggressive position against Nicaragua, with the danger of compromising the observation of the...conventions of December 20, 1907.... It is in Central America's interest that U.S. action with respect to Nicaragua should assume the character of an international conflict and in no sense the character of an intervention tolerated and even less solicited or supported by the other signatory republics of the Washington Treaty. [6] So Costa Rica, even the fact that came itself from a kind of small civil Counter-Revolution in 1889 against Liberal-Military regime, never was an accomplice of USA Imperialist Policy against Nicaragua in those times. [7] On the contrary, some Liberals from Costa Rica exiled in Nicaragua during Zelaya's regime. Liberals returned to the Government in Costa Rica with the polemic President Ascensión Esquivel Ibarra (1902-1906), who was born in Nicaragua and later with the first Government of President Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno (1910-1914). Liberal returned in Civil and a Democratic way to Costa Rica with the popular and progressive Government of Alfredo González Flores (1914-1917), overthrow by the short Dictatorship (1917 -1919) of Federico Tinoco Granados, during I World War. Political Liberalism in Latin America was different from nowadays Neo-Conservative or Neo-Liberalism in Economy. On the contrary, old Political Liberalism mixed with Anti-Imperialism and Nationalism became in some Latin American countries,(such as Mexico after Revolution, Ecuador with Eloy Alfaro, Colombia with Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, etc.), an ideology that represented the interests of the lower popular classes before Socialism. Of course it wasn't always like that, in other countries of Latin America. For example, specially for Nicaragua, when Somoza and his family Dictatorship with the support of USA, claimed himself as "Liberal" betraying Zelaya, Benjamín Zeledón, and Sandino Democratic and Anti-imperialist political heritage.

US sets up base of operations in Nicaragua

U.S. Marines leaving New York City in 1909 for deployment in Nicaragua. Then-Colonel William P. Biddle, in charge of the detachment, is in civilian clothes at right. U.S. Marines and Colonel William P. Biddle.png
U.S. Marines leaving New York City in 1909 for deployment in Nicaragua. Then-Colonel William P. Biddle, in charge of the detachment, is in civilian clothes at right.

Officers of Zelaya's government executed some[ quantify ] captured rebels; two United States mercenaries were among them, and the U.S. government declared their execution grounds for a diplomatic break between the countries which later led to formal intervention. At the start of December, United States Marines landed in Nicaragua's Bluefields port, supposedly to create a neutral zone to protect foreign lives and property but which also acted as a base of operations for the anti-Zelayan rebels. On 17 December 1909, Zelaya turned over power to José Madriz and fled to Spain. Madriz called for continued struggle against the mercenaries, but in August 1910 diplomat Thomas Dawson obtained the withdrawal of Madriz. Thereafter the U.S. called for a constituent assembly to write a constitution for Nicaragua and the vacant presidency was filled by a series of Conservative politicians including Adolfo Diaz. During this time, through free trade and loans, the U.S. exercised strong control over the country.


  1. "Gobernantes de Nicaragua". Ministerio de Educación. 9 December 2012.
  2. José Santos Zelaya: President of Nicaragua, 5-18; Adán Selva: Lodo y ceniza de una politica que ha podrido las raices de la nacionalidad nicaragüense ( Managua, 1960), 48-49; Gregorio Selser, Nicaragua de Walker a Somoza ( Mexico, 1984), 82.
  3. Thomas Schoonover and Lester D. Langley, The Banana Men: American Mercenaries and Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 (University Press of Kentucky, 1995), p. 25.
  4. MAE to Jean Jules Jusserand, May 17, 24, June 4, 1909, Jusserand to MAE, May 22, July 1, 1909, Henry White to Pichon, May 28, 1909, Min. Finances to MAE, May 29, 1909, MAE to Min. Finances, July 2, 1909, CP 1918, Nic., Finances, Emprunts, N. S. 3, AMAE, Paris (copies in F 30 393 1: folder Nic., Amef); Tony Chauvin to MAE, July 28, 1909, Pierre Lefévre-Pontalis to MAE, July 30, Aug. 26, 1909, CP 1918, Hond., Finances, N. S. 3, AMAE, Paris (copies in F 30 393 1: folder Hond., Amef); Chauvin to Morgan, Harjes and Company, July 31, 1909, Chauvin to Min. Finances, Aug. 3, 1909, MAE to Min. Finances, Sept. 14, 1909, F 30 393 1: folder Hond., Amef.
  5. Ricardo Fernández Guardia to Calvo, Nov. 23, 1909, MRE, libro copiador 170, AN, CR; Fernández Guardia to Calvo, Nov. 25, 1909, MRE, libro copiador 157, AN, CR; Munro, Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy, 173-74, presents the case for no U.S. involvement in the Estrada revolt; Challener, Admirals, Generals, and American Foreign Policy, 289-99, Healy, "The Mosquito Coast, 1894-1910," present the case for U.S. assistance to Estradai Lewis Einstein to Sec. St., Nov. 9, 1911, RG 59, Decimal files, 711.18/4, U.S. & CR (M 670/r 1). See also de Benito to MAE, Oct. 10, 1910, H1609, AMAE, Madrid.
  6. Fernández Guardia to Calvo, Nov. 27, 1909, MRE, libro copiador 170, AN, CR; Calvo to Fernández Guardia, Nov. 28, 1909, MRE, caja 188, AN, CR; Munro, Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy, 206; Bailey, "Nicaragua Canal, 1902-1931,"6, 10.
  7. ( Gregorio Selser: "Nicaragua, de Walker a Somoza". México DF: Mex-Sur, 1984; selser, Gregorio: "Sandino, general de hombres libres. Buenos Aires: Pueblos Unidos de América, 1955"; Selser, Gregorio: "La restauración conservadora y la gesta de Benjamín Zeledón": Nicaragua-USA, 1909-1916. [Managua?]: Aldilà Editor, 2001; Selser, Gregorio: "Cronología de las intervenciones extranjeras en América Latina (Tomos 1 y 2)": publicado postumamente.)

Related Research Articles

Próspero Fernández Oreamuno Costa Rican politician

Juan Primitivo Próspero Fernández Oreamuno was President of Costa Rica from 1882 to 1885.

Bruno Carranza Head of state

José Bruno Carranza Ramírez was briefly President of Costa Rica in 1870. Bruno Carranza came to power in the coup d'état of 27 April 1870 that deposed President Jesús Jiménez. He resigned three months later.

José María Castro Madriz Costa Rican politician

José María Castro Madriz was a Costa Rican lawyer, academic, diplomat, and politician. He served twice as President of Costa Rica, from 1847 to 1849, and from 1866 to 1868. On both occasions he was prevented from completing his term of office by military coups. During his first administration, on 31 August 1848, he formally declared Costa Rica an independent republic, definitively severing Costa Rica's ties to the moribund Federal Republic of Central America.

Coat of arms of Costa Rica coat of arms

The official coat of arms of the Republic of Costa Rica was designed in 1848, with modifications in 1906, 1964, and 1998. The latest change was the addition of smoke to distinguish the three volcanoes.

Maribel Guardia Costa Rican model

Maribel Guardia is a Costa Rican and Mexican actress, model, singer and TV hostess. She was winner of Miss Costa Rica 1978 and contestant in Miss Universe 1978.

Alajuela Canton in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

Alajuela is the second largest city in Costa Rica. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province.

José Madriz Rodríguez was the President of Nicaragua from 21 December 1909 to 20 August 1910.

Juan José Estrada President of Nicaragua

Juan José Estrada Morales was the President of Nicaragua from 29 August 1910 to 9 May 1911.

Adolfo Díaz President of Nicaragua

Adolfo Díaz Recinos was the 12th President of Nicaragua between 9 May 1911 and 1 January 1917 and 18th between 14 November 1926 and 1 January 1929. Born in Costa Rica to Nicaraguan parents in 1875, he worked as a secretary for the La Luz y Los Angeles Mining Company, an American company chartered in Delaware that owned the large gold mines around Siuna in eastern Nicaragua. In this capacity, he helped channel funds to the revolt against Liberal President José Santos Zelaya, who had incurred the anger of the United States by negotiating with Germany and Japan to resurrect the proposed Nicaragua Canal. Díaz became Vice President of Nicaragua in 1910. After he became president in 1911, Díaz was forced to rely on U.S. Marines to put down a Liberal revolt, which resulted in a contingent of Marines remaining in Nicaragua for over a decade. In return, in 1914, he signed the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty, which granted the United States exclusive rights to build an inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua.

United States occupation of Nicaragua part of the Banana Wars

The United States occupation of Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933 was part of the Banana Wars, when the US military intervened in various Latin American countries from 1898 to 1934. The formal occupation began in 1912, even though there were various other assaults by the U.S. in Nicaragua throughout this period. American military interventions in Nicaragua were designed to stop any other nation except the United States of America from building a Nicaraguan Canal.

Minor Cooper Keith American businessman

Minor Cooper Keith was an American businessman whose railroad, commercial agriculture, and shipping enterprises much influenced the national economies of the Central American countries, and that of Colombia. His pioneering banana interests were absorbed by the then powerful United Fruit Company, today industry dominating giant Chiquita Brands International.

The Academia Costarricense de la Lengua is an association of academics and experts on the use of the Spanish language in Costa Rica. It was founded in San José on October 12, 1923. It is a member of the Association of Spanish Language Academies.

Florencio del Castillo Costa Rican politician

Florencio del Castillo was a Costa Rican cleric and politician.

Index of Costa Rica-related articles Wikimedia list article

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the Republic of Costa Rica.

Minister of Foreign Affairs (Costa Rica)

This is a list of foreign ministers of Costa Rica.

Ochomogo War

The Ochomogo War or Costa Rican Civil War of 1823 was Costa Rica's first civil war, and was fought shortly after the country became independent from Spain.

Joaquín Mariano de Oreamuno y Muñoz de la Trinidad was a Costa Rican who led a coup in 1823 that attempted to make Costa Rica part of the First Mexican Empire. A few days later the imperialist forces were defeated by republicans under Gregorio José Ramírez in the Battle of Ochomogo.

First Costa Rican Republic

The First Costa Rican Republic is the name given to the historical period between the proclamation of the Republic of Costa Rica in the 1848 reformed Constitution and the official decree by then President José María Castro Madriz on 31 August 1848 and the Costa Rican Civil War of 1948 which ended with the enactment of the current 1949 Constitution on 7 November 1949 starting the Second Costa Rican Republic.

Liberalism in Costa Rica

Liberalism in Costa Rica is a political philosophy with a long and complex history. Liberals were the hegemonic political group for most of Costa Rica’s history especially during the periods of the Free State and the First Republic, however, as the liberal model exhausted itself and new more left-wing reformist movements clashed during the Costa Rican Civil War liberalism was relegated to a secondary role after the Second Costa Rican Republic with the development of Costa Rica’s Welfare State and its two-party system controlled by social-democratic and Christian democratic parties.

Freemasonry in Costa Rica

Freemasonry begins in Costa Rica at the same time as in Central America during the course of the 19th century. Regular masonry begins when it was founded by Costa Rican Catholic priest Francisco Calvo, ex-Chaplain General of the Army of Costa Rica during the Filibuster War of 1856, who introduced regular masonry in Central America in 1865. However, there is evidence of the existence of "non-regular" Lodges active after the Indepenence and before. Prominent Costa Rican figures of politics, literature, art and science, including several presidents of the Republic, were Freemasons.