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ALBINO JARA Y LAS REVOLUCIONES PARAGUAYAS DE 1908, 1911 Y 1912

  Adrian J. English

For Paraguay, the first years of the 20th Century were troubled ones. Assassinations, revolts and traumatic changes of government were a constant presence. “It has more revolutions than Paraguay” was a pejorative phrase frequently used to describe any politically unstable country of the region.  One of the prime movers in these unfortunate events was Albino Jara, known as “The Meteoric Man” of Paraguayan politics. Every time it thundered, the women of Asuncion’s Central Market used to exclaim: “aipóa piko ára, terapa Jara jevyýma”.which very roughly translated as “Listen, Jara is at it again!”

 The Revolution of 1904 had brought an end to thirty years of continuous rule by the Colorado Party and placed the Liberals in power for the following three decades, even though these were to be marred by internecine strife between various factions of the Liberal Party.

On July 2nd ,1908,  a revolt which was to overthrew the government of President Benigno Asunción Ferreira, of the “Cívico” faction of the Liberal Party, began.

Several days prior to the outbreak of the revolt, signals of its imminence were given in the daily press but these were not interpreted correctly by the Government. The newspaper EL DIARIO published an article with the title “Revolution?”, in its edition of June 15th, 1908, simulating ignorance of the fact that the paper itself had long been encouraging opposition to the Government. “But from whom is a seditious movement expected?”, it asked with feigned innocence. “From the Colorado Party?”; “From those members of the Liberal Party excluded from the present regime?”; “From the barracks?”; “From some ministers against whom a certain disaffection is rumoured?”. The civilian head of the revolutionary movement was, in act, Adolfo Riquelme, the owner of the EL DIARIO.

To bring the project to fruition, a secret “Revolutionary Committee”, made up of both civilians and members of the military, had been set up. Their avowed reason for the overthrow of the government of General Ferreira was that “not only [had] he not complied with the objectives of the Liberating Revolution of 1904 but [that] he [had] discredited them”.

The civilians who made up the Revolutionary Committee included Manuel Franco, Eusebio Ayala, Félix Paiva, Emiliano Rojas, Liberato Rojas, Eduardo Schaerer and Adolfo Riquelme, of all of whom more was to be heard during the next 25 years. The members of the military involved in the conspiracy included Albino Jara, Fidel Ferreira, Tomás Mendoza, Ramón Bejarano, Patricio Alejandrino Escobar, Manuel Rojas, Carlos Goiburú and Marcial Urbieta, all of whom were also to leave their mark on history.

THE REVOLUTION  OF 1908

The Paraguayan regular Army then numbered approximately 2000, organized in 2 infantry battalions (nominal regiments), a cavalry regiment and an artillery regiment of two field batteries, equipped with eight recently delivered, state-of-the-art, Krupp Model1907 75 mm guns. One infantry battalion was located at Villa Hayes, the cavalry regiment being based at Paraguarí, leaving one infantry battalion and the artillery regiment at the capital. The support of both of the latter was critical to the success of any uprising.

Neither the date nor the time for the rising had yet been decided upon but faced with the possibility of its discovery, at midnight on July 2nd , Jara, and a group of half a dozen co-conspirators entered and took possession of the Artillery Barracks, arresting 2nd Lieutenant Velilla (the duty officer) and Captain Duarte, with the collaboration of some of the officers of the unit who were already involved in the conspiracy.

Another group, commanded by Américo Benítez, simultaneously took possession of the barracks of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, with the collaboration of some of its officers. Thus both the Artillery and the Infantry units stationed in the capital were now in the hands of the conspirators.All this occurred almost under the noses of the headquarters of the Police and of both the police Security Battalion and the Fire Brigade, which was also a militarized force, forming part of the police force of the capital, all of which was loyal to the Government.

At 3 am the Police noticed the developments and communicated this information by telephone to President Ferreira; the Minister of War and Marine, Naval Captain Duarte; and the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Benítez. However it was already too late. Minister Duarte attempted to reach Police Headquarters but was intercepted and made prisoner by one of the conspirators, Lieutenant Isaac Duarte (no relative) when he reached the junction of Calle Chile and Calle Estrella.

A heavy exchange of small arms fire commenced between the 2nd Infantry Regiment and the Police, the latter in possession of the upper floors of a large building known as “Casa Patri” (now the GPO), the National Theatre and other various strategic sites.  

The Captain of the armed transport LIBERTAD, the largest and most powerful unit in the Paraguayan Navy, which otherwise consisted of only the small patrol vessels TRIUNFO, PRESIDENTE BAEZ and TENIENTE HERREROS, believing that what he was witnessing was an attempted coup by Minister Duarte, who was a naval officer and after receiving heavy small arms fire from the Police, also commenced firing, loosing off 117 rounds of 3 inch gunfire against Police Headquarters, causing great loss of life and material damage. He only ceased fire when he received orders from President Ferreira to open fire on the 2nd Infantry Regiment. He did this for a few minutes before he realized the unfavourable position of the President whereupon he changed sides again, this time joining the rebels.

The Police made various attempts to escape from their positions, which were becoming increasingly untenable, being totally dominated by both rebel small arms and artillery fire, but on each occasion were driven back.

At 6 am President Ferreira, accompanied by Christian Heisecke – a relative by marriage – and by a naval officer and five naval ratings from the  Prefectura de Puertos, arrived at the Government Palace, where they were joined by the seventy-man palace guard. 

Whilst the sound of artillery and small arms fire still filled the air, some military and civilian members of the Revolutionary Committee arrived at the barracks of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. Amongst the military members were Lieutenant Colonel Patricio A. Escobar, Major Manuel Rojas and Captain Justo Escobar. These were later joined by a company of sailors. 

The gunfire of July 2nd continued, without respite, from 5 am until after midnight. It resumed on July 3rd and continued with the same intensity, progressively more  volunteers joining the rebels.At 11 am on July 3rd , loyalist forces, commanded by Elías García, were finally dislodged from Police Headquarters although forces loyal to the President retained control of other key positions, including the Cathedral, the Prison, the Internal Revenue Office and the Railway Station.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic corps had come together and on July 4th convinced the belligerents  to accept a cease-fire while they sought a mutually satisfactory solution to their differences.  

The dean of the diplomatic corps, US Ambassador, Edward T. O’Brien, arrived at the government Palace to discuss an end to hostilities with President Ferreira and after consultation delivered the President’s conditions to the rebels who, not surprisingly, rejected them. Having received re-assurances from the diplomatic corps, Ferreira then surrendered to the inevitable and he and his cabinet took refuge in the various foreign embassies. 

The resignation of President Benigno Ferreira, given to O’Brien and by him to the Revolutionary Committee read as follows: “Asunción, July 4th, 1908. To the Honourable Congress of the Nation. In the context of the prevailing circumstances, I present my resignation of the office of President of the Republic. With due protocolar salutations, B. Ferreira”. As soon as the contents of this note became known, his supports either dispersed or gave themselves up as prisoners. Leaving the Palace, Ferreira was accompanied by Albino Jara.

The era of the “Cívicos” having thus ended, the new masters of the country, the ”Revolutionary Committee”, declared a state of siege for a period of one month, promoted their military supporters and dismissed those who had remained loyal to the defeated Government.

Having dissolved Congress, the “Revolutionary Committee” designated Emiliano González Navero, the Vice President, as Provisional President of the Republic. Navero remained President until November 25th, 1910 when he was succeeded by Manuel Gondra. 

THE OVERTHROW OF PRESIDENT GONDRA AND THE COUNTER REVOLUTION OF 1911 

After only two months in office, Gondra, was overthrown on January 17th, 1911, in a coup, led Albino Jara, now a full colonel and whom he had misguidedly  appointed as his Minister of War and Marine. 

In 1909, the country had been divided into four Military Zones, each of which was to be garrisoned, in peace-time, by a single infantry battalion, a cavalry squadron and a field or mountain battery, plus supporting services. Only the IInd and IVth Zones, with their respective headquarters at Asunción and Encarnación, had reached their authorized establishments and Jara was supported only by the garrison of the capital and the IInd Military Zone, whilst the Ist, IIIrd and IVth Military Zones, with their respective HQs at Concepción, Humaitá and Encarnación, remained loyal to the President. Nevertheless, although he had sufficient support to challenge Jara’s usurpation of power, Gondra resigned to avoid blood-shed and the following day, January 18th, Jara was appointed Provisional President by the legislature. 

Towards the end of January, Adolfo Riquelme, who had held the office of Minister of the Interior under the deposed President, secretly travelled north to the city of Concepción to lead an armed movement to restore President Gondra, which had already been set in motion by the commander of the Ist Military Zone, Major Alfredo Medina. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Pedro Mendoza, the commander of the IVth Military Zone, had decided independently on a similar course of action. 

Finding himself in a position of serious military inferiority, Jara, who had received part of his own military education in Chile, had contracted a Chilean, mercenary, Captain Maximiliano Jofré, as a military adviser to the Provisional Government. This gentleman served in fact, if not in name, as Chief of Staff of the Government forces, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

Jofré sensibly decided to defeat the rebel forces individually, before they had a chance to unite. Taking advantage of the railway, the government forces concentrated their initial attention on Mendoza’s forces, in the south, inflicting a resounding defeat on them at Caí Puente (Coronel Bogado) before returning to the capital to face the insurgent threat from the north.  Meanwhile, the bulk of the latter, who were practically leaderless from the military point of view, Major Medina having fallen ill, embarked on river transport and sailed southward. 

Having disembarked at Piquete Cué (El Peñón), their leader, Donato Alonso, an officer of the Prison Guard Battalion, who had little formal military training, took up untenable defensive positions in a gorge at Ñandeyara, near Limpio, to the north east of Asunción, where his troops were vulnerable to defilading fire and suffered  a major defeat at the hands of the main body of the Government forces, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jofré.  

The remnants of the rebel force retreated, by river, to Villa del Rosario, where they were joined by some reinforcements, which had made the hazardous over land journey southward through the eastern Chaco. These were led by Riquelme himself and included two regular officers, Lieutenant Colonels Alfredo Aponte and Crisóstomo Machuca, who had returned from self-imposed exile in Argentina. 

The rebels were now attacked simultaneously by land and from the river by the entire Government army, numbering 3000, which had sailed northwards aboard a fleet of five armed river craft and commanded personally by Colonel Jara, aboard his flagship, the armed naval transport LIBERTAD.  

Despite the fact that they now had some professional military leadership, the rebels, misguidedly believing that the main Government attack would concentrate on Villa del Rosario, had concentrated the bulk of their forces there. Part of the government force, led by Colonel Carlos Goiburú, Jara’s Minister of War and Marine, had however landed to the south of Rosario and the brunt of the attack by the Government forces fell on an outpost at Estero Bonete, defended by only 180 rebel troops, under the command of Lieutenant Ricardo Cardozo.  

This insignificant force resisted a combined attack, by land and by river, for over five hours, causing numerous casualties amongst their attackers before its survivors were over-run, Lieutenant Cardozo having died in what was an heroic but doomed defence against overwhelming odds. 

Following this second reverse, rebel morale collapsed and Riquelme’s army dissolved without offering further resistance. 

Riquelme himself and eight companions tried to escape into the surrounding jungle, embarking in a canoe to cross the river Cuarepatí, to the north of Rosario. Reaching the opposite bank, they were surprised by a Government patrol which opened fire on them at around mid-day on March 17th , Riquelme and an Argentine citizen, named Pedro Castaing, being captured whilst the others escaped by swimming. Having been given reassurances regarding his personal safety. Riquelme was shot five hours later, “whilst attempting to escape” – the classic Latin American formula for getting rid of political rivals known as “la ley de fuga”. Castaing escaped a similar fate, due to the simultaneous arrival of an Argentine naval flotilla at Asunción. 

Although Riquelme’s revolution had collapsed in defeat, Jara’s victory was to prove a pyrrhic one. The circumstances of Riquelme’s death provoked denunciation in the press of neighbouring countries and three months of sporadic rioting and demonstrations in Paraguay itself, culminating in the overthrow of Jara in a bloodless palace coup on July 5th, 1911.

On July 6, 1911, Liberato Rojas, a Liberal of the “Cívico” faction, took office as the constitutionally recognized President, with the support of the Colorado Party.

Rojas had Jara arrested, and thrown into prison and then came to an arrangement whereby the government would pay him $30,000, as a thinly disguised bribe, ostensibly to "study military tactics in Europe" for a period of two years. To ensure that he left the country, Jara was not immediately given the money and he had only reached Buenos Aires, on his way to Europe, when the messenger entrusted to deliver his $30,000 to him absconded with it to Chile. Considering his arrangement with President Rojas to be now null and void, he bided his time until he could return to power, in fact if not in name. The continuing volatility of Paraguayan politics ensured that he had not to wait too long! 

THE ZEEBRUGGE AFFAIR

The 600 ton steamer ZEEBRUGGE sailed from Antwerp on the night of Oct. 12th , 1911, carrying under her hatches 250 tons of powder, four large cannon (one 7.5 inch and three 3 inch naval guns), one machine gun, 6,000 rifles, a wireless apparatus, uniforms, and other military supplies intended, supposedly, for an attempt by the Portuguese royalists to overthrow the Republic which had been established the year before. There were two English and five “Spanish” passengers aboard. One of the latter, Arricos by name, assumed direction of affairs as soon as the steamer was out of sight of land.

Instead of proceeding for Port. Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, for which she had cleared, the vessel headed directly for the South American mainland. The Belgian sailors now learned that it was the intention to attack the Paraguayan villages on the upper reaches of the Rio de la Plata. As soon as .the South Amerlcan coast was sighted, Arricos had the guns mounted on deck.

The ZEEBRUGGE was one of three merchant vessels which had been acquired, to support an attempt to overthrow the Jara regime, by the Executive Council of the Liberal Party, which had been deported en masse by Jara. The other vessels were the 150 ton steam yacht CLOVER (renamed ADOLFO RIQUELME), mounting two 3 inch guns; and the unarmed transport GENERAL DIAZ which carried the bulk of the armaments acquired in Europe which included six 75 mm field guns and 12 machineguns.

When the mouth of: the Rio de la Plata was reached, the Brazi!ian flag was hoisted, the hull of the steamer was repainted and her name changed to COIMBRA.  

Thanks to a heavy fog the vessel got past Montevideo and Buenos Aires without attracting attention. The Belgian crew were compelled, to obey orders fearing that it if the vessel were intercepted they would be summarily dealt with as pirates. They continued therefore to work the ship up the river during which the vessel’s name underwent yet another change, the name, CONSTITUCION being painted on her side. When the Paraguayan border was reached, the English captain announced .that the steamer belonged to Arricos, and that the men ware free to leave. Refusing the to join the expedition, despite financial inducements, the crew made their way to Buenos Aires and thence to Antwerp where they arrived on Dec. 31st.

None of the three ships which had been acquired specifically for the overthrow of Jara arrived in Paraguayan waters until the beginning of November, 1911 and were thus almost eight months too late to support Riquelme’s abortive uprising,. However, by this time Jara had been overthrown and the three vessels were incorporated into the Paraguayan Navy, more than doubling its strength.

 THE REVOLUTION OF 1912  

President Rojas was forced to resign, on February 28th, 1912, by pressure from the Chief of Police of the Capital, Cayo Romero Pereira and the legislature was recalled from its summer recess to elect a new President.  

Dr. Pedro P. Peña was proposed as President by the Colorado Party, with the support of the “Cívico” faction of the Liberals. However, the armed intervention of Major Eugenio Garay, a member of the opposing “Radical” faction, put paid to further debate and forced the legislature to re-elect Dr. Rojas.  

The “Cívicos” refused to recognize the validity of the re-election of Dr. Rojas as constitutional President, maintaining that the legal holder of that office was now Dr. Peña and elements of the garrison of Asunción sympathetic to the “Cívicos” and commanded by a Captain Hipólito Núñez, abandoned the capital, marching northwards to form a rebel  nucleus at Rosario, where they placed themselves under the orders of Colonel Jara, who by now had returned to Paraguay and set up his headquarters at Humaitá, in the south, where he assembled a force of 2000 armed followers. 

The Paraguayan Army itself, including its disaffected elements, now numbered slightly in excess of 2000 all ranks.  

There were now five Military Zones, a fifth Zone having been formed in the Chaco territory. Still only the IInd Zone  (HQ Asunción) and the IVth Zone (HQ Encarnación) had their full allocation of troops, the IIIrd (HQ Humaitá) containing only a single cavalry squadron, the Vth (HQ Olimpo) covering the Chaco region and having two garrisons in the region of the Upper Paraguay and two in the Pilcomayo sector, with combined effectives equivalent to two rifle companies, the Ist Zone (HQ Concepción) having only a skeleton headquarters and four frontier detachments, the combined effectives of which approximated to a weak rifle company. 

The Navy, which consisted of the armed yacht ADOLFO RIQUELME, which was used primarily as a training ship, the patrol vessels TRIUNFO, PRESIDENTE BAEZ  andTENIENTE HERREROS and the armed transports CONSTITUCION  and LIBERTAD now joined the insurgents in its entirety, the 180 ton patrol vessel TRIUNFO carrying supplies to the rebels in the north, who now numbered about 1000, running the gauntlet of gunfire from loyalist forces at Remanso Castillo. 

Insurgent forces now began to converge on Asunción from both the north and south. 

Rebel forces from Misiones, in the south, numbering 2500, had reached Ybycuí, to the south-east of Asunción, when they received the news of the second and definitive resignation of President Rojas in favour of Dr. Peña. Meanwhile the rebel forces in the north had marched southwards towards Pirayú, a critical point on the railway between Asunción and Villarica,  to join forces with the southern group. 

The insurgents suffered a major set-back on March 1st when an un-manned  locomotive, loaded with explosives, sent by the loyalist forces at Paraguarí, collided head-on with a train carrying 2000 rebel troops and two 75 mm mountain howitzers and commanded by Captain Elizardo Díaz, at Sapucaí railway station, causing numerous casualties, including many civilians. 

Nevertheless, the rebel forces, with a combined strength now amounting to 5500, supported by 20 pieces of assorted artillery and 14 machineguns, massed at Pirayú, further along the railway line to Asunción,  a week later, on March 8th .

President Peña was at a considerable military disadvantage with a force of only 1300, under the command of Colonels Eugenio Garay and Carlos Goiburú, to defend the capital. 

Attempts by the President to negotiate an agreement were rejected by the rebels who advanced towards Paraguarí where Colonel Jara was seriously wounded in an encounter with loyalist forces on March 11th. The rebels nevertheless continued their advance along the line of the railway and a government force of 800 was defeated by greatly superior insurgent forces at Luque on March 16th, casualties on both sides amounting to almost 1000. 

The rebels, now under the command of Majors Patricio Escobar and Adolfo Chirife, commenced a two-pronged assault on the capital the following day, March 17th, their main force attacking in the Recoleta area, to the east, whilst an amphibious force landed near Lambaré, to the south. 

The rebel assault, initially from San Lorenzo in the south east, began before dawn on March 19th and fierce combat continued on March 20th and 21st, loyalist counter-attacks causing a number of temporary reverses amongst the attackers. 

Meanwhile  the revolutionaries had concentrated three warships at  Pilar, one of which, the gunboat CONSTITUCION, ran aground at the mouth of the Pilcomayo, after attacking loyalist positions at Punta Itá Pyta although its crew managed to refloat it, with Argentine assistance, the following day. 

Before the rebel fleet could intervene, further, loyalist resistance at Asunción began to collapse and on the night of March 21st the Government abandoned the city aboard the Brazilian vessel ITAYUBA which brought them to Corrientes, in Argentina, together with 800 supporters, who were also carried in Brazilian vessels. 

The triumphant rebels occupied Asunción on the morning of March 22nd and formed a provisional government under the presidency once more of Emiliano González Navero. Jara however did not live to fulfil his ambition of becoming once more Paraguay’s eminence grise, having died on May 15th, 1912, a week before the victory of the rebel forces, from the wounds received in the battle of Paraguay. He was 35 years old.

So died Albino Jara, Paraguay’s “Meteoric Man”.

Dubious though his legal status as President may have been and despite his reprehensible use of the classic Latin American formula of the “ley de fuga” in ridding himself of his political rivals, Jara had managed to preside over the greatest period of progress since the presidency of Carlos Antonio López, more than half a century earlier. During his brief period of power, he established a modern educational system, comparable with those of Europe and the United Status; 40 sq. Kms of the streets of the capital, Asunción, were paved; the Paraguayan Central Railway was extended to Encarnación, with an onward connection, by ferry, to Posadas, in Argentina; and he proposed the creation of the faculties both of National History and Economy and Finance in the National University although these were not eventually set up until seven years later.

 

Este sitio es publicado por Carlos Mey -  Martínez - Argentina