Jorge Ubico

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Jorge Ubico

Jorge Ubico Castañeda (Guatemala City, November 10, 1878-New Orleans, June 14, 1946) was a Guatemalan soldier and politician. Twenty-first president of Guatemala. Previously, he served as political leader of the Verapaz and Retalhuleu during the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera. He ran for the presidency of Guatemala in 1926, but lost the election. Finally reached the presidency in 1931 and remained in office until July 1, 1944. He held his term through a totalitarian regime, a National Legislative Assembly completely subject to his designs and the political and economic support of the United Fruit Company (UFCO) of the United States.He is known for having been the last liberal authoritarian ruler in Latin America and for having kept common crime in the country to a minimum during his government.After a series of protests by some of the Guatemalan urban population against his government, he was forced to resign on July 1, 1944, leaving in his place a military triumvirate formed by Generals Eduardo Villagrán Ariza, Buenaventura Pineda and Federico Ponce Vaides. Ubico and his wife took refuge in their house in the Historic Center of Guatemala City, but after the October 20, 1944 Revolution that overthrew President Ponce Vaides, they embarked toward New Orleans, the United States-the UFCO-. Ubico died in exile on June 14, 1946.

Jorge_Ubico’s Biography

First years

Arturo Ubico Urruela, father of Ubico Castañeda.
Matilde Castañeda de Ubico, mother of General Jorge Ubico.

Ubico was born on November 10, 1878, in the city of Guatemala, the son of Arturo Ubico Urruela -lawyer and Guatemalan politician, activist of the Liberal Party of Guatemala and president of the National Legislative Assembly during most of the twenty-two years of the government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera- and Matilde Castañeda, whose baptismal sponsors were President Justo Rufino Barrios and First Lady Francisca de Barrios. His membership of the wealthy class allowed him to attend the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, receiving complementary education in military schools in the United States and Europe. In Guatemala he entered the Polytechnic School, but did not finish his military studies.

In 1896, the literary magazine La Ilustración Guatemalteca -which was a pioneer in the stories about cycling in Guatemala- dedicated a story to him after having won several races in the competitions that took place at the Hipódromo del Norte from 13 to 16 August. The article mentioned the adverse conditions that the competitors had to face due to the bad condition of the track: «We had already anticipated in our previous notes that the racecourse track is in very poor condition for pneumatic tires, and that is why we expected that, finding the cyclists a great obstacle in the loose sand, the races would have to be of resistance and not of speed. However, cyclist has had to run the thousand yards measured by the track in less than sixty-five seconds […] »Ubico won the races on August 13, 14 and 16, using a” White Flyer “bicycle and in front of a respectable number of fans who declared him as the Guatemalan cyclist champion According to the Guatemalan Enlightenment report, Ubico Castañeda, who was then sixteen, also excelled in swimming, horse riding, gymnastics, shooting white and in the use of foil and sword.

Incursion in politics

The generals José María Orellana (right) and Jorge Ubico (left) after the 1921 coup d’état. Orellana appointed Ubico as head of the Secret Police.

In 1897 he was appointed political chief in the rank of second lieutenant of infantry for Tactic, Alta Verapaz. It was there that he developed as a soldier and rose quickly, through all ranks, to become a brigadier general at twenty-eight years of age. Then he was governor of Retalhuleu, position in which he followed the military line of the government of Estrada Cabrera. On March 14, 1905, he married Marta Lainfiesta and Dorión and in 1915, he won an international cycling competition, since he was passionate about the competitions of that sport, besides motorcycles and horses, and in 1906 he participated in the War of Totoposte with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, distinguished himself as a capable, effective and authoritarian administrator, in 1923 he accepted the Secretary of War.

In January 1920 he was named Minister of Development by Manuel Estrada Cabrera, but resigned when the Legislative General Assembly declared mentally incompetent to that ruler. Ubico said then that he was separating from a “tyrannical” government.

Military junta of 1921

In 1921 he participated in the military junta that installed General José María Orellana as president of the country after the overthrow of President Carlos Herrera y Luna. With Orellana he reached the rank of general of division and was appointed to be the first appointed to the presidency and head of the secret police in 1922, although a year later he resigned his post and temporarily separated from the army.

However, Ubico soon returned to politics, believing himself destined to take Guatemala to development and progress. For that reason he sent several bills to Congress, some of which were approved; despite this, after some disagreements with General Orellana, he went to the opposition until his death in 1926. When the successor of Orellana, the general and interim president Lázaro Chacón, called for elections, Ubico founded the Progressive Liberal Party and participated against Chacón himself in said process. However, he was defeated.

More Facts about Jorge Ubico

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