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Vicente Martinez

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Vicente Martinez

Vicente Martinez of Guatemala.

Vicente Martinez was the President of Guatemala from 1870 to 1886.

Martinez was a member of the Guatemalan Senate, and an opponent of the regime of President Miguel Rubio, when he was approached by representatives of Kramer Associates in October 1869. K.A. President Bernard Kramer intended to build a canal across Guatemala, and he was unhappy to learn that Rubio had awarded the contract for a canal to a consortium backed by the German government. Kramer offered to back Martinez in a coup d'etat against Rubio, and Martinez agreed.

Over the next five months, Martinez laid the groundwork for his coup, and was supplied with money, provisions, and weapons by Kramer. By March, Martinez was ready, and on Wednesday, March 9, he launched his uprising. After four days of fighting, Rubio was forced to flee Guatemala City, and Martinez declared himself provisional president of Guatemala. Martinez' government was recognized by that of the United States of Mexico on March 16. Martinez quickly cancelled Rubio's contract with the Germans, and awarded rights to a canal to K.A. on April 20. Under the terms of the contract, K.A. was awarded control of a five mile wide strip of land on either side of the canal.

Work on the canal began quickly under Chief Engineer Courtney Wymess, although the canal was not completed until 1878. Following the assassination of Mexican President Omar Kinkaid on December 7, 1879, the Guatemala Canal was renamed the Kinkaid Canal.

Trouble appeared on October 4, 1886, when Mexican Chief of State Benito Hermión demanded the widening of the Kinkaid Canal Zone for what Martinez felt to be an insultingly small price. After two weeks of fruitless negotiations, Hermión began to denounce Martinez as a French puppet, and ordered the mobilization of Mexican military forces. Although Martinez agreed to Hermión's terms on October 18, Hermión nevertheless declared war on Guatemala. The Mexican Fourth Army under General Miguel Aguilar attacked across the Guatemalan border, and by November 15 had succeeded in capturing Guatemala City.

Sobel makes no further mention of Martinez after the Isthmian War. Martinez presumably either fled Guatemala, or was captured and executed by General Aguilar.

Sobel erroneously gives Martinez' first name as Vincenzo rather than Vicente.


Sobel's sources for the life of Vicente Martinez are Stanley Tulin's He Straddled the Continents: The Life of Bernard Kramer (London, 1960), and Edward McGraw's The Isthmian War in Mexican History (Melbourne, 1954).

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