Mexico Table of Contents
Madero assumed the presidency in November 1911. The new administration faced insurmountable problems. The fall of Díaz raised popular expectations of far-reaching social reforms, especially land reform. Zapata had come to Mexico City to claim hacienda land for the peasants of Morelos, which to him was the only acceptable result of the overthrow of the Díaz regime. Instead, Madero ordered Zapata to disband his troops, and reluctantly Zapata acceded to Madero's request. The interim government did not think Zapata was demobilizing fast enough, however, and sent federal troops to disarm the revolutionaries by force. Even though Madero was not responsible for this action, Zapata withdrew his support for Madero. Madero soon realized that to the liberals, the Revolution meant political change, but to the revolutionary fighters it meant radical social and economic transformations that Madero would not be able to fulfill. Madero dealt with the labor and land tenure problems politically through the National Agrarian Commission and the Department of Labor. However, the only tangible change was that labor groups felt free to organize. They were also allowed to publish the newspaper Luz . Labor unrest continued, despite the government's attempts to control strikes. Madero's democratic administration was failing its staunchest supporters, and rebellions began to surface.
In November the Zapatista faction revolted under the principles of the Plan of Ayala, which asked for restoration of privately owned lands to rural villages. The armed revolt spread through the states of Morelos, Guerrero, Tlaxcala, Puebla, México, and even into Mexico City. By 1912 the Zapatista forces had caused severe damage to railroad and telegraph lines and had won several battles against federal troops.
Revolutionaries from other areas began to challenge the new government, and an offensive was launched in March 1912 by Orozco, who accused Madero of abandoning the principles of the Plan of San Luis Potosí. Orozco was defeated, however, by Victoriano Huerta, the unscrupulous commander of the federal forces. Meanwhile, Félix Díaz (Porfirio's nephew) was assembling an army in Veracruz to march against Madero, but Madero was able to order his arrest andbring him to Mexico City.
Félix Díaz and other counterrevolutionaries plotted a military coup from inside prison and proceeded to take the National Palace on February 8, 1913. With the aid of loyal troops under Huerta, Madero initially resisted the Díaz forces, but street fighting and chaos overtook the city. On February 18, Huerta, seeing an opportunity to seize power, joined the coup against Madero and had both the president and Vice President José María Pino Suárez arrested.
Huerta's decision to change sides was made with the knowledge and assistance of United States ambassador Henry Lane Wilson in what became known as the Pact of the Embassy. Huerta extracted resignations from both Madero and Pino Suárez and had himself appointed secretary of interior, which made him the heir to the presidency, according to the provisions of the constitution of 1857. That same evening, Huerta was sworn in as president, and on February 21, Madero and Pino Suárez were assassinated while being transferred to the penitentiary in Mexico City.
Opposition to Huerta began to emerge once he assumed power. Venustiano Carranza in Coahuila, Villa in Chihuahua, and Álvaro Obregón in Sonora formed a front against the dictator under the Plan of Guadalupe, issued in March 1913. Zapata preferred to maintain his troops' independence from the northern coalition, but remained in revolt against Huerta. The latter responded by increasing the size of the military by forced conscription. Federal forces terrorized the countryside and looted villages, and political assassinations became a trademark of Huerta's rule. The country faced other problems. The federal treasury was empty, and each faction began issuing its own currency. Huerta's government had not been recognized by the United States, which considered him a usurper of the previously elected government. Seeking a return to constitutional rule, the administration of President Woodrow Wilson channeled aid indirectly to the northern coalition.
By early 1914, Huerta was clearly losing on all fronts, but there was one specific event that precipitated his resignation. When United States sailors were arrested at Veracruz for trespassing on dock facilities, the commander of the United States naval forces off Tampico demanded ceremonial salutes of the United States flag by Mexican personnel. When the United States demands were not met, United States troops occupied Veracruz. Indignation brought about a series of reprisals against United States citizens and their flag throughout Mexico. In the face of growing disorder, Huerta resigned on July 8, 1914.
Data as of June 1996
Mexico Table of Contents