Óscar R. Benavides
|Óscar Raymundo Benavides Larrea|
|67th President of Peru|
February 4, 1914 – August 18, 1915
|Preceded by||Guillermo Billinghurst|
|Succeeded by||José Pardo y Barreda|
|76th President of Peru|
April 30, 1933 – December 8, 1939
|Preceded by||Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro|
|Succeeded by||Manuel Prado y Ugarteche|
|Born||March 15, 1876|
|Died||July 2, 1945 (aged 69)
|Spouse(s)||Francisca Benavides Diez Canseco|
He was born in Lima on March 15, 1876. The son of Miguel Benavides y Gallegos, Sargeant Major of the National Guard, and Erfilia Larrea, Peruvian socialite. After attending the Guadalupe High School (Colegio de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) in Lima, Benavides entered the Military School of Lima (la Escuela Militar) and in 1894, the “Dos de Mayo” Artillery Brigade. In 1901, he was promoted to Captain; and in 1906, at age 30, he graduated with top grades as Sergeant Major at the Military Academy in Lima, directed by the French Military Mission. The Government sent Benavides to France to complete his military training (Basadre 1963, p. 3602), after which the French Republic distinguished him with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Caquetá River Campaign
Upon returning to Peru in December 1910, Benavides was designated commanding officer of Infantry Battalion N° 9, garrisoned in Chiclayo, on the Northern Pacific Coast ofPeru. In February 1911, the Peruvian Government ordered Benavides to lead Battalion Nº 9 to the Northeastern border with Colombia in Peruvian Amazonia. Colombiahad established a fortified post at La Pedrera on the southern bank of the Caquetá River, which, according to the Porras-Tanco Argáez Treaty of 1909, was within Peruvian territory.
Battalion N° 9 had to travel more than 2,000 kilometers, passing over the roadless Andean range atCajamarca and Chachapoyas to the Amazonic jungle. At Balsapuerto, at the headwaters of theHuallaga River, the expedition prepared rafts and obtained canoes (El Mariscal, vol. I, p. 114-115), traveling downstream to Yurimaguas on the Huallaga, and thence by boat to Iquitos on the Amazon River. The naval expedition, consisting of one gunboat and four boats, set out from Iquitos on June 29, 1911, four months after departing Chiclayo. On July 10 it faced La Pedrera with blazing flags. After an exchange of notes in which the Colombian Commander refused to vacate the position, Commander Benavides initiated the attack. The triumph of the Peruvian forces was complete. But on July 24, to his dismay, Commander Benavides was informed that the Peruvian and Colombian Governments had signed a treaty whereby the Peruvian forces were to abandon the Caquetá and to withdraw to thePutumayo River.
On July 28, 1911, the Peruvian forces still at La Pedrera celebrated Independence Day. But they lacked equipment to protect themselves from the climate, diseases, and infections endemic to the region. On July 29, the troops underwent a terrible epidemic of yellow fever and beriberi. Lacking medicines, the troops were cruelly decimated.
On August 4, Commander Benavides returned to Iquitos. He was promoted to the rank of Infantry Colonel; but Benavides wrote in his diary: "I have suffered so much that the victory obtained and the ovations and promotion conferred on me have not gratified me in the way many assume, as they would have without so much misfortune" (El Mariscal, Vol I, p. 186).
The Government sent Benavides to Europe for treatment of beriberi. When he returned to Peru on April 8, 1912, he was received as a national hero, and in his honor a parade took place in Lima, along theJirón de la Unión to the Plaza de Armas. On this occasion, he met his distant cousin Francisca Benavides Diez Canseco, whom he married a few months later. Benavides was appointed to the position of General Commander of the Third Region in Arequipa. In November 1913, Benavides was designated Head of the Army General Staff in Lima.
On July 16, 1913 he was shot in the arm in a bandit attack on his troops. He was shot again on the same day by an allies stray bullet. Neither of the wounds were fatal (or even near fatal), but it did put a damper on his fighting abilities.
First presidential term
In 1913, the President of Peru was Guillermo Billinghurst, who had been elected in 1912 with the backing of workers' movements. Faced with the opposition of a significant sector of Congress, Billinghurst planned to dissolve Congress. Some Congressmen conspired to depose the President, and obtained the backing of Lieutenant Colonel José Urdanivia Ginés, head of a section of the Army General Staff. Billinghurst attempted to arm the population to fight the Armed Forces. The conspirators approached Colonel Benavides, who agreed to back them, both to defend the Constitutional order and to avoid a division of the Armed Forces (Basadre, p. 3733-3734). On February 4, 1914, the Army, under the command of Benavides, obtained from President Billinghurst a statement of willingness to negotiate. Billinghurst was deposed and exiled to Chile, where he died the following year.
As Chief of Staff, Benavides was appointed by the conspirers to preside over a Government Council. On May 15, the National Congress designated him as Provisional President. On December 17, Benavides ascended to General of Brigade (Tauro, p. 285). During the 18 months of his government, Benavides restored political order and stability. Regarding his cabinets, Basadre (p. 3772) writes: "General Benavides’ choice of collaborators was cautious and balanced". Benavides called general presidential elections which were won by José Pardo y Barreda, who governed from August 18, 1915.
President Pardo sent Benavides to Paris (1916) as an observer of World War I; he was a witness at the battle of Verdun. Subsequently (1917), Pardo sent him to Italy as Extraordinary Emissary and Plenipotentiary Minister. On July 4, 1919, Augusto B. Leguía became President of Peru as the result of a coup d´état against Pardo. In December 1920, Benavides resigned from the post in Rome and returned to Lima.
Leguía feared that Benavides would organize a revolt, and had him arrested on May 3, 1921. Benavides and twenty-five other citizens were boarded as prisoners on the “Paita” steamship destined to Sydney,Australia. A revolt, commanded by Benavides, captured the ship’s captain and officers, and changed the route to Costa Rica. From Costa Rica. Benavides moved to Panamá and thence to Guayaquil(Ecuador) where he renewed contacts with elements opposing Leguia. In November 1927, he moved toFrance (El Mariscal, vol II, p. 47).