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Francisco Madero
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Francisco Madero

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Francisco Madero was a reformist politician who successfully removed dictator Porfirio Diaz from office in Mexico. He became president in 1911, but was assassinated two years later.

Who Was Francisco Madero?

Francisco Madero was born into a wealthy Mexican family and studied in the United States and Paris. Madero organized the Anti-Reelectionist Party when Mexico's dictator Porfirio Diaz declared he would run for reelection in 1910. Madero won the presidential election in 1911, but was unprepared for the demands of office. He was assassinated in 1913.

Early Life

Francisco Indalecio Madero was born on October 30, 1873 in Parras, Mexico, to a very wealthy family. Educated at a Jesuit college in Saltillo, Mexico, he also studied in the United States and Europe. After his schooling, Madero operated one of the family farms in San Pedro, Mexico. During this time, he introduced modern farming methods and improved conditions for his workers.

Mexican Revolution

Since 1876, Mexico's government was under the complete control of iron-fisted dictator Porfirio Díaz. Although he had modernized the country and grew the economy, Díaz squashed all political opposition and dispossessed peasants from their land. The stark contrast between rapid economic growth for the elite and sudden impoverishment for the masses eventually led to the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

In the early 1900s, unrest among Mexican citizens began to build, eventually transitioning into protests. In 1903, a political demonstration against the Díaz regime was violently crushed. This prompted Francisco Madero to oppose Díaz. However, Madero had to overcome some image problems in the macho world of Mexican politics. He had a small stature and high-pitched voice. A devout vegetarian and teetotaler, he followed homeopathy and spiritualism, once declaring he "channeled" the spirit of former Mexican President Benito Juarez.

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Presidential Election of 1911

In 1905, Madero backed several political candidates opposing the Díaz regime. Although initially unsuccessful, he published an influential political newspaper, El Democrata. By 1908, Díaz relented to growing pressure and proclaimed that Mexico was "ready" for democracy, thus the 1910 elections would be free. Madero formed the Anti-Reelectionist Party to challenge Díaz's presidency.

As Election Day in 1910 neared, it became clear that Madero would win. Díaz reneged on his promise of free elections and had Madero jailed, allowing Diaz to win the fraudulent election. Madero was soon bailed out of jail and escaped to Texas, where he issued the "Plan of San Luis Potosi," declaring the 1910 election null and void and calling for armed revolution.

Rebel armies organized by Emiliano Zapata, Pascual Orozco, Casulo Herrera and Pancho Villa rose up all over Mexico. Madero returned to lead an unsuccessful attack on a military garrison, but the effort gained the respect of the rebels, who recognized Madero as the leader of the revolution. The rebel armies continued their push to oust Díaz. In May 1911, Díaz relinquished power and a provisional government was formed. On November 6, 1911, Madero was elected president of Mexico. However, the next 15 months proved difficult, with serious political opposition from remnants of the old-guard regime and the military.

Politically naive, Francisco Madero couldn't meld democratic ideals with old-guard politics. A power struggle ensued between Madero and the military. By early 1913, Commanding General Victoriano Huerta had turned against Madero and conspired with Felix Díaz (the former president's nephew), U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson and Bernardo Reyes to oust him.

Death and Legacy

Madero was arrested on February 18, 1913, and he was executed four days later. Huerta then turned on his fellow conspirators and made himself president. Today, Madero is seen as a hero and the father of the Mexican Revolution. Naive and idealistic, Madero was honest and decent, and did much to set in motion reforms that would close the gap between rich and poor in Mexico.

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