caudillo kôdēlˈyō Span. kouᵺēˈyō [key], [Span.,= military strongman], type of South American political leader that arose with the 19th-century wars of independence. The first caudillos were often generals who, leading private armies, used their military might to achieve power in the newly independent states. Many were large landowners (hacendados) who sought to advance their private interests. They had in common military skill and a personal magnetism capable of commanding the allegiance of the masses. Caudillos were not associated with particular ideologies or political philosophies. Although they often began their career by opposing the oligarchy, they almost invariably became oligarchs and rarely upset the existing social order. In power, their authority was largely unchecked. Caudillos, or caudilhos in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, left their mark on the histories of all South American nations. Well-known caudillos were Juan Manuel de Rosas and Juan Facundo Quiroga in Argentina, Gabriel García Moreno in Ecuador, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana and Porfirio Díaz in Mexico, and Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the Dominican Republic. In Spain, General Francisco Franco gave himself the title of el Caudillo, using the term literally without its disparaging connotations.

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