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Ezequiel Zamora

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Ezequiel ZamoraEzequiel Zamora, born on Feb 1st 1817, killed on Jan 10th 1860, is regarded as a Venezuelan national hero for for his deeds as general and peasant leader. He has come to symbolize the struggle of many Latin American farmers for the possession of their own land and against oligarchic power monopolies.

Zamora was born to two modest landowners in Cúa. In Caracas he received his only formal education. Nevertheless he also acquired some basic knowledge of politics, modern philosophy and law thanks to his brother-in-law, John Caspers, and the lawyer, José Manuel García.

After the independence from Spain, an urban bourgeoisie arose, which was conservatively minded and wanted to maintain the colonial structures of large landed estate and of the export-oriented economy. This class was opposed by a liberal movement, which advocated the autonomy of the provinces and a more national economic system, and in which Zamora took part. After peasant riots in 1846, Zamora joined armed revolts in Guambra and became known for his phrases "tierra y hombres libres" (land and free people) and "respeto al campesino" (respect the farmer). Soon he was named "General del Pueblo Soberano" (General of the Sovereign People). Following a phase of understanding between the two political camps under the rule of José Tadeo Monagas, a power struggle flared up and finally the conservatives, led by Paez, started an insurrection. They were supported by impoverished peasants and servants, who were promised the release from their debts. In 1847 Zamora was captured and sentenced to death. President José Tadeo Monagas, however, abolished the death penalty as punishment for political crimes; Zamora managed to escape during transfer from one prison to another. Following a row of biographical steps in exile, finally he became leader of the Liberals in the Federal War against the Conservatives (1859-63), who aimed to maintain their control over land and government and refused to adopt reforms.

One particularly memorable event was Zamora's crushing victory over the big landowners' troops in the Battle of Santa Inés on Dec 10th 1859, which was a result of his tactical cunning.

One month later Ezequiel Zamora died from a bullet to the head while preparing an attack on San Carlos. Nonetheless, the Liberals managed to win the civil war. Without Zamora's influence, however, the reformatory goals were not achieved. As General José Loreto Arismendie stated later, the most devastating war since Venezuela's independence from was without success: They had "fought for five years to exchange thieves for thieves, tyrants for tyrants" ("luchamos cinco años para sustituir ladrones por ladrones, Tiranos por Tiranos"). Despite all that, due to his attitude and actions, Zamora has become an idol for present movements, such as la Frente Ezequiel Zamora (the most important peasant organization of Venezuela) and for various social institutions of the Bolivarian government.