Antonio López de Santa Anna: Mexico 1821–1855
Antonio López de Santa Anna began life as a professional soldier in Mexico's royal army, unlikely qualifications for a republican caudillo. He lacked the elite heritage of Juan Manuel de Rosas of Argentina and the war record of José Antonio Páez of Venezuela, and had to build his reputation on different foundations. Starting as a middle-class creole, he gradually acquired the necessary assets to justify his political ambition. His military prospects survived a minor financial irregularity and he won promotion through vigorous action against insurgency. He took advantage of the beleaguered emperor Iturbide's political difficulties and seized the leadership of the movement against him. Compared with Argentina and Venezuela, Mexico had more interest groups and more politics; the task of Santa Anna was correspondingly greater, his methods more devious than those of contemporary caudillos in South America. In his regional power base, reliance on patron and client networks, cultivation of interest groups, recourse to the golpe, aversion to constitutions, and preference for personal dictatorship, Santa Anna was a classic caudillo.
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