The system of rule by a caudillo (from Latin capitellum, meaning head). A caudillo is a political boss or overlord, the leader or chief of a politically distinctive territory. Caudillismo surfaced as a consequence of the wars of independence in Latin America after 1810. The power vacuum left by the fall of the Spanish empire in the Americas was filled in by the rise of caudillos—usually regional military officers—who became the guarantors of basic social peace and political stability in the regions they controlled militarily. Their ruling style was a combination of two of Max Weber's types of political domination: traditional and charismatic. Examples include Juan Vicente Gómez (1857–1935) in Venezuela, Plutarco Elías Calles (1877–1945) in Mexico, and Juan Perón in Argentina. On the left notable caudillos include Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez (b. 1954). Ultimate authority rests with the caudillo thanks to his alliance with both the military and important sectors of society organized from below.
Francisco E. González