Betancourt, Rómulo (rōˈmōlō bĕtänkŏrˈ) [key], 1908–81, Venezuelan political leader, president of Venezuela (1945–48, 1959–64). Following a stormy career as a leader of radical student groups, he founded (1935) the Oganización Venezolana, which later became the party Acción Democrática. In 1945, Betancourt, placed in power by a military coup, declared universal suffrage, instituted social reforms, and secured for Venezuela 50% of the profits reaped by oil companies. Forced into exile in 1948 when Marcos Pérez Jiménez overthrew the constitutionally elected Rómulo Gallegos, he returned (1958) after Pérez Jiménez was ousted, and was elected president. In spite of serious opposition from extremists and disaffected army units, he continued to advance a program of economic and educational reform. He was succeeded by Raúl Leoni. In 1973, Betancourt was awarded a lifetime senate seat.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Venezuelan History: Biographies