Reyes, Rafael (räfäĕlˈ rāˈyās) [key], 1850–1921, president of Colombia (1904–9). As a young man, he explored the upper Amazon wilderness with his brother. Later he distinguished himself in the civil wars of 1885 and 1895. Sent to Washington, D.C., in 1903, he was unable to secure redress from the United States for its part in the revolution in Panama. Elected president of Colombia, he assumed dictatorial powers and vigorously pushed the economic development of the country, improving communications, bringing order to the finances, beautifying Bogotá, and encouraging industry. He also put down opposition ruthlessly and remade the constitution to his liking. A treaty with the United States recognizing the independence of Panama awoke widespread popular opposition that brought about his downfall.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.