Zelaya, José Santos (hōsāˈ sänˈtōs sāläˈyä) [key], 1853–1919, president of Nicaragua (1894–1909). Although a leader of the Liberal party, he kept power by playing the Liberal and Conservative parties against each other and established an unswerving dictatorship. Zelaya developed railroad and steamer transportation, coffee growing, and education, but nevertheless he drained Nicaragua's resources for his own profit. He seized (1894) the Mosquito Coast by force, thus ending British control. He fomented revolutions in neighboring countries and tried to reestablish the Central American Federation with himself as head. His ambitions created intense opposition, which led to the Washington Conference of 1907 and the establishment of the Central American Court of Justice. The United States was highly antagonistic to him, and the presence of U.S. cruisers helped rebel forces to overthrow and exile him.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.