Manuel Estrada Cabrera
Manuel José Estrada Cabrera (21 November 1857 – 24 September 1924) was President of Guatemala
President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

 from 8 February 1898 to 15 April 1920.

Manuel Estrada forcibly took the presidency after the assassination of José María Reina
José María Reina Barrios
José María Reina Barrios was President of Guatemala from 15 March 1892 through 8 February 1898. He was born in San Marcos, Guatemala...

. The Guatemalan cabinet called an emergency meeting to appoint a new successor, but declined to invite the General to the meeting. Nevertheless, Cabrera entered "with pistol drawn" to assert his entitlement to the presidency.

United Fruit Company

One of Cabrera's most famous and most bitter legacies was allowing the entry of the United Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
It had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the...

 into the Guatemalan economical and political arena. As a member of the Liberal faction, he sought to encourage development of the nation's infrastructure of highway
A highway is any public road. In American English, the term is common and almost always designates major roads. In British English, the term designates any road open to the public. Any interconnected set of highways can be variously referred to as a "highway system", a "highway network", or a...

s, railroads, and sea ports for the sake of expanding the export economy. By the time Cabrera assumed the presidency, there had been repeated efforts to construct a railroad from the major port of Puerto Barrios to the capital, Guatemala City. Yet due to lack of funding exacerbated by the collapse of the internal coffee trade, the railway fell sixty miles short of its goal. Cabrera decided, without consulting the legislature or judiciary, that striking a deal with the United Fruit Company was the only way to get finish the railway. Cabrera signed a contract with UFCO's Minor Cooper Keith
Minor Cooper Keith
Minor Cooper Keith was a U.S. railroad, fruit, and shipping magnate whose business activities had a profound impact in Central America and in Colombia.- Early life :...

 in 1904 that gave the company tax-exemptions, land grants, and control of all railroads on the Atlantic side.

Cabrera often employed brutal methods to assert his authority. One American Minister returned to the United States after he learned the dictator had given orders to poison him. Former President Manuel Barillas was stabbed to death in Guatemala City on Cabrera's orders. Also, Cabrera responded violently to workers' strikes against United Fruit. In one incident, when UFCO went directly to Cabrera to resolve a strike (after the armed forces refused to respond), Cabrera ordered an armed unit to enter the workers' compound. The forces "arrived in the night, firing indiscriminately into the workers' sleeping quarters, wounding and killing an unspecified number."

In 1906 Estrada faced serious revolts against his rule; the rebels were supported by the governments of some of the other Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

n nations, but Estrada succeeded in putting them down. Estrada continued in power until forced to resign by new revolts in 1920. By that time, his power had declined drastically and he was reliant on the loyalty of a few generals. While the United States threatened intervention if he was removed through revolution, a bipartisan coalition came together to remove him from the presidency. He was removed from office after the national assembly charged that he was mentally incompetent, and appointed Carlos Herrera in his place on April 8, 1920.

Estrada's most curious legacy was his attempt to foster a Cult of Minerva
Minerva was the Roman goddess whom Romans from the 2nd century BC onwards equated with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic...

 in Guatemala. He ordered a number of Hellenic
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 style "Temples of Minerva" built in major cities of the country.

Estrada was immortalized in the dictator novel
Dictator novel
The dictator novel is a genre of Latin American literature that challenges the role of the dictator in Latin American society. The theme of caudillismo—the régime of a charismatic caudillo, a political strongman—is addressed by examining the relationships between power, dictatorship,...

 El Señor Presidente
El Señor Presidente
' is a 1946 novel written in Spanish by Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan writer and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias . A landmark text in Latin American literature, explores the nature of political dictatorship and its effects on society. Asturias makes early use of a literary technique now known...

(1946), written by the Nobel laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias
Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a Nobel Prize–winning Guatemalan poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and diplomat...

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