Antonio José de Sucre

Antonio José de Sucre (1795-1830) was a Venezuelan general and first constitutional president of Bolivia. He was one of the ablest military commanders in the war for independence against Spain and an intimate collaborator of Simón Bolívar.

Antonio José de Sucre was born on Feb. 3, 1795, at Cumaná in eastern Venezuela. When he was 13, his family, which belonged to the local aristocracy, sent him away to study in Caracas. Two years later, at the outbreak of the revolution against Spain, he joined the patriot army, and he shared in both the successes and the reverses of the Venezuelan First and Second Republics. After the collapse of the latter in 1814, he took refuge in the Antilles, fought at Cartagena in New Granada, and fled again, to Haiti, toward the end of 1815.

In 1816 Sucre was once more in Venezuela. He served with distinction under Gen. Santiago Mariño against the royalists but refused to follow Mariño when he sought to challenge Bolívar's authority. For these and other reasons the young Sucre—slight of build, sensitive, intensely self-reliant—became a special favorite of Bolívar, and Sucre reciprocated with an unquestioned loyalty to his chief.

In 1821 Sucre undertook his most important assignment to date, which was to invade the Ecuadorian highlands from the Pacific coast. He met with success at the battle of Pichincha (May 24, 1822), which delivered Quito into patriot hands and paved the way for its incorporation into the unified republic of Gran Colombia. Subsequently Sucre went with a Colombian advance guard to continue the struggle in Peru. Though Bolívar ultimately came to Peru himself, it was Sucre who commanded the patriot army at the decisive victory of Ayacucho (Dec. 9, 1824), the last major engagement of the war.

After Ayacucho, Sucre moved into Upper Peru (modern Bolivia), where Spanish resistance rapidly crumbled. He remained to help organize the region and in 1826 was inaugurated as president of the new republic of Bolivia. But his presidency was not wholly successful. Many Bolivians resented him as a foreigner; and he was saddled with an inordinately complicated constitution which Bolívar had drafted. Amid mounting unrest, Sucre resigned in August 1828 and returned to Gran Colombia.

Sucre's intention was to settle down at Quito, where he had married a member of the local aristocracy. But the coming of war between Gran Colombia and Peru brought him back into active service; he defeated a Peruvian invasion force at the battle of Tarqui on Feb. 27, 1829. Early in 1830 he served as president of a constitutional convention, meeting at Bogotá, which proved unable to halt the disintegration of Gran Colombia. On his way back to Quito, he was assassinated at Berruecos near Pasto on June 4, 1830. Suspicion fell on Bolívar's liberal opponents, who regarded Sucre as his political heir; but the origins of the crime are still hotly debated.

Further Reading on Antonio José de Sucre

A brief account of Sucre's life is Guillermo Antonio Sherwell, Antonio José de Sucre (Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho), Hero and Martyr of American Independence (1924), and a section is devoted to him in William S. Robertson, The Rise of the Spanish-American Republics, as Told in the Lives of Their Liberators (1918). For historical background see Charles W. Arnade, The Emergence of the Republic of Bolivia (1957).

Additional Biography Sources

Hoover, John P, Admirable warrior: Marshal Sucre, fighter for South American independence = Guerrero admirable: El mariscal Sucre, luchador por la independencia sudamericana, Detroit: B. Ethridge, Books, 1977.

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