Rafael Núñez (politician)

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Rafael Núñez Moledo
1891 oil painting by Epifanio Garay
1st President of Colombia
In office
April 1, 1886 – September 18, 1894
Vice President Miguel Antonio Caro (1892–1894)
Eliseo Payán Hurtado (1886–1892)
Preceded by Office established*
Succeeded by Miguel Antonio Caro
14th President of the United States of Colombia
In office
August 11, 1884 – April 1, 1886
Preceded by José Eusebio Otálora Martínez
Succeeded by Office abolished*
10th President of the United States of Colombia
In office
April 8, 1880 – April 1, 1882
Preceded by Julián Trujillo Largacha
Succeeded by Francisco Javier Zaldúa
15th President of the Sovereign State of Bolívar
In office
Preceded by Benjamin Noguera
Succeeded by Benjamin Noguera
12th President of the Sovereign State of Bolívar
In office
Preceded by Eugenio Baena
Succeeded by Manuel González Carazo
Personal details
Born Rafael Wenceslao Núñez Moledo
(1825-09-25)September 25, 1825
Cartagena de Indias, Magdalena, Colombia
Died September 18, 1894(1894-09-18) (aged 68)
Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Resting place El Cabrero Hermitage,
Cartagena de Indias
Nationality Colombian
Political party Liberal Party
National Party
Spouse(s) María de los Dolores Gallegos Martínez(1851-1872)
Soledad Román Polanco
Alma mater University of Cartagena
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic
Signature Rafael Núñez (politician)'s signature
Military service
Nickname(s) El Regenerador
Allegiance Colombia (Liberal Party)
Service/branch National Army of Colombia
Battles/wars War of the Supremes

Rafael Wenceslao Núñez Moledo (September 28, 1825 – September 18, 1894) was a Colombian author, lawyer, journalist and politician, who was elected President of Colombia in 1880 and in 1884. Rafael Núñez was born in Cartagena de Indias, on September 28, 1825. He died in Cartagena on September 18, 1894.[1]

Early life

Núñez was born in Cartagena de Indias on September 28, 1825, was the first of three children of Dolores García Moledo and Colonel Francisco Núñez García, 1 who were cousins and were married on October 6, 1824. 2 A 15 years was accepted by General Francisco Carmona in the rebel troops to fight in the War of the Supremes.

Little is known about the early years of Rafael Núñez. It is known that he served as a Circuit Judge in Chiriquí, Panama in 1848.

Political career

In 1848, Núñez founded in Cartagena, Colombia, the newspaper La Democracia, with the intention of promoting the presidential election of General José María Obando, as successor to José Hilario López. That same year he was appointed as Chief of Staff in Cartagena's government, and thus beginning his political life.[2]

In 1853 he was elected as MP to the Colombian Congress. In 1854 he was elected Governor of the department of Bolívar. Between 1855-1857, during the government of Manuel María Mallarino, he served as Minister of the Treasury and Minister of War (nowadays called Minister of Defense).

In 1855 he published his first volume of political essays, under the name of La Federación. Later, under the government of Mosquera, he served as Minister of the Treasury.

After representing Colombia in the Ríonegro Treaty, he travelled abroad. He first lived in New York City for two years. Than he represented Colombia as a Diplomat in Le Havre and later he was appointed as the Colombian Consul in Liverpool.

He returned to Colombia in 1876 at the center of a political fight. He had been nominated as a candidate for the presidency that year, but did not win the election. Four years later he was elected President of Colombia for the 1880-1882 presidential term. Again, in 1884, he was re-elected President of Colombia, with the support of the Conservative Party.

He was the force behind La Regeneración (Regeneration) movement of 1884 and the new Constitution for Colombia of 1886.[3]

The Constitutional reform of 1886, carried out with the collaboration of Miguel Antonio Caro, is possibly the most outstanding political performance of Núñez. This constitution, with some later modifications, was essentially in effect until the proclamation of a new one in 1991.

From 1878 to 1888 he wrote hundreds of influential articles related to the constitutional reform for the newspapers La Luz and La Nación of Bogota, and 'El Porvenir' and El Impulso of Cartagena. He also wrote the lyrics for the Colombian national anthem.

He was again re-elected to be President of Colombia in 1886 and in 1892, although he did not take office for his last term. Rather, his Vice-President, Miguel Antonio Caro was sworn in as President for the presidential tern of 1892-1898.[4]

Major accomplishments

During his first administration, Núñez restores peace and order. He allowed the Catholic Bishops, who were in exile, to return to the country. He created the Military Academy and the National Academy of Music. He inaugurated the international telegraph service. He re-established diplomatic relationships with Spain, which had been severed since the War of Independence. And he signed international treaties of commerce and cultural exchange with France and Great Britain.[5]

During his second administration, Núñez sponsored, championed and enacted a mayor and fundamental overhaul of the nation’s political structure, which ended with the adoption and enactment of the new Constitution of the Republic of Colombia, which came to be known as the Constitution of 1886.[6]

In literature

In 1874, while in Europe, many of the most important writings of Núñez were published.

Núñez was the author of the words to the national anthem of Colombia, ¡Oh Gloria Inmarcesible!.[7]

Núñez is mentioned in Gabriel García Márquez's 1985 novel, Love in the Time of Cholera (Amor en los tiempos del cólera).


  1. Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Page 111, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  2. Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Pages 112, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  3. Froysland, Hayley (2006) "The regeneración de la raza in Colombia" a chapter in Doyle, Don and Pamplona, Marco (eds.) (2006) Nationalism in the New World University of Georgia Press, Athens, Ga., ISBN 0-8203-2654-2
  4. Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Page 262, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  5. Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Page 112, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  6. Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Page 114, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  7. "Colombia: Himno Nacional de la República de Colombia (¡Oh gloria inmarcesible!)". NationalAnthems.me. Retrieved 2011-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Political offices
Preceded by
Julián Trujillo Largacha
President of United States of Colombia
(1st Term)

Succeeded by
Francisco Javier Zaldúa
Preceded by
Ezequiel Hurtado
President of United States of Colombia
(2nd Term)

Succeeded by
José María Campo Serrano
Preceded by
Position created
President of Colombia
Succeeded by
Miguel Antonio Caro Tobar
Preceded by
Eliseo Payán
President of Colombia
Succeeded by
Carlos Holguín Mallarino