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Term caudillo came from the ancient times: it was a dictatorial leader, who misused his powers in order to see his wishes met. The term was widely used in Latin America during its colonial period and shortly after gaining independence. Caudillos took an advantage of the weaknesses found in a weak state that is unable to enforce the rule of law. After independence, the government faced with the challenge of exercising its jurisdiction over the whole of Latin America as the region was vast and unmanageable.

The ancient caudillo was a military figure who gained popularity in the wars for liberalization. During the 19th century, skills in war considered to be vital for every leader. Wars were the order of the times. A caudillo would launch a fight with his soldiers in an effort to seize a given region. If successful, the caudillo would become the ruler and appoint those loyal to him to oversee the operations of that region. Due to the existing weaknesses and lack of effective administration, a caudillo would seize power only to be overthrown later by other rebels.

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This system continued for a number of years after independence until such a time when people started opposing this system. People got tired with the selfishness of the caudillo and their dictatorial rule; they wanted a stronger, democratic and centralized system. A new centralized system started to take shape, and by the end of 19th century large countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Brazil were fully under one form of government. Despite this, caudillo governments continued to exist in small countries, such as Dominican Republic and Nicaragua only to be done with later.

The label caudillo did not vanish with the end of caudillo governments. In today’s world, we use it to referring to appealing and competent leaders. Contemporary caudillos exercise democracy and respect the rule of law.

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