General Cipriano Castro came to power in Venezuela in 1899. During his nine year regime he destroyed all internal political opposition, imposed a tight, one-party dictatorship, and undermined the national economy by creating federal monopolies, implementing arbitrary trade policies, and antagonizing foreign nations. His relations with outside powers were poor in particular. Not only did General Castro’s refusal—or inability—to pay international debts result in the December 1902 naval blockade of Venezuela by Great Britain, Germany, and Italy, but his undiplomatic treatment of foreign representatives, harassment of foreign companies, and policy of trade warfare prompted the severance of official ties with Colombia (1901), France (1906), the United States (1908), and the Netherlands (1908) and strained relations with Great Britain and Italy. In fact, in late 1908 the Dutch fleet began to conduct a belligerent naval demonstration against the Venezuelan coast and the United States was debating, among stronger measures, whether or not to boycott Venezuelan coffee and cacao. Clearly most Venezuelans and most foreigners favored General Castro’s removal from office. Their wishes were fulfilled in late 1908 when the dictator’s health—he had been bordering on death for four years due to a kidney ailment—again collapsed and he opted for surgery in Germany. First Vice President Juan Vicente Gómez was named Acting Chief Executive until General Castro returned from Europe.