Pedro Lascurain; the “fleeting president” of Mexico, who lasted only 45 minutes in office

Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes was a Mexican lawyer and politician

Not even 60 minutes had passed, when the presidency of Pedro Lascurain Paredes was already history. The Mexican politician became president of Mexico in 1913, and after three quarters of an hour he presented his resignation to Congress. This is the shortest presidential term in history. It is even registered like this in the Guinness Book of Records.

For decades, the figure of Lascurain has carried the suspicion of having been at the service of a coup d’état, as well as with the nickname of “fleeting president”.

But investigations into what happened in February 1913 show how a politician with a remarkable education, but little political experience, fell victim to the unpredictable conflicts of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). “He is known in history for his 45 minutes in power, the shortest president in existence. However, nobody looks at his performance as chancellor ”, historian Graziella Altamirano tells BBC Mundo.

“He had a very important role in such a difficult moment in relations with the United States, with one of the worst US ambassadors that Mexico has had in its history: Henry Lane Wilson,” adds the researcher, one of the few people who has had access to Lascurain’s personnel file.

The Tragic Ten
The very brief passage of Pedro Lascurain for the presidency of Mexico took place in the midst of the frantic 10 days – from February 9 to 19, 1913 – in which a coup d’état was carried out against President Francisco I. Madero. The event is known as the Tragic Decade.

That year, Madero faced a military uprising against his government, the first democratically elected after 30 years of the military regime of General Porfirio Díaz. In the midst of the conflict, the US ambassador to Mexico, Henry L. Wilson -known for his intense political interventionism and his rejection of Madero- made a series of demands for the protection of US citizens and their businesses in Mexico. Mexico.

Lascurain, as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, had to face these pressures from Wilson, who even openly called for the president’s resignation and threatened to organize a US military intervention in Washington.

“His role as chancellor was the most important, because it was at the time of the threats, the time of the worst grades [diplomáticas] that it has received in Mexico in its history in terms of threats of intervention”, explains Altamirano. “On several occasions there were even several ships stationed, both in the Pacific and in the Gulf, to prevent everything that was happening and what the United States demanded at that time,” he adds. Mexico had lost more than half of its territory to the neighboring country a few decades ago, so US threats were taken very seriously.

His famous 45 minutes of presidency
General Victoriano Huerta, whom Madero charged with controlling the uprising, was not an ally of his president.

As it later became known, he conspired with General Félix Díaz (nephew of former President Porfirio Díaz) and Ambassador Wilson to overthrow Madero and take power “temporarily.”

They called it the “Embassy Pact”. To achieve his ends, Lascurain was an “instrument” without his knowledge. And it is that on February 18, 1913, in the midst of clashes between loyalists and rebels, Madero and his vice president, José María Pino Suárez, were apprehended by Huerta’s forces. Convinced that he had everything against him and his downfall was imminent, the next day the president wrote his letter of resignation and delivered it to Foreign Minister Lascurain to take to Congress. In return they asked for a safe conduct to leave the country.

“Madero’s life was already compromised, just like Pino Suárez’s. From the beginning they were sentenced to death, even though there had been promises from Victoriano Huerta,” says Villa. Lascurain addressed Congress with Madero’s letter of resignation and after delivering it, as the Constitution indicated at the time, it was up to him to assume the government. So it was that Lascurain became president. Trusting in the agreement with Huerta, Lascurain appointed the rebel general as Secretary of the Interior (the next official in the line of “succession”) and delivered his letter of resignation in a matter of 45 minutes.

Huerta, therefore, was the new president. There was never a safe conduct or guarantees for the exile of Madero and his companions. He and Pino Suárez were murdered on February 22 outside the Lecumberri prison, in a scene disguised as an escape attempt. Lascurain was branded a traitor to Madero and to the reformist cause. “It is something very controversial and there are many conflicting judgments. There are those who say that he was naive, that the ambassador himself took advantage of him and of his good faith. That it was an instrument of Huerta”, explains Altamirano.

A traitor?
Lascurain was aware of the situation he was in from the very moment he wrote his resignation letter, in which he stated that, had he acted otherwise, “he would have cooperated in future misfortunes.”

“The events we are witnessing have placed me in the position of facilitating the means to resolve within the law a situation that would otherwise put an end to national existence,” he said, referring to the threat of US invasion. But the documentation to which Altamirano has had access indicates how the short-lived president of Mexico knew he had fallen from grace.

“Lascurain arrives at his house desperate, disillusioned, and writes a letter in his own handwriting, I saw it, saying ‘I was completely deceived, I who in good faith wanted to try to save the president and the vice president, they totally deceived me’” Altamirano explains. “There are those who say that he should not have resigned.

But the Chamber was surrounded by soldiers. He was threatened. The deputies were already there with pen in hand to receive the resignation and their minutes to take over as president and then resign. Everything was already set up, ”he continues.

Guadalupe Villa believes that it is necessary to analyze what happened at that time to understand that “nothing depended on one man.”

“It’s a big plot. And really, the intervention of Henry L. Wilson is truly abominable”, points out the historian.