Betancourt, Rómulo(rō`mo͞olō bĕtänko͝or`), 1908–81, Venezuelan political leader, president of Venezuela (1945–48, 1959–64). Following a stormy career as a leader of radical student groups, he founded (1935) the Oganización Venezolana, which later became the party Acción Democrática. In 1945, Betancourt, placed in power by a military coup, declared universal suffrage, instituted social reforms, and secured for Venezuela 50% of the profits reaped by oil companies. Forced into exile in 1948 when Marcos Pérez Jiménez overthrew the constitutionally elected Rómulo Gallegos, he returned (1958) after Pérez Jiménez was ousted, and was elected president. In spite of serious opposition from extremists and disaffected army units, he continued to advance a program of economic and educational reform. He was succeeded by Raúl Leoni. In 1973, Betancourt was awarded a lifetime senate seat.
Born Feb. 22, 1908, in Guatiré, the state of Miranda. Venezuelan politician and statesman.
Betancourt studied at the department of law of the Central University, but failed to graduate because of his arrest in 1928 for participation in the movement against the dictatorship of J. V. Gómez (1909–35); he was later exiled from the country. He returned to Venezuela in 1936. (He was also in exile during 1939–41 and 1948–58.) In 1941 he founded the bourgeois nationalist party Democratic Action and became one of its leaders. In 1945–47 he headed the government junta. From 1959 to 1964, Betancourt was president of Venezuela. His government established a regime of terror and violence against the Communist Party and other progressive forces and maintained a hostile position toward revolutionary Cuba. Since 1964 he has been living in Switzerland, maintaining contact with the leaders of Democratic Action.