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On this day: Fatal journey to Mexico

”I forgive everyone, beg that everyone forgives me as well, and wish that my blood that is going to be shed now will benefit the country. Long live Mexico! Long live Independence!” These were the last words of Maximilian I of Mexico before being executed by firing squad on June 19, 1867. Having been hit by seven bullets the emperor was still alive and sneered, according to an eyewitness. Another bullet aimed at his heart, fired at close range, was needed to terminate the sentence.

In 1861, Mexico, suffering from civil war raging between Mexican monarchists and Republicans, announced that it would suspend the repayment of its public debt for two years. In response, France, one of the largest creditors of the Central American country, invaded Mexico and by May 1863, French troops occupied the capital. Napoleon III of France, aiming to create a French puppet state, asked Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, to accept the crown of Mexico.

Although enacting liberal reforms, the reign of Emperor Maximilian would not be successful as the monarchists were gradually losing power against the Republican forces. The monarch could hardly cope with the stress and suffered from constant diarrhea; meanwhile, France, pressured by the USA, had completely withdrawn their troops from the Latin American country by 1867. Maximilian was left alone, but trusting his followers he did not leave Mexico. His decision proved fatal as in May the Republican forces captured him and not long after that the defeated emperor was court-martialed and sentenced to death.

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