Print this pageHistorical Text Archive © 1990 - 2016
© 2001. Donald J. Mabry
Chile is shaped like as a "string bean," 2,600+ miles long with an average width of 100 miles. There are three Chiles—North, Central, and Southern; Central Chile, where Santiago and Valparaíso are locate, dominates.Periods of Chilean History
1818-1822 0'Higgins period
1822-1830 Period of Anarchy
1830-1861 Autocratic Republic
1861-1891 Liberal Republic
1891-1924 Parliamentary Republic
1925-1932 Confusion in Politics
1964-1973 The Age of Reform
1973-1989 The Pinochet Dictatorship
1989- Democracy Again
Be careful of these generalizations, for they can be very misleading. It is more important to recognize the peacefulness and stability and that Chile had fairly stable governments in the 1831-1891 period. The country was run by the oligarchy. The Liberals gained an increased role in the government in the 1850s. Although they were liberal on some issues, they were oligarchs.
The Parliamentary Republic established in 1891 chiefly changed the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. It did not turn government over to a new class.
In the 1860s, changes in the Constitution reduced the church's position in the government, broadened the electorate some, and altered education. Education thrown more into hands of the liberals.
The 1880s saw a little bit of socialist agitation. Some labor organizations were created and strikes occurred but the political and social effects of industrialization were not very noticeable until 1920. The large estates, the fundos were not destroyed.
President Balmaceda (1886-91) wanted to do something for the poor. Decided to tax the rich to help the poor. In modern terms it was not much but something.
Rotos started coming into the towns in the 1890s, increasing the size of towns and cities.
The Radical Party was formed in the 1860s, seemed radical then because it argued that the middling classes should be allowed to participate in politics and government.
Leftism in Chile has older roots than in any other Latin American country.
Most striking thing about Chile in the 19th century was public order.
Economic development began about 1831. For the early 19th century, it was the greatest in Latin America. There is some connection between political stability and government efficiency, on the one hand, and economic development on the other. People invest money when they can be sure that the rules will remain the same. Chile was not spending its resources on civil wars as were so many other Latin American nations. As a result of the effectiveness of government, Chile was able to use its resources to gain some territory. The Chilean military was better organized. Chile bought arms abroad and bought warships. In 1880s, when some people in the United States advocated a bigger navy they pointed out that Chile's was larger.
The Chilean government received enough revenue to expand the educational system considerably in the late19th century and to improve upper class technological education.
Expansion towards the south across the Río Bío Bío was blocked by the Aracanian people for a time. Chile lacked a large number of Amerinds and many of those who existed inter-bred with Europeans. This miscegenation meant fewer social problems. Many Chilenos are unaware of their mixed-race heritage, a fact which has meant less ethnic discrimination.
Chilean historians consider the history of education important, that there the nation has a strong educational system. Normal schools existed all over Latin America, but Chile enjoyed a relatively strong intellectual life. Approximately 500 public schools were established in the 1850s, meaning that something was being done. As public education increased, the education question got mixed up with the Church because the latter considered secular schools to be sinful. Many Christians would prefer no schools to government-run schools. In Chile, they lost.
The Chilean Roman Catholic church had relatively good personnel and was adequately staffed, making it an exception in the region.
In 1879, the national university was reorganized French lines, which was an improvement because the curriculum became more modern. The French were world leaders in education.
The economy was reasonably simple. Up until 1880, copper was usually the leading export. Then nitrates became the leader until chemical fertilizers reduced demand. Copper exports grew with the demand for copper in industry around the world. Chile was characterized by a great estate system. The fundistas (or hacendados) ran the country under a system designed by Diego Portales. Portales had convinced them to quit fighting each other and unite against their common enemy: everyone else. In the last third of the 19th century, this system was being challenged mildly by the rise of industrial classes. In 1883, the National Association of Chilean Manufacturers pushed for protective tariffs. Its success was small but that the fact that the organization existed and was able to lobby Congress meant that there were enough manufacturers to have some hope of success. William Wheelwright in the 1830s brought United States technology to Chile. For part of the 19th century, the nation was able to export wheat but became an importer in the 20th century. Coal mining expanded in the 1840s.
1810-1814. The period began in September of with the establishment of a national junta and end with the victory of the viceregal forces. Known as the patria vieja. In 1811, adopted free trade. A national congress was convened. On September 11th Jose Miguel Carrerra (who was under 26 years of age) took control of Congress. Regionalism was a problem, especially in Concepción
1814-1817. Period of royal authority until the patriot invasion in 1817 when San Martin's Army of the Andes crossed the Andes. The Chilean forces were defeated at Rancagua by a Peruvian royalist army.
1817-1823. The period began with the Army entrance and election of O'Higgins to the Supreme Directorship in 1817. Ends with O'Higgins resignation in early 1823. Independence declared; provisional constitution created; attacked Church including imprisoning friars and exiling bishop of Santiago; attacked privileges of the rich, particularly mayorazgo; centralization at expense of provinces. These leaders were Freemasons from the "logia lautarina."
1818. O'Higgins decreed the end of mayorazgos, but Senate, in 1819, reversed his decree "for now."
1819. Senate ordered O'Higgins to speed up the departure of San Martin's liberating expedition to Peru.
1820. O'Higgins authorized to send army to Concepción to stamp out royalism
1822. O'Higgins tried to dissolve the senate (5 persons) of whom two were out of country and third interested in returning to private life. Senate balked.
The Constitution of 1822 created a strong central government with strong executive. O'Higgins policy was the suppression of banditry; creating public library; beautification, anti-gambling, and suppression of titles of nobility. He tried to abolish primogeniture (mayorazco) but provoked anger. In 1822, there was a revolt in Concepción. By 1823, there was revolt in the North as well. By beginning of year, armies marching on Santiago. Revolt in Santiago and O'Higgins resigns.
1823-1829. Fall of O'Higgins to the victory of the pelucón (big wig) coalition. The provincial rebellion which started in the south forced O'Higgins to resign in January 1823. He was replaced by Ramón Freire, rebel leader. Lots of government changes.
Chile had 500,000 to 800,000 people but only thousands of whom were active citizenry. The active citizens were a mixed merchant-mining-agrarian bourgeoisie. They were pluralistic within the confines of classic liberalism.
Constitution of 1823 was drawn up by General Freire in place of the Santiago one. Lasted six months and then Freire pulled coup and named himself dictator. Continued upheaval. Civil war between Liberals and Conservatives, which latter won.
Diego Portales was born the son of superintendent of royal mint at Santiago. He went to Peru in 1821 to conduct the foreign part of his newly formed merchant business and stayed there until 1823. In a letter he wrote from Peru, he gave his view of politics: "A strong government, centralizing, whose men are true models of virtue and patriotism, and set the citizens on the road of order and virtues. When they have made themselves moral, the government comes to be completely liberal, free and full of ideals, where all citizens take part."
In 1824, Portales, CEA y Cía signed contract with government for tobacco monopoly. The company was to service the external debt. estanco contract. It was a bad deal because of its unpopularity and the inability to stop illegal sales and growing of tobacco. Lacked sufficient capital. By February, 1825, it had become a political issue as pipiolos wanted to end the monopoly. The supporters, estanqueros, supported it. In 1826, however, a commission was created to carry out the liquidation of the contract. In 1828, the commission ruled that the government owed Portales 87,000 pesos. The estanqueros became a central force of the broader pelucones coalition.
Portales bought a press in Valparaíso, and used his newspaper to defend his monopoly, the estanco. He had been drawn into the public arena.
In 1829, a major revolt began as result of national elections. The pelucones got control of government. A Congress of Plenipotentiaries met in Santiago in February 1829 and elected government officials. By April, Portales was the minister of interior (government) and minister of war. The years following the O'Higgins period were very difficult because there were small armies all over the country. Portales convinced the big landowners that these armies had to be put down, that they were a threat to life and property. He had them create a militia, the Civic Guard, to restore order. He created a coalition of landowners, the Church, and the military. They not only agreed not to fight each other but agreed that the outgoing president could name his successor. Portales' Constitution of 1833 would last until 1924 with some changes. The President was selected by electors like the president of the United States but by only a few people. The Church retained many privileges. From April 6, 1830 to August 31, 1831, Portales was virtual dictator. He created a stable, professional civilian government. It was non personalistic and non paternalistic. He dismissed leading generals because they engaged in politics. He created military academy and a civic guard. He brought the Church back into the government and restored its privileges.
His minister of treasury (1830-1835) reduced the size of the army and the government bureaucracy. In early 1831, Portales decided to return to private business, but congress elected him Vice President. He refused and resigned all his other posts. Congress would not accept his resignations and Portales kept them until they were abolished in the 1833 constitution. He was also minister of war and marine but someone else ran the ministry.
The 1833 Constitution reflected his views. It contained three branches with a bicameral legislature. 1830-1837.President elected 5-year term by males over 25 and married men over 21, provided they were literate and owned property. Meant only a few thousand could vote. The president was eligible for two five-year terms and was given extensive power. Through legal and extralegal means, he was able to control presidential elections. The Senate was selected by indirect election for a term of six years; Chamber was elected directly for a term of three years. Congress was to be an equal partner but was not. The document specified high voting requirements. Voters also had to have property and income. The constitution invoked literacy requirements to take effect in 1840. The Church was granted special privileges (fueros) but not the army. Portales and his associates had learned the dangers inherent in having a military. The constitution abolished provincial assemblies. It reinstated mayorazgos. This was to be a government of the rich and well-born. Catholicism was official religion. Primogeniture reintroduced.
By mid-1835, the pelucón coalition was on the verge of breaking apart. The President Joaquín Prieto pleaded with Portales to return to the government and save it. Portales became minister of interior, foreign relations, war and marine. In essence, he was a dictator. He started a war against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, which lasted from the end of 1836 until 1839. Chile won. Portales, however, was assassinated in June 1837 while reviewing troops.
Conservative Dominance, 1831-1841
General Joaquín Prieto, 1831-1841
General Manuel Bulnes, 1841-51
Manuel Montt, 1851-61
1836-39. War with Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation which Chile won.
1849. California Gold Rush and Chilean prosperity selling food and supplies.
William Wheelwright came in 1840. He reated a steamship service between Chile and Peru and Chile and Europe. In 1851, he started construction of a railroad and laid plans for trans-Andean railroad.
1840-1860. National revenue doubled. Population up 80%, partly due to immigration.
1842 The University of Chile was founded.
1861 A small civil war.
Liberal Dominance, 1861-1891
Jose Joaquin Perez (1861-1871. A moderate Liberal, but not very liberal. War with Spain (1865-661 when Spain attacked Peru. Chile fought a war with the Araucanian Indians
Federico Errázuriz Echaurrén (1871-1876). The constitution had been amended to allow only one term. He spent money on public works, thus providing employment for the working class. Church-State conflict which was a partial victory for Liberals. In 1874, the Constitution was amended to make ministers more responsible to Congress.
Anibal Pinto (1876-1881)
War of the Pacific ( 1879-83) over control of the nitrate mines. Chile got Tarapacá from Peru and Antofagasta from Bolivia.
Domingo Santa Maria (1881-1861)
Church power reduced.
Jose Manuel Balmaceda (1886-91)
During his administration there was lots of spending on public works and infrastructure. Tariffs were lowered. The school system expanded including the creation of a women's secondary school. Balmaceda was overthrown in the revolution of 1891.
The growth of newspapers is evidence of the changes in Chile. There were more and more of them reflecting the increases in the literate population and increased wealth. In 1872, they were given almost complete liberty, a sign of liberal strength.
The government continued to use the state of siege provision of the constitution which allowed it to suspend the parts of the constitution.
The Civil War of 1891
President Balmaceda was rich; an excellent speaker; elected by a large vote; and sympathetic to the poor, the bulk of Chile's population. He was also inflexible and arrogant. He and his party lost power and influence after his election in 1886.
It is important to understand that oligarchic control was not destroyed and military rule was not forced on the country. The civil war was one part of the oligarchy displacing another part by force. Congress revolted again Balmaceda because he was acting unconstitutionally. Power had been shifting from the Presidency to Congress for some years. The Balmaceda faction only held 25% of the seats in Congress. He had thirteen ministries because of Congressional opposition. In 1891, he decided to impose his own presidential candidate on the country and the opposition. Congress would not accept this, passing a law prohibiting this practice. Balmaceda refused to sign the bill. In 1890, Congress refused to approve the budget for 1891. Balmaceda decreed that the old budget would continue, an illegal act.
Opposition to Balmaceda was centered in Congress. They were rich and influential. They saw themselves as the establishment and Balmaceda as a maverick. They began talking conspiracy. In November 1890, they approached General Baquedano, the hero of the War of the Pacific, to lead the coup attempt. When he declined and declared himself neutral, they recruited a navy captain, Jorge Montt. At the end of December, 1890, he agreed to take part if Balmaceda carried through with his threat to spend an illegal budget.
All the chiefs of the navy supported the insurgents as did most of the officer corps. The army supported Balmaceda. The navy was more aristocratic, which is typical of navies. From the beginning, Balmaceda worried about the loyalty of army. He had them swear an oath of allegiance. Some refused and their commands were shifted. Some escaped and joined the opposition. Some appealed to the Supreme Court. The Constitutionalists, as the opposition called itself, expected the bulk of the army to join them but it did not. The Constitutionalists went to the Atacama desert, far away from the much more heavily populated Central Valley because they would be beaten if they stayed near the army. Balmaceda's army could not follow them because it had no ships to transport them. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest deserts in the world and people avoided traversing it on foot.
By going to the Atacama, the Constitutionalists acquired time and money to build their forces. They gained control of the nitrate and guano deposit, thus gaining sources of income. They had numerous officers but had to recruit foot soldiers. They hired Colonel Körner, a German officer, to train the army. They bought arms abroad. Balmaceda bought ships abroad.
The Balmaceda failed to make the right counter moves before the revolt broke out. He tried to send the navy out to sea. The Constitutionalists had pipelines into government and knew the government's plans. They seized enough Chilean merchant ships plus their own vessels to take 10,000 men to the desert in the north. Balmaceda had army support of 32,000 men. In part, this loyalty was a result of his public works programs which had employed many relatives and friends of army personnel. He also had financial support.
Nevertheless, the insurgents won the Battles of Placilla and Concón. The loyalist troops ran. Resistance collapsed in Santiago, resulting in rioting and looting when the police left. Upper class citizens armed themselves and restored order. The Constitutionalists purged the army and put a puppet president into office.
The Parliamentary Republic was one of Congressional control and ministerial irresponsibility. The president became a ceremonial figurehead. There was a multiplicity of parties whereas there had been liberals, conservatives, Nationalists and radicals (the first three often cooperated under the Liberal banner), now there were many more. Governments therefore became coalitions. Congress was dominated by the landed elites. Politics flowed upward from the local bosses in the provinces through the congressional and executive branches; payoffs from taxes on nitrate sales flowed downward. Congressmen often used bribes to win elections. Peasants were intimidated to vote as the landlord wished. There were 121 cabinets with 530 ministers in the Parliamentary Republic. Money was wasted by this system. Still, it did allow dissent and new parties, like the Radical Party, to come into existence.
The 1920 presidential election would prove to be a turning point. The expansion of mining in the north and in the south around Concepción was changing the nature of the electorate. The landowners failed to accommodate to these people or to attention to the increasing number of city dwellers. Developments were gradual and took place in the spirit of a respect for civil liberties. There was the continued development of urban and commercial interests. Protective policy gave stability to agriculture and a national manufacturing base. Chile's economy continued to be characterized by constant growth. Prosperity was evident and there was social restructuring of society at all levels. The aristocracy was transformed into a plutocracy as the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie swelled its ranks. With this, one saw a decline of a paternalistic attitude and development of a more utilitarian attitude.
There was the rise of middle class, in Chile often called an empleado [employee] class. Note the distinction, for it meant the proletarization of the middle class. There was a large intellectual proletariat through the state education system.. They were educated but could not penetrate the aristocracy or plutocracy. They became increasingly aware of their role in Chile and were the backbone of the 1920 electoral revolt.
The rich mineral regions of the north and coal mines of the south gave rise to an industrial proletariat. By 1907, it was one million people. The living and working conditions were deplorable. For rural workers (inquilinos or tenant farmers) and the migrant workers the situation had. worsened rather then improved as paternalism declined.
The proletariat was strongest in Valparaíso, Santiago, Tarapacá, Antofagasta, and Concepción. Its efforts to be granted recognition was fraught with peril. In the 1907 Iquique strike, 2,000 workers were massacred. Between 1911 and 1920, there were 293 strikes involving 150,000 workers. Chile saw the rise of trade unions and the beginning of mutualist associations.
In politcs, blocs were fromed in the hopes of producing majorities. The Right consisted of the Conservative, Liberal, National and Liberal-Democrats parties. The Radical Party had the broadest base, for it represented the interests of the southern region but drew from all middle class. It was not much interested in workers .
The downfall of the system can be chiefly attributed to the revolt of the middle classes supported by the new proletariat, the less of its political prestige by the traditional oligarchy, administrative chaos, a government on the brink of bankruptcy, and the scandal of parliamentary majorities created by bribery and corruption. Additional factors were the collapse of the nitrate boom in 1910 and the influence of the Mexican and Russian revolutions.
Arturo Alessandri led a coalition, the Liberal Alliance, to victory. The basis of the coalition was the Radical Party and Democrats with additional support from a Liberal Party faction. Beat the conservative National Union coalition. Alessandri won by a narrow margin.
In his first message to Congress, Alessandri called for administrative decentralization, abolition of the Parliamentary, election of the president by direct popular votes, the separation of Church and State, state control of banks and insurance companies, monetary stability, and social security. He was faced with strong opposition in the Senate and he could not go far down the road to reform. Also had to face reform and economic recovery at the same time. The 1924 congressional elections gave him control of both houses but Congress refused to pass his laws.
Events came to a head to head when Congress voted itself pay increases in violation of the Constitution. The army intervened in politics for the first time in about a century, overthrowing the government. Alessandri left the country; a junta was established; and Congress was dissolved. The junta lasted five months until a radical group of young army officers, led by Marmaduke Grove and Carlos Ibañez, took control. With army support and free from political obstructionism, Alessandri returned to implement his program. He introduced social-economic reforms designed to protect the laboring classes, a graduated income tax, and a permanent voter register. The Constitution of 1925 was passed.
It strengthened the presidential office. The President got a six-year term and was elected by direct vote. If no candidate had a majority, Congress selected the president. For Congress, it created a system of proportional representation. The dates for presidential and congressional elections was separated. It declared that property had a social function.
Alessandri was no friend of labor, for he used troops against strikers and some workers were killed; he also could not force out Minister of War, Colonel Carlos Ibañez, who had presidential ambitions. Alessandri resigned again and left for Italy. Louis Borgoño took the presidency temporarily until the political parties selected Emilio Figueroa Larraín to take his place in December, 1925. Ibañez continued as war minister and added the vice presidency and the minister of government to his portfolio. Clearly, he was the dominant figure in the government. Ibañez forced Larraín out in February, 1927, and established a dictatorship, ruling until 1931. He began reforming public administration, instituted numerous public works programs, and increased state interventionism in the economy. Foreign capital came to Chile in great amounts because he provided stability. However, political arbitrariness and repression increased as well with the jailing or banishing of political leaders.
By 1930, the sharp economic depression was being felt. It was worse in Chile than almost anywhere else in the world. The Ibañez regime collapsed in 1931 and was followed by a period of political unrest. There were failures of nine different governments, two general strikes, and a naval revolt, all within fifteen months. One president was in office for only five months before he was overthrown by Marmaduke Grove, who declared a socialist republic. He only lasted from December, 1931 to September, 1932. He proposed to nationalize the coal, copper, and nitrate mining industries and encouraged unionization. The socialist republic was ended by another coup and the government was turned over to the Supreme Court. New elections were called.
As might be expected, the political parties were split and disoriented. The Conservative party was in the best shape because it members, landowners, had never been threatened. No one was going to tax land or redistribute it or force landowners be more productive. The Radical Party was split into right and left factions. The party had taken the side of the proletariat but it was not certain how pro-labor it was. The Communist Party split into Stalinist and Trotskyite wings and the Trotskyites merged with the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party of Chile was formed on April 19, 1933 and stood for the collectivization of private property, the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat, and the economic and political unity of all Latin American countries. It was a Marxist party which was a bitter rival of the Communist Party.
Arturo Alessandri, 1932-1938
On the presidential election of 1932 there were five candidates. Two were rightists. One form the Communist Party candidates and one from the Socialist Party. The victor was the fifth, Arturo Alessandri, who represented the middle sectors. The "Lion of Tarapacá," as he was known, had become more conservative. He sided with property owners and the upper classes. He was severely criticized by the Left. National finances did make a recovery as did employment. Bankruptcies practically ceased. The depression was virtually over by 1934. He furthered economic nationalism. When labor began causing trouble in 1936, he persecuted labor leaders, dismissed Congress, proclaimed a state of siege, and gave the army control of the railroads. He crushed the Nazi movement; Chile was one of the few places in Latin America with a significant Nazi movement. More typical was the rise of Catholic activism, the Falange Nacional and the Social Christian movement.
The Popular Front, 1938-1941
The Center and Left rallied together for the 1938 elections as a Popular Front. It was done in Europe, in France and Spain, but Chile was the only place in Latin America. Chile had a leftist tradition but part of the reason was the Alessandri regime. He used severe repressive measures and had dissolved Congress because of anti-Leftism. The Radicals, Communists, Democrats, Socialists, Radical Socialists, and the new Chilean Labor Federation united. They did well in the 1937 congressional elections. The rightists preserved their congressional position only by vote bribery.
Pedro Aguirre Cerda, a Radical, was chosen as the coalition candidate and won by only a few thousand votes. Both houses of Congress went to the Right. Clearly, the Popular Front was not likely to accomplish much with Congress opposed to the president. Equally important, the Popular Front was very fragile and unlikely to stay united. It did manage to create CORFO, the state development agency, in 1939, but the Radicals never trusted the Communists.
Coalition politics (1941-1958)
The Socialists withdrew from Popular Front in 1940. They were fighting with the Communists. In the 1941 congressional elections, the Radical Party got 21 percent, the Socialists and their allies, 20 percent, and Communist Party 12 percent. The Communists had only gotten 4 percent in 1937, so the other parties were afraid that they were going to become a major political force. That was the major reason the Popular front was dissolved in 1941 shortly after President Aguirre resigned because of poor health. The Radicals and Communists benefitted from the Front; the Communists were able to penetrate the labor movement and the Radicals elected the next two presidents. .
In the 1942 election to replace Aguirre, Juan Antonio Ríos, a Radical, was elected with the support of the Radicals, leftists, the Falange, and others. He defeated Carlos Ibañez, who was supported by the Liberal, Conservative, and Nazi Parties. Ríos got 56% of the vote but less than half a million people voted.
Ríos was a nationalist, pro-industry, anti-communist centrist who accomplished little because of WWII and splits within Chile. Chile did enter the war on the Allied side in 1943, yielding to pressure from the United States. The Socialists split and Salvador Allende emerged as the leader of the majority faction which controlled the socialist labor unions. Ríos died in 1946.
Gabriel González Videla, the candidate of the Radicals, Communists, and other Center-Left parties, won without a majority. The Communists were rewarded with three seats in the Cabinet but González Videla fired the within five months for pursuing their own, not the administration's, goals. A Radical his cabinet also included three Radicals and three Liberals. In the municipal elections of 1947, considerable gains were made by the Conservatives, Socialists, and Communists. The only gains made by a member of the government coalition was made by the Communists. González Videla found a Communist plot to sabotage the economy and hurt US-Chilean relations. The Communists launched a campaign trying to discredit her administration while conservatives launched an anti-Communist campaign. The United States, now deeply involved in its Cold War politics, which included trying to get a united front in the Americas, encouraged Chile to outlaw the Communist Party. González Videla broke with the Communists and dismissed their members of his cabinet. In 1948, the Chilean congress passed the Law in Defense of Democracy, causing the Communists to lose everything but their congressional seats.
Carlos Ibañez won the 1952 presidential election with 446,412 votes. The runner-up was Matte Larraín with 265,357 votes. He got support from many different groups, including rural workers and tenant farmers who were defying the land owners. He received Communist support when promised repeal of Law in Defense of Democracy. Many people supported him because they were disillusioned with the political parties. Salvador Allende, who eventually would become president, also ran.
In all these years, no basic restructuring of society was attempted. The great estates (fundos) were never attacked. The issues important to working people were never addressed. The best the Center-Left had been able to do was the was creation of CORFO .
Ibañez in power this time was not the dictator he had been earlier. He followed centrist policies. When prices rose an average 50% a year and wages and salaries lagged behind, he could not solve the problem. He could repress against labor unions. Agriculture did not grow and Chile had to rely more and more on food imports.
In the 1958 elections, the Left went into an Alliance known as the Frente de Acción Popular (FRAP) composed of the two major factions of the Socialists, the Labor party, the Democrats of the People, and the Communists. Making its first appearance in a presidential election, the Chilean Christian Democratic Party ran Eduardo Frei. The party had the Falange Nacional as its base. The Conservatives and Liberals ran Jorge Alessandri, son the Arturo. Alessandri beat Allende but only by 33,500 votes. If Antonio Zamorano, a defrocked leftist priest, had not gotten 41,304 votes, Allende would have won by 8,000 votes and Chile would have had its first Marxist president.
During the Alessandri administration, the Chilean economy showed little improvement but popular demands were increasing. The administration relied upon import restrictions, wage ceilings, and currency and currency controls (all of which were unpopular) and only partially successful. The problem was that the administration was oriented towards the past and not willing to find permanent solutions to Chile's fundamental problems.
Christian Democrats ran Eduardo Frei who received 56% of the vote, the first time in decades that any candidate had won a majority. Salvador Allende of FRAP, won 39%. The Frente Democrático (Radical, Liberal, and Conservatives were going to run Julio Duran but it got beaten badly in the 1961 election. Duran withdrew. So the Right threw its support to Frei. won because of women voting and the fear of Allende. There is some evidence that the United States government helped the Frei campaign.
Frei's presidency, in spite of his enormous victory and the tacit support of the United States, would not be easy. Chilean political parties had strong disagreements this profile shows.
On the right were the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The former was the United Conservative Party. It is the oldest and the first ruling party. Traditionally it has been the party of the wealthy landed aristocracy. It has been opposed to any kind of socio-economic liberalism; its traditional strength has been in the land system. It said that its fundamental doctrine conforms to the teachings of the Church. It advocated the reestablishment of the parliamentary system, Church's rights, and free enterprise. In the 1970s, it drew its membership core from wealthy landowners and also modern business. Its leadership was upper class.
The Liberal Party had its origins in the 1840's. It advocated the separation of church and state, extension of civil liberties and suffrage, and limitation of executive authority. Ideological differences with Conservatives almost nil. Membership from upper strata of business, industry, and professions. In the 1960s and 1970s, it contained some middle class and working class elements but it was chiefly the party of the wealthy industrialist and financier.
In the center were the Radical Party and the Christian Democratic Party. From 1932 to 1964, the Radical Party had greater voting strength than either party of Right. Originally its basic principles were: universal suffrage; freedom of the press; freedom of association, equality before the law, and obligatory, free and secular education. By the first part of the twentieth century, it had evolved a collectivist orientation to meet the demands of social justice. In 1930s, it cooperated with leftist parties in seeking reforms. During the 1940's it lost much of its reformist zeal and moved rightwards towards center. Ideologically, it is split. The left wing advocates. wide social reform, even socialism, while the right wing identifies with programs of the Right. Has been led by the middle classes of Chile's provinces. Anticlericalism one of its main platforms. Also drew from upper-class landowners in the South who wanted clerical reform and resented Santiago's power. Interested in improving conditions of the lower classes by evolutionary not revolutionary means.
The Christian Democratic Party. was the left-wing of the Center. It began in 1938 as the Falange Nacional, an offshoot of the Conservative party. Young Catholic intellectuals such as Eduardo Frei, Radomiro Tomic , Manuel Garretón, and Bernardo Leighton led it. In 1957, joined with Eduardo Cruz-Coke's Partido Conservador Social Cristiano to form the Partido Democráta Cristiano. Intellectuals, technicians, and women are its core membership. It believed in social pluralism and political democracy. Neo-socialistic economic platform. Most saw themselves as leftists and Catholics. Want communitarian society to avoid pitfalls of Marxism and evils of capitalism. Supported abolition of all private property except consumer goods. "Revolution with freedom" was a motto. Drew heavily from the middle class.
On the left were the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Movimiento de Acción Popular Unida after 1968. The Communist Party is the oldest, strongest Communist party in Latin America. It had occupied a key position in the labor movement for forty years and more. Founded in 1912 by Luis Emilio Recabarren as the Workers' Socialist Party, it joined the Comintern in 1921. It split into Stalinist-Trotskyite wings in the 192Os. The Trotskyites later merged with the Socialists. Its tactics were gradualist, peaceful road to power, a strong appeal in labor and intellectual circles, and representation of itself as just another political party. It was Marxist-Leninist with close ties with the Soviets.
The Socialist Party has its roots in the Sociedad de la Igualidad, founded in 1850. It did not become genuinely socialist until 1900 or thereabouts. In April, 1933, the Socialist Party of Chile founded as coalition of other groups. It split in Popular Front days. A group opposed to the government formed the Workers' Socialist Party. Another split in 1942 into the Authentic Socialist Party, which split in 1948. By then, there were two major factions: the Socialist Party of Chile and the Popular Socialist Party. The SPCH agreed with the Defense of Democracy Law. Socialist Party of Chile is the party of Salvador Allende. Its ideology was nationalistic, Marxist, revolutionary, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, class-based, and "americanist". It believed in Marxist dialectics and historical materialism. It was interested in Chilean socialism, workers' democratic government, and centralized planning. It called for worker ownership of means of production and distribution, worker in this instance included white-collar personnel. It called for the nationalization of basic resources and use of cooperatives and state farms. Workers and intellectuals formed the core of party.
The Movimiento de Accion Popular Unida was comprised of the left-wing of Christian Democrats who left the PDC in 1968. It was part of Popular Unity coalition of 1970. It resembled the Socialists in their outlook. Radical Catholics led by Jacques Choncol. It believed that revolutionary means were necessary to achieve social justice in Chile and agreed to the use of violence and terrorism as tactics.
Chile Under Frei, 1964-1970
The Christian Democrats had campaigned on the slogan "Revolution in Liberty, " calling for reform, not revolution. They called for agrarian reform (the redistribution of unused land); more public housing; Chileanization of copper; and more popular participation in politics and the economy. The problems facing the new government were daunting.
Minerals, particularly nitrate and copper, furnished close to 80% of Chile's exports. Iron and manganese are also important. Nitrates accounted for 74% of the value of nonmetallic minerals. Chile has 30% of world's copper reserves and Chile contributed 25% of world's production. The Anaconda Copper Company of the US has owned the Chuquicamata and El Salvador mines and derived two-thirds of its world production from these. Braden, a subsidiary of Kennecott Copper, owned El Teniente These three turned out 85% of Chile's production. Frei began Chileanization of these mines, buying out a majority share. Iron ore goes to Huachipato steel mill near Concepción. There is oil in the Straits of Magellan area. Chile is poor in coal, but partly because it was having difficulty in exploiting coal in Magallanes area. Forests cover 22% of Chile.
Chile had hear 8.7 million people in 1970 and enough arable land to sustain this population. Thirty per cent of the economically active population depended upon land for its livelihood, but there was high inequality in land ownership. Agriculture failed to fulfill its role in economy; it only contributed 12% to GNP. There was stagnation of agriculture and livestock. Productivity per worker was the lowest in the economy and had declined 20% from 1952 to 1962. The lack of incentives for the worker, low technological levels, and under-utilization of labor in some small holdings all contributed to low yields The large estate or fundo was still the prevailing landholding system in Chile. Also, large properties were concentrated in central Chile near Santiago-Valparaíso and small properties were concentrated in the South. In the central valley, they grew fruits, wines, and truck garden products, which permit intense cultivation with high productivity per land unit while in the South wheat, rye, and other cereals were grown, crops which require extensive acreage for greater productivity. Chile needed to reverse this pattern to get higher yields. Large landholdings made up 62.8% of all farm land but only 1.4% of all holdings. Thirty-seven per cent of the farm units, containing less than five hectares each (approximately 2.5 acres=hectare) occupied only 0.3% of the agricultural area. In central Chile, land concentration was even higher. Only Christian Democrats and FRAP had consistently spoken to land problem or tried to do anything about it. One approach had been opening new lands and using colonization. In the 1960s, population had increased 1.8% and food production 1.6% annually. Agriculture employed 27% of labor force but contributed only 12% of GNP (1960). Chile had to import food.
Migrant workers (afuerinos) received the lowest pay in the country, the equivalent of US 30-40 cents daily in cash and benefits. Inquilinos (tenant farmers) earned about 60 cents daily. The 1954 per capita income in Chile was US $150 while for the US was $1,845. This is useful for comparative purposes, although prices varied between the countries. Chilean farm labor received only 11% of national income.
Inflation had been a serious problem. In the 1952-1957 period, the price of rice rose from 22 to 78 pesos a kilogram, sugar from 8 to 85 pesos, meat from 50 to 500 pesos, and an ordinary man's suit from 3,000 to 21,000 pesos. An unskilled worker in 1957 earned 15,000 pesos monthly which equaled about $24 at that year's exchange rate. A white collar employee averaged 50,000 pesos. Prices rose only 17% in 1957 but over 30% in 1958. In 1962, the cost of living increased 28% and in 1963 increased 45%.
Frei began tackling these problems. In 1965, Congress agreed to Chileanization, the government buying into the copper companies with the companies to increase production. Most Chilenos, even conservatives, supported the country gaining more control, if not ownership, of the copper companies. It was a matter of nationalism. So the government bought some ownership but production did not increase enough. In 1967, land reform measures were passed but they were modest. Rural wages did go up, partly at Frei's prodding, but not enough to make a substantial difference. Inflation was reduced to about 20% a year, lower than before but still too high. More money was put into social welfare. Frei borrowed huge sums from United States citizens and its government, seeing these loans as an investment but willing a very large debt to his predecessor.
The Christian Democrats had promised too much. People thought their lives would change immediately. The Movimiento de Acción Popular Unida broke from the party ranks. Conservatives were upset with his reform measures, for they had not wanted any change. The left, led by Salvador Allende, argued that only a true socialist revolution by peaceful means could effect the changes needed and that what was happening under the Christian Democrats was to be expected. Even the mainstream Christian Democratic Party showed some displeasure with Frei when it nominated Radomiro Tomic from its left wing to be the presidential candidate in 1970.
Leftist forces clearly won a majority in the 1970 presidential election. Salvador Allende, running with the Unidad Popular (UP or Popular Unity) coalition, won the plurality with 36.3% of the vote, not a majority, but Radomiro Tomic won 27.8% and his platform was not very different from Allende's. The conservative Jorge Alessandri won 34.9%. Congress would do what it had done before, select the front runner in November. Opposition to Allende was so strong, however, that General René Schneider was killed in September while preventing a conservative coup. Fearing Allende, people began putting their money in overseas banks. Rumors abounded that the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States would somehow prevent Allende from taking office or that the military would intervene. Until the November election by Congress, intense lobbying took place by the pro-Allende and the pro-Alessandri forces. The Christian Democrats got Allende to sign an agreement to respect the constitution and then voted for him.
Allende froze prices and raised wages in an effort to improve the condition of the common man. He gambled that increased buying would increase production (production was substantially below capacity) and everyone would benefit without inflation occurring. Further, he used the profits from copper sales under Frei to subsidize his efforts. It worked for about a year. The final nationalization of the copper mines was done by a unanimous vote of Congress in July, 1971, when Congress passed a constitutional amendment to nationalize the copper mines. The Allende government later refused to compensate the companies fully claiming that they had made excess profits; they deserved a pittance. Following the nationalization of copper was the nationalization of coal, steel and other businesses. The administration expropriated the International Telephone and Telegraph Company after it interfered in Chilean politics in September and tried to bribe the United States government to overthrow Allende. The government went after other multinational corporations, such as the Ford Motor Company, when they did not cooperate. Allende stayed within the law.
In October, Congress passed a constitutional amendment to limit "intervention" and "requisition" and to stipulate that Congress must approve expropriations. This was the Area of Three Properties Law (e.g. what public, what private, what mixed). In November, the administration declared a moratorium on the payment of foreign debts. In December the Housewives March of the Empty Pots, partly funded by the CIA, occurred. Women marched throgh Santiago's streets banging pot in protest. Chile did a partial devaluation of its currency. But at year's end, industrial growth had grown 8.3% and agriculture 5.3%. The money supply had increased 120%. The balance of payments deficit was $315 million, not that unusual, but still a problem.
Allende was unable to prevent the radicalization in the countryside or in business firms because members of his coalition acted without his approval. He had managed to radicalize events but could not control them..
The Nixon administration was determined to drive him out of power. It got financial organizations to cut credit to Chile although some European countries refused. The CIA gave substantial amounts of money to Allende's opposition and talked to military leaders about deposing him.
In June, 1972, Allende formed a new Cabinet because economic policy creating political problems. The cost of living jumped 27.5% in one month. By September, the cost of living was up 99.8% and output in agriculture, industry, and mining begins to drop. The Interior minister and others were impeached. The judiciary protested Allende's actions. Both sides began courting the military. In October, a truck driver strike began and spreads, costing $150-200 million.
To dampen fears of his government as well as to pacify the independent military, Allende brought General Carlos Prat and other officers into the cabinet to end the strike and insure elections but others struck at his government. Kennecott Copper sued in Paris courts to stop Chilean copper from being unloaded from ships in French harbors and sold. But at year end, the balance of payments deficit was $298 million; the net international reserves deficit was $289 million; inflation was 163%; and real wages were down 7%. Agricultural imports, however, went up to $400 million, up 84% over 1970.
Things got worse in 1973. Members of the UP coalition sped up the organization of factory workers and neighborhoods into command centers to take control of factories. The number of factories taken jumped drastically even though Allende was opposed to the tactic. In January, the government began talk of rationing, including food. In the March congressional elections, Unidad Popular got 43%, not the majority it had hoped but still a strong showing. The government issued notice of a national unified school system to begin in June; since this would adversely affect its schools, the Church joined the opposition to the government. On May, the Supreme Court denounced decisions of the Allende government. Workers in the El Teniente and other copper mines struck against the government for better wages, ironic because the government claimed to be a workers' government.
Anti-Allende events increased in the summer. On June 29th, there was an attempted coup but the army remained loyal and stopped it. On July 26th , a truckers' strike began which lasted until the coup on September 11th. It crippled the economy because goods could not be moved around. Most of the truckers were small businessmen; they had been hurt by Allende's policies. Some think that the CIA financed the strike. On August 9th, military officers were brought into the cabinet. There was an abortive navy mutiny, and, on the 17th, Allende dismissed some chief naval officers. On the 21st, officers' wives who were protesting Allende's policies were tear-gassed, a gross tactical error for it infuriated the military. General Carlos Prat left on the 22nd. Allende had lost the support of the officers who believed in following the constitution. The inflation rate had reached 323%.
On September 9th, Socialist Party leader Altamirano admitte that he incited a mutiny in the navy. That was the last straw; the military would not tolerate the encouragement of insubordination in its ranks. Telephones began ringingd in military offices and homes; assurances were given by commanders that they would participate in the coup or stay neutral. On September 11th, led by General Augusto Pinochet, the Army Chief of Staff, they overthrew Allende and installed a military dictatorship. No one is sure how many were killed by Pinochet and his minions. Estimates range from 5,000 to 15,000. Allende died in the presidential palace by his own hand. Some say he was killed.
Most of Allende's problems were of his own making. The economic changes were so fast and furious that they destabilized the economy. Fearing the loss of their property, investors moved money into safe places. Owners cut production in order to reduce the possibility of loss. No one had to encourage them. Agricultural production fell as the modes of production were disrupted. Perhaps agrarian reform would have brought increase over time but Allende did not have the time. At the end of 1973, the balance of payments deficit was $253 million; net international reserves deficit were $442 million; and the inflation rate was 508%.
General Pinochet decided to stay in power and stay and stay. He was a ferocious, murderous dictator. He would stay from 1973 until 1990 as a very tough dictator. In 1975, a high member of President Richard Nixon's security team said that the Pinochet regime was so paranoid that it was accusing the Nixon administration of being part of "the international Communist conspiracy" and that the Nixon administration was treading lightly in order to save as many people as possible from the outrages of the Chilean government. No one had foreseen that the Chilean military would strike with such ferocity.
Pinochet wanted the abolition of "politics" and its institutions such as the congress, constitution, and political parties. His administration took over education tp purge it of leftist, liberal, centrist, and, at times, conservative teachers and thoughts. For the economy, he hired advisors from the United States, the "Chicago Boys", followers of Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago. Inflation rates decreased slowly going from over 500% in September 1973 to 180% in 1976 to 30-35% in 1978 to 10% in 1982 and between 20% and 31% between 1983 and 1987. The slow decline was surprising because one of the hallmarks of the Friedman school is control of the money supply. The regime and its economic advisors created high unemployment to relieve pressure on prices and encouraged foreign firms to buy Chilean firms. By the end of 1986, the Gross Domestic Product per capita barely equaled that of 1970 and per capita consumption was 11% less than that of 1970. Economically, at least, the average Chileno suffered under Pinochet. In the October, 1988 plebiscite, 55% of the voters said no to the continuance of Pinochet. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin was elected in 1989 to succeed Pinochet, who became az Senator for life and immune from prosecution. However, efforts to prosecute him in the twenty-first century were stopped only by his death in 2006.
Pinochet left the country in bad shape. In 1991, approximately $4.35 billion flowed out of the Chilean economy in debt payments and profits to foreign investors, fully 25% of Chile's Gross National Product. The military regime did away with many taxes such as corporate tax and consumption taxes on alcohol. Personal taxes for the wealthiest segment of the population became very low. The government tax base was reduced. It could no longer be an activist government, which was the point of reducing its income.
PRESIDENTIAL VOTES (1946-1964)
Gabriel Gonzalez Videla 192,207 Carlos Ibañez 446,439
Eduardo Cruz-Coke 142,441 Arturo Matte 265,357
Fernando Alessandri 131,021 Pedro Alfonso 190,360
Bernardo Ibañez 12,114 Salvador Allende 51,975
Jorge Alessandri 389,909 Eduardo Frei 1,406,002
Salvador Allende 356,493 Salvador Allende 975,692
Eduardo Frei 255,769 Julio Duran 124,869
Luis Bossay 192,077
Antonio Zamorano 41,304