Chile Recent History

The parliamentary regime, meanwhile, was going through a very critical period due to the internal discord between the parties, which generated the absolute instability of the successive ministries, under the presidencies of the liberal German Riesco (1901-1906), of the conservative Pedro Montt (1906 -1910), of the opponent in Balmaceda Ramon Barros Luco (1910-1915) and of Juan Luis Sanfuentes (1915-1920).

But also the emergence of various social problems made it difficult to practice politics in Chile. All the activities aimed at the progress of the country had created different social classes among the workers who, made aware of the doctrines that came from Europe, came to create continuous problems that, consequently, were going to engage politics. According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Chile, the greatest unease created by these difficulties was felt under the subsequent president Arturo Alessandri (1920-1925).

He established a program that primarily involved administrative decentralization, women’s suffrage, the separation of the Church from the state, the establishment of income tax, the labor code and governmental control over the nitrate industry, but was unable to implement not even in part this program because the Union, which had a majority in the Senate, practiced strong opposition.

In 1924 there were legislative elections, won by the Democrats who, however, were unable to solve the looming problems for which a coup d’état occurred on September 4 of the same year. Alessandri resigned and the government passed into the hands of a council headed by General Altamirano. Congress rejected Alessandri’s resignation, gave him six months’ leave and he retired to Buenos Aires. The council dissolved the congress and established a dictatorship.

This on January 23, 1925 was overthrown by another council, headed by Bello Codesido, General Dartnell and Admiral Ward, who called Alessandri to power. The latter returned to Santiago amid the enthusiasm of the people and immediately went back to work by developing, first of all, a new Constitution which was approved. In October 1925 presidential elections were held and in December Emiliano Figueroa, elected by a large majority, entered the office. The country again returned to a normal constitutional regime but politics still did not find calm.

Chile Recent History

Colonel Carlo Ibanez, who was then Minister of War, was first elected President of the Council, then Vice-President of the Republic and finally President after the resigned Figueroa.

Ibanez, making use of the particular powers conferred on him, immediately began a drastic work against the communists and undertook the reorganization of state finances and administration. In the years that followed, Chile’s internal life experienced constant economic and technical progress.

In February 1930 Ibanez was still president because with extraordinary powers he had extended the time of his office for another six months. This resulted in a series of resignations that began with those of the Minister of the Interior and then there were those of the entire Cabinet. He tried to reconstitute the Cabinet of Ministers by calling the mayor of Valparaiso to assist him but the desired result was not achieved. On September 21 of the same year there was still a revolt which was short-lived because it was immediately put down. On the 28th of the same month Congress dissolved and elections were announced which were to follow, however, a new law enacted by Ibanez, which arrogated with it the right to dissolve Congress when the interests of the state required it.

Meanwhile, the financial situation was experiencing a strong insolvency and a solution was not found by Congress which, therefore, was dissolved on February 10, 1931 and Ibanez had extraordinary powers until the convocation of May 21.

The rupture situation created did not settle in favor of Ibanez who had to resign to temporarily leave power to the president of the Senate, Pedro Opazo, and after him to Juan Esteban Montero, who immediately called the presidential election, he ran, but was preferred as interim president the Minister of the Interior M. Trucco.

In September 1931 a riot occurred again; it was started by some Communist sailors followed by the entire fleet and then by ground troops. The air force resolved the situation and when everything was calm again, the elections took place on October 4th. Montero was appointed president, conservative, who had prevailed over the liberal Alessandri; but his government fell on June 4, 1932. He had registered a large group of political and economic failures that made him lose his position, immediately taken on by a Revolutionary Council headed by Carlos Davila who on June 6 dissolved the Congress and appointed a Ministry.

Davila immediately arranged a series of measures aimed at restoring order and reorganizing the very precarious economy. He ascribed partial control of the industries to the workers, halved the large properties, imposed a heavy tax on income and finally promised to respect all the treaties stipulated with foreigners honoring debts. This last thing the Junta did not respect, thus awakening the internal struggles that led to the resignation of Davila on June 12th. These, shortly after he returned to power thanks to a counter-revolution, but it lasted shortly and on September 13 was again defenestrated by a revolt led by A. Merino Benitez, head of the aviation. General B. Blanche was provisionally elected president and a conflict immediately arose between him and Merino Benitez.

The diatribe resolved in Blanche’s favor, but the people, who were tired of all military regimes, formed a civil junta in Antofagasta, which ordered Blanche to resign; it was October 1st. On the 30th of the same month the elections took place which led to the presidency of Alessandri on December 24th. The result was a quiet period which allowed an economic recovery especially thanks to the nitrate trade.

In the meantime, in opposition to the communists, a republican “Milicia” and a national-socialist party had arisen, modeled on the German one, which, however, in December 1933 was suppressed by the government.

In 1934 there were strong contrasts between industrialists and traders on the one hand and socialists on the other. The representatives of the first two asked the government not to intervene in the affairs of trade and private industry, that taxes had decreased and indeed that the taxation system was revised. There was also an agrarian revolt in the Andes, charged to the communists. From that moment there were strong repressions that went on until February 1936; many members of the Communist party were arrested, accused of having created all the unrest that occurred in the central provinces.

In February 1936 a coup was attempted by some retired officers, which also failed. After the calm returned to the country, the republican Milicia dissolved and in January 1937, due to a nascent Nazi movement, a special law was passed to protect the defense of the state. In March 1937 the elections established the prevalence of right-wing parties. On May 14, 1938, following disagreements between the delegate of Chile and the League of Nations, Chile withdrew from that institution. Meanwhile, with the last elections, seven Communists and three National Socialists also went to government; the latter, under the guidance of J. Gonzales von Maree, on September 5, 1938, attempted the coup. Both parties gathered at the “Frente Popular” elected P: Aguirre Cerda who immediately, on October 23,

On 24/25 January 1939 Chile was hit by a terrible earthquake that completely destroyed the city of Chillan and devastated Conception, Linares, Talcahuano and Cauquenes, claiming 40,000 victims. As if other revolutionary attempts were not enough, a great scandal arose in February 1940; due to the irregular granting of visas and passports to European immigrants.

When the war broke out in Europe in 1940, Chile remained neutral, as it had already done in the First World War, limiting itself in that circumstance to contending, to its neighboring states, only some border territories. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Chile managed to convene a conference in Rio de Janeiro, joining Argentina, with which it was obtained that each state was free to interrupt relations with the Axis, which happened January 20, 1943.

In December 1944 diplomatic relations were established with the USSR. In August 1944 he was elected Senator Alessandri and in March 1945 he became President of the Senate. At the same time, Chile, which had joined the United Nations Declaration, declared war on Japan. Serious internal accidents led to worker strikes with a notable increase in general discontent. In this situation the communists won the elections and led to the presidency of the Senate Gonzales Videla, who formed a first mixed ministry with liberals, radicals and communists. He promoted some commercial initiatives and claimed Chile’s rights over Antarctica. In 1947 he established a base on the island of Greenwich, calling it “Puerto Soberania”, which he visited in February 1948; called “Land of O’Higgins”

In July and August 1948 he went to Brazil and Argentina to conclude some agreements. Then, due to strikes and riots inside the Lota and Coronel mines in the south, he was forced to introduce a rationing and, as a final result, in October there was the military occupation of the same mines. At the same time he foiled an espionage plan set up by the Yugoslav Communists; brought to the attention of that government the evidence gained; expelled all the representatives of that country, broke diplomatic ties with Czechoslovakia and the USSR. But when Gonzales opposed Pablo Neruda in the senate about his suspended parliamentary immunity, the president of the Senate Alessandri resigned and in the following year all the communists were excluded from any state and parastatal employment.

Videla faced difficult situations and general discontent. When the Communists were accused of being the supporters of all the unrest in the country, he ousted the ministers from the government and outlawed the party (1948).

In 1952 he entered into a military pact with the USA that did not meet popular favor. And after so many difficult episodes, the nationalists rose up and restored to power once again Carlo Ibanez and he, even if helped by the communists, oriented himself towards a government of reforms. But his plans were not implemented and, after a few months, with the elections of 1 March 1953 he lost control of both the Senate and the Chamber. On July 8, 1953 he signed an economic pact with Argentina which not only did not produce any results but even served to reawaken the claims of nationalists regarding Antarctica. On March 1, 1955 he had to decree martial law to end the state of tension created by constant unrest and strikes.

In March 1957, the radical and liberal parties achieved resounding success with the legislative elections, so much so that Ibanez was forced to rely on an exclusively technical government, pending the expiry of his mandate.

In May 1959 the hostile parties in Ibanez passed a law that brought the communists back to participate in the government and on September 4, 1959 the liberal Sorge Alessandri Rodriguez won the elections, whose votes, however, slightly exceeded those of the socialist S. Allende.

The first initiative of the new president was to reduce military spending for all Latin American republics and to donate the money saved to the economic and social development of all countries. This initiative met with general favor, including that of the USA. in February 1960 Alessandri received a visit from General Eisenhower. In May of the same year, a terrible earthquake occurred in Chile, the damage of which in some parts of the country even changed its physical configuration.

With President J. Alessandri (1958/64), who prevailed by measure over the socialist S. Allende, efforts had begun to improve the economic situation and to give greater impetus to industries, to the detriment of agriculture. The government blocked wages and imposed various restrictive measures on citizens; this caused a state of growing concern across the country.

In 1964 there were two presidential candidates: the conservative J. Duran and the Christian Democrat E. Frei. Surprisingly, the latter, a friend of the USA, won the competition but immediately had to face the distrust of Congress, where his party had few representatives. Meanwhile the country was going through a period of supreme indigence in all sectors, and since Frei in the Chamber of Deputies could have a substantial increase in seats, and therefore could count on a stability guaranteed by this majority, in 1965 he gave way to “Chileanization” copper mines, then almost entirely in the hands of North American companies. He succeeded completely in the end of 1966 and promised a doubling of production within the next six years and then, with an agreement with Peru, Congo and Zambia, he established the unification of prices. But in 1967, following the drop in requests for the product in the world, a serious crisis occurred and also the agrarian reform, undertaken by Frei, touching the interests of landowners and large landowners, had to overcome fierce opposition from interested parties. A special law was enacted and approved for this reason, in July 1967, received with great favor by the masses. The expropriation of the rich began immediately with the assignment of land to the peasants who, for their greater safety, founded their unions.

In foreign policy, Frei achieved good results and re-established diplomatic ties with the USSR. However, the reforms were proceeding slowly and as Frei was powerful in the House but not in the Senate, despite the undeniable merits, he had to succumb to the elections of 4 September 1969 which saw the rise of the first socialist president of history S. Allende, freely elected on the American continent. He was installed on November 4, 1970 to govern a government of Popular Unity, with three socialists, three communists, three radical socialists and two social democrats.

The program Allende intended to pursue was that of nationalization, expropriation of large farms in favor of farmers and the resumption of relations with Fidel Castro. This caused some panic among industrialists and large landowners who, after making huge quantities of dollars, moved abroad and with them all the capital. Many technicians, researchers and intellectuals also expatriated and in this situation the government of Allende found himself considerably subdued.

Crops were struggling and construction slowed. The Church alone supported its program, also because it contained the reforms that the Church had been asking for for some time. And, oddly enough, even the army, which had always been out of politics, after seeing some demands met, supported it.

What Allende did in Chile was the subject of much attention from the whole world. Everyone looked skeptically at his claims to defeat the misery of the poorer classes, first of all that of the peasants. Furthermore, the initiative to prevent the accumulation of strong capital for the benefit of foreigners was highly frowned upon.

On 4 April 1971 Allende was reconfirmed with broad consensus, but when Frei’s ex-Minister of Interior, E. Perex Zucovic, hated by the leftists, was assassinated in the following month of June, the Christian Democrats abandoned his government and passed to ‘opposition. The power of Allende diminished and the radicals also began to show their discontent because they did not see resolved some problems that had long been waiting for solution.

In November 1971 Fidel Castro went to Chile and several times harangued the crowds in defense of Allende’s plans, but the situation did not improve. Even People’s China made a large loan to Chile in February 1972. Things got worse and worse; agriculture was in disrepair, both due to the lack of resources and to that of the rains, depriving the populations of greater livelihood; consequently, the cattle were mostly slaughtered, with serious damage; the price of copper went down continuously. Allende tried to stem this disaster by seeking help with his travels to the neighboring states of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and even went to Moscow on an official visit from 6 to 9 December 1972.

The country’s food situation had become so critical that women were the first to take to the streets for mass demonstrations. A great wave of strikes, riots in the square and terrorism struck the country.

Wanting to ease the pressure of the radicals, Allende invested the military with full powers by conferring the Ministry of the Interior on General C. Prats, that of Public Works to Rear Admiral Ismael Huerta, and that of Mining Affairs to the General of the Carabinieri C. Sepulveda. These changes induced the leftists a lot and Allende shortly thereafter revoked the state of emergency to at least calm the small and middle bourgeoisie.

On 4 December 1972 he went to the XXVII United Nations Assembly and there he accused the imperialist countries of being the promoters of the suffocation of the Chilean economy with the intention of overthrowing his government to establish a dictatorship.

Despite the national state of unease, with the regular elections of 6 March 1973 Allende was seen to increase popular favor, but the majority of the government was still a legacy of Christian democracy, allied with the right, which, given the confirmation of Popular Unity intensified their opposition.

Meanwhile Allende had formed a civilian government, but terrorism continued its demolition of institutions. The military officer Araya Marin was killed and the mutiny of two ships in the port of Valparaiso, suffocated in the bud, forced Allende once again to resort to members of the military. The House then promoted a motion accusing Allende of violating the Constitution, causing the military to resign. He was forced to reopen the dialogue with the Christian Democrats but the situation worsened and then he proposed a plebiscite in which the whole population could express himself about him. This did not happen because a coup d’etat that put power in the hands of a military junta solved the problem. Allende refused to surrender to the evidence,

The Military Junta was headed by General A. Pinochet Ugarte. He assumed full powers, established a state of terror, instituted martial courts which decreed summary judgments, executions, mass arrests and concentration camps. All this provoked the greatest disapproval of the whole world.

On June 27, 1974 General Pinochet officially assumed the office of President of the Republic and also established that the three commanders of the armed forces would exercise legislative power. Over time, it consolidated authoritarianism and political parties were not admitted to the government of Chile which, even with the resumption of aid from the USA, never managed to heal the profound economic shortcomings in which it was facing.

On November 7, 1974 the UN asked Chile to restore human rights and also the Russell II Court, meeting in Brussels on January 18, 1975, condemned the Chilean government for “serious, repeated and systematic violations of human rights. “.

From 1973 until 1975 efforts were made to gradually reorganize the country, then intensified with the promotion of the internationalization of the economy, with the opening up to foreign capitals, the reduction of public spending, the abolition of the presence of the state in production, the passage of public enterprises to individuals, the decrease in the monetary base, wage containment, freedom of prices and layoffs.

These initiatives did not register the successes hoped for also because they were consequential to international stability. For this reason, many small and medium-sized companies had to close, the foreign debt increased, education, health and pensions were penalized, also including the middle classes in the withdrawal. Capitalists regained possession of previously expropriated lands, wages decreased and both agrarian reform and trade unions were dismantled, workers’ organizations were banned from federating nationally and the right to strike was suppressed. This resulted in a boycott of European unions and even of a US union and then union negotiations were reinstated but not at the national level but only at the level of individual companies.

Pinochet strengthened his powers by assuming not only the position of Head of State but also that of Head of the Armed Forces. All parties, both left and right, were suppressed, and when the UN decreed its international isolation due to repressions against political refugees, it was forced to mitigate the rigors of its government by institutionalizing the regime with acts constitutional of 1976 sooner or later with the Chacarillas Plan of 1977, in which it established to pass the deliveries to civilians in 1985. Finally it issued a Constitution that established the end of the military regime in 1989. With a referendum all this was approved but popular mobilization continued even with the contribution of the Church which saw absolutely no “Christian” in Pinochet’s government, as he called it.

In 1986, following the improved economic conditions, the opposition softened and accepted the resolution of the Pinochet regime in 1997, which then happened.

In 1989, Chile returned to democracy but always under the protection of the military. Pinochet asked for the presence of nine non-elected senators, who were appointed precisely by the military, sided with the right and in fact did not approve any reform among those requested by the people. The center-left administration, led by P. Aylwin, did little to improve the situation. One of the few reforms that was given to implement later in February 1994 was to raise the presidential term to 6 years.

Meanwhile in March 1991 a report of the “National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation” was published. In this report all the violations of human rights perpetrated by Pinochet’s militia during the years 1973/90 were brought to the attention of the whole world. And even if this denunciation had no legal effect, the dictator also contested it vigorously, declaring it strongly detrimental to the image of the armed forces.

Aylwin, for his part, administered the country confirming the already present liberal regime and his center-left coalition was confirmed with the December 1993 elections; E. Frei, a Christian Democrat, imposed himself in the presidential elections and resumed the work of his predecessor on constitutional reforms.


The Senate in 1996 rejected a bill that provided for the reduction of non-elective seats (the 9 of Pinochet) and, however, all this did not change the Chilean political balance which remained unchanged even after the 1997 elections.

On 16 October 1998 Pinochet was arrested in London following the extradition request presented by the Spanish judiciary which accused him of crimes committed against Spanish citizens during the years of his dictatorship.

After a first refusal by the English authorities for reasons of age and health of the now old dictator, the pressure of world public opinion became so dangerously strong that the repeated requests of the Spanish judges were considered valid and Pinochet was extradited: it was March- April 1999.