Chile was neutral in World War I (1914-1918). After the war, great strife developed between Liberals and Conservatives. The Liberals gained power with the election in 1920 of former minister of the interior Arturo Alessandri Palma, but the senate blocked nearly all of his proposals for reform. In 1924 Alessandri resigned at the demand of the army and navy. In 1925 he was recalled, however, and won approval of a new constitution that established the separation of church and state, made primary education compulsory, and made the cabinet responsible to the president rather than to the Congress.
Emiliano Figueroa, a Conservative, was elected president in 1925, but an army officer, Carlos ...view middle of the document...
His reforms were also disrupted in 1939 by a devastating earthquake that killed about 28,000 people. This coalition was successful again in 1942, when Radical Party member Juan Antonio Ríos was elected president. Ríos governed moderately amid the conflicting political sympathies during World War II (1939-1945). Chile first followed a policy of neutrality and then entered the war on the side of the United States in 1944.
| | G. | Postwar Governments (1946-1970) |
The 1946 presidential election was won by Gabriel González Videla, a Radical Party leader who was supported by a left-wing coalition. Although the Communists had supported González Videla and he had given them cabinet posts, he broke with them because they organized demonstrations, precipitated and aggravated strikes, and created general unrest. Further troubles ensued, resulting in a break of relations between Chile and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the outlawing of the Communist Party in Chile in 1948. (The Communist Party remained underground until 1958, when it was again legalized.)
After World War II ended, Chile, like other Latin American nations, was eager to import goods the world struggle had long denied it. A catastrophic inflation began as money poured into imports. Subsequent economic dislocations caused riots and strikes. In spite of González Videla’s efforts, economic realities harassing the Chilean population were not alleviated. The old landed aristocracy still owned most of the productive land. Chile’s ability to import goods depended largely on the export to the United States of copper and nitrate, whose price depended almost entirely on the U.S. market.
A reaction against the traditional parties resulted in the surprising election of General Carlos Ibáñez the following year. The dictator, who was overthrown in 1931 and had led unsuccessful revolts with Nazi (National Socialism) support in 1938 and 1948, was known to be a reactionary nationalist and admirer of the Argentine dictator Juan Perón. Chilean voters apparently turned to him in the hope he would control inflation and labor violence and perhaps curb U.S. influence as well.
Ibáñez did not justify the uneasiness often expressed that he would...