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Chile between 1914 and 1939


Carlos Ibáñez del Campo
Carlos Ibáñez del Campo

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 Ibáñez del Campo, wielded governmental authority and ruled as president from 1927 until 1931. The Ibáñez administration was unable to cope with the effects of the world economic depression, however. With the drop of copper and nitrate prices, the economy of Chile virtually collapsed. A general strike spread rapidly and Ibáñez resigned in mid-1931. For more than a year Chile was in turmoil. The economy foundered, revolts flared, and a series of juntas and short-lived presidents attempted to rule. Alessandri was once again elected president in 1932. His six years in office were notable for the reestablishment of order, often with strong methods, and for his alliance with the Conservatives.

Chile had emerged from the period of depression by the time his term ended in 1938. However, the growing demand for increased social legislation started a new period of internal strife. The Radical Party, which had supported Alessandri, together with several leftist groups and the Communists, organized the so-called Popular Front. Pedro Aguirre Cerda, the Popular Front candidate, won the 1938 election by a narrow margin.

Aguirre had an ambitious program resembling the New Deal in the United States. He was able to carry out part of it despite vigorous opposition from the Conservatives. 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. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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