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Gabriel González Videla


Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez
Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez

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.

General Carlos Ibáñez


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 govern as a dictator. He restored some order but did not effectively cope with Chile’s economic and social problems. Rapid inflation continued, and strikes and riots persisted. In 1958 Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, a former senator and son of Arturo Alessandri Palma, heading a Conservative-Liberal coalition, was elected to the presidency on a platform favoring free enterprise and the encouragement of foreign investment. He undertook vigorous austerity measures and developed public works, schools, and housing. However, a series of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions killed thousands and dealt a severe blow to the economy in 1960. An earthquake on May 22 of that year ranked 9.5 on the Richter scale, making it the strongest ever measured.

Strong popular sentiment for more thoroughgoing social and economic change made the presidential election of 1964 a contest between leading reform candidates. Former Senate member Eduardo Frei Montalva, candidate of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, defeated a leftist coalition. Frei’s administration began to acquire government ownership of the copper industry, and it also made important advances in agricultural reform, housing, and education. But by the end of the 1960s the middle class was becoming impatient with moderate reforms. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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