Chile History

Social change and political development until 1945

The social and economic conditions began to move after the population increased rapidly between 1890 and 1920 and the number of residents in the cities almost doubled in the course of industrialization, the infrastructure was expanded and foreign investors came into the country. The poor working conditions and the devaluation of money led to strikes and social unrest. The workers and their unions became a new political actor. President A. Alessandri Palma (1920–24 / 26, 1932–38), with the support of the military, pushed through a constitution in 1925 that strengthened the power of the president over Congress and established the separation of church and state. The constitutional order was interrupted in 1927-31 by the military dictatorship of President C. Ibáñez del Campo. He initiated social reforms and encouraged foreign investors. The economic upswing was brought to an abrupt end by the Great Depression in 1930, and the President was overthrown in 1931.

During the second presidency of Alessandri Palma, the economic situation improved, at the same time social differences worsened, which contributed to the strengthening of the left parties. From their ranks came the Presidents Pedro Aguirre Cerda (* 1879, † 1941; 1938–41), Juan A. Ríos Morales (* 1888, † 1946; 1942–46) and Gabriel González Videla (* 1898, †) 1980; 1946-52). During her reign, the state’s influence on the economy increased. This expanded through the export boom, the expansion of domestic industry during the Second World War, the improvement of infrastructure and vocational training, and the establishment of state-owned companies (e.g. in mining and metallurgy). By January 1943, Chile resisted the Allies’ demands to sever diplomatic relations with the Axis powers.

1945 until the end of the military dictatorship

After the end of the Second World War, Chile participated in the founding of the UN (1945) and the OAS (1948). In 1947, during the Cold War, diplomatic relations with the USSR and Czechoslovakia were broken off and the Communists were excluded from government responsibility in Chile. Under President Ibáñez del Campo, who in his second term (1952–58) had good relations with the Argentine President J. D. Perón domestic political tensions increased as a result of impoverishment from advancing inflation. In view of the rigid social structures (large estates, concentration of income), the unrest in the poorer classes increased in the 1950s and 1960s; this moved politicians to undertake fundamental social and economic reforms. After initial approaches under President J. Alessandri Rodríguez (1958–64) – z. B. Introduction of the rural minimum wage (1955), passage of an agrarian reform law (1962) and promotion of social housing (1960) – the Christian-Democratic President E. Frei Montalva seized (1964–70) much more radical measures. He placed the copper mines under state control, passed a more far-reaching agrarian reform law (1967), expropriated large landowners, distributed land to peasants without possessions and improved social security for workers. But even his reforms did not enable sustainable redistribution and social pacification. Rather, they gave further nourishment to the demand for a social revolutionary program.

According to usaers, the candidate of the left-wing party alliance Unidad Popular, S. Allende, won the 1970 presidential election after four unsuccessful attempts.

With his comprehensive socialization and nationalization program (including expropriation of copper and coal mines and land without compensation), he encountered sharp opposition from the parliamentary majority and the conservative elite. The worsening domestic political crisis was exacerbated by terrorist actions by radical left and right-wing groups. After Congress tried to overthrow President Allende “for repeated violations of the law and the constitution,” but failed to achieve the necessary majority, the army overthrew him in a bloody coup. When the government palace was surrounded and bombed, Allende was killed on September 11, 1973 (probably by suicide).

A military junta led by General A.  Pinochet took power. It suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, banned political parties and introduced strict censorship. Pinochet, who took over the office of president on June 27th, 1974, established a military dictatorship, which proceeded with severe repression against all left-wing progressive forces. Thousands of people were arrested and tortured, many cruelly murdered; many Chileans fled into exile, v. a. to Europe. Numerous social reforms were reversed and all political activities were suppressed. The military and their advisors (“Chicago Boys”) sought to solve the country’s economic problems (including hyperinflation, high deficit in the state budget, poor supply situation, low growth) with a monetarist economic policy. As a result of the human rights violations, the regime was isolated in terms of foreign policy. The 1980 constitution, which was in force until 1989, continued to prohibit the activity of parties and wrote Pinochet’s presidency until 1989. When the opposition to the regime increased due to repression and poor social and economic conditions, a state of emergency was again imposed in November 1984. Pressure from the opposition movement and from abroad forced the government to initiate a reform process in the mid-1980s. From 1987 the formation of parties was legalized, in August 1988 the state of emergency was lifted. In the plebiscite that followed on October 5, 1988, 55.2% of Chileans rejected a second term in office for Pinochet. The difficult process of finding a democratic order after 17 years of dictatorship and atrocities began. Pinochet announced his withdrawal for 1990, but held the post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces until March 1998.

Chile History