Chile History Part I

By | December 10, 2021

Started by Spain in 1535, the conquest of Chile was made difficult by the resistance of the Araukani Indians. Until the 19th century. the control of the Spaniards was unable to extend to the S of the Bío-Bío River, but in the region they occupied, the merger with the local Amerindian population resulted in a relatively homogeneous mass of mestizos. The first years after independence (proclaimed February 12, 1818 by the supreme director B. O’Higgins, who maintained the direction of the state until 1823) saw on the one hand the continuation of the war against Spain until its definitive expulsion from South America (1826), on the other hand conflicts within the oligarchy dominant. After repeated overthrow of governments and the adoption of two successive constitutions (in 1823 and 1828), the crisis was resolved with the victory of the conservatives (1830) and the launch of a Constitution (1833) destined to last for almost a century.

Conservative hegemony lasted until 1861, followed in the second half of the century by a rise of liberal groups. The expansion of Chilean mining interests to the North led to the Pacific War (1879-84), which ended with the victory of Chile and the occupation of the entire disputed area. By the end of the nineteenth century, completing the subjugation of the Araukani, the government of Santiago was finally able to establish its control over the southernmost regions of the country, which thus acquired its current dimensions. A conflict that arose between the President of the Republic JM Balmaceda (1886-91) and the Parliament provoked a brief civil war in 1891, which ended with the defeat and suicide of Balmaceda and with the launch of a constitutional reform. Over the next thirty years, new political and social forces were formed, such as the Radical Party and the Socialist Party, founded in 1912 and becoming a Communist in 1922. The serious economic difficulties following the end of the First World War the contrasts between these forces and the conservatives sharpened, causing considerable political instability in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1925, after an initial assumption of power by the military, some reforms and a new presidential constitution were passed, which remained in force until 1973: it established the election by universal suffrage of the president and of the bicameral Congress; but the exclusion of women (until 1949) and the illiterate (until 1970) still limited the electoral body. In the following years the situation remained very tense and there were successive overthrow of governments (until 1932), repeated military interventions, coup attempts, strikes and severely repressed popular revolts, while new parties were born (including a new party socialist in 1933). For Chile 2006, please check

In 1938 the electoral victory of the Frente popular, a left-wing coalition led by the radical party, inaugurated a phase of radical hegemony that continued until 1952. The years of the Second World War saw a resumption of economic growth, mainly due to the significant increase in exports. On the social level, the inability of governments led by radicals to carry out effective reforms led to a crisis of the Frente popular and subsequent changes in ministerial alliances, up to the sharp shift to the right after the war, when in the climate of the cold war a coalition was formed with the conservative forces (1948) and outlawed the Communist Party (until 1958). Meanwhile, ties with the United States were strengthening and their economic penetration in the country increased. The presidential elections of 1952 were won by General Chile Ibáñez del Campo (former dictator, 1927-31); Ibáñez established good relations with Perón’s Argentinaand he conducted a decidedly conservative policy, severely repressing the trade union unrest, while the economic situation underwent a notable deterioration. The elections of 1958 brought back to the presidency an exponent of the traditional right, the liberal J. Alessandri Rodriguez, but during the 1960s this underwent a progressive downsizing to the advantage of the left and above all of the new Christian Democratic Partido (PDC, founded in 1957), who established himself, even at the expense of the radicals, at the center of the political spectrum.

In 1964 the PDC leader E. Frei Montalva, elected president of the Republic, initiated a policy of reform. The difficulties and uncertainties of this policy left popular expectations unsatisfied and the presidential elections of 1970 saw the victory of the socialist S. Allende Gossens, supported by a left-wing coalition (Unidad popular). The Allende government gave a strong impetus to reform action in a perspective of transition to socialism: copper mines were nationalized, agrarian reform accelerated, social services developed and income redistribution measures were adopted in favor of the lower classes; internationally, relations with the socialist countries and with Cuba were extended. This policy gained the support of the popular masses (confirmed by the electoral successes of 1971 and 1973), but aroused the opposition of the ruling classes, foreign big capital and a substantial part of the middle classes, which were pushed to the right by the serious deterioration of the economic situation.

Chile History Part I