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1925-1973 - Presidential Republic

12 Sep 192420 Mar 1925(military junta)
20 Mar 192501 Oct 1925Arturo Alessandri PalmaPL
23 Dec 192510 May 1927Emiliano Figueroa LarraínPLD
10 May 192726 Jul 1931Carlos Ibáñez del CampoMilitary
27 Jul 193104 Jun 1932Juan Esteban Montero RodríguezPR
04 Jun 193213 Sep 1932(Socialist Republic of Chile)
24 Dec 193224 Dec 1938Arturo Alessandri PalmaPL
24 Dec 193825 Nov 1941Pedro Abelino Aguirre CerdaPR/FP
02 Apr 194227 Jun 1946Juan Antonio Ríos MoralesPR/FP
03 Nov 194603 Nov 1952Gabriel González VidelaPR/FP
03 Nov 195203 Nov 1958Carlos Ibáñez del CampoAPL
03 Nov 195803 Nov 1964Jorge Alessandri RodríguezPC/Ind
03 Nov 196403 Nov 1970Eduardo Nicanor Frei MontalvaPDC
03 Nov 197011 Sep 1973Salvador Allende GossensPS-UP

In a double coup, first military right-wingers opposing Arturo Alessandri seized power in September 1924, and then reformers in favor of the ousted president took charge in January 1925. The latter group was led by two colonels, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and Marmaduke Grove Vallejo. They returned Alessandri to the presidency that March and enacted his promised reforms by decree. Many of these reforms were encapsulated in the new constitution of 1925, which was ratified in a plebiscite.

The second major charter in Chilean history, the 1925 constitution lasted until 1973. It codified significant changes, including the official separation of church and state, which culminated a century of gradual erosion of the political and economic power of the Roman Catholic Church. The constitution also provided legal recognition of workers' right to organize, a promise to care for the social welfare of all citizens, an assertion of the right of the state to infringe on private property for the public good, and increased powers for the now directly elected president in relation to the bicameral Congress, in particular concerning the removal of cabinet ministers, which heretofore had often been removed at the whim of the legislature.

Presidential and congressional elections were staggered so that a chief executive could not bring a legislature in on his coattails. The new constitution extended presidential terms from five to six years, with immediate reelection prohibited. It established a system of proportional representation for parties putting candidates up for Congress. The government was divided into four branches, in descending order of power: the president, the legislature, the judiciary, and the comptroller general, the latter authorized to judge the constitutionality of all laws requiring fiscal expenditures.

The Office of Comptroller General of the Republic (Oficina de la Contraloría General de la República) was designed by a United States economic adviser, Edwin Walter Kemmerer. In 1925 he also created the Central Bank of Chile and the position of superintendent of banks, while putting the country on the gold standard. His reforms helped attract massive foreign investments from the United States, especially loans to the government.

Although a labor code was not finalized until 1931, several labor and social security laws enacted in 1924 would govern industrial relations from the 1930s to the 1970s. The legislation legalized unions and strikes but imposed government controls over unions. Union finances and elections were subjected to government inspection. The laws also restricted union activities and disallowed national confederations, which therefore subsequently arose outside the legal framework. Only factories with at least twenty-five workers could have an industrial union, even though approximately two-thirds of the industrial enterprises employed four or fewer workers, in effect artisans. Workers in smaller shops could form professional unions with workers of the same skill employed nearby. Agricultural unions remained virtually outlawed or extremely difficult to organize until the 1960s. The code left unions disadvantaged in their bargaining with employers and therefore reliant on political parties as allies. Those allies were crucial because the new code made the state the mediator in labor-management disputes.

From 1932 to 1973, Chile was the only country in Latin America to sustain electoral democracy at a time when major Marxist parties led the workers. Its stable multiparty political system bore more resemblance to West European than to Latin American models. Chileans took great pride in their representative democracy, and many looked with contempt on their more tumultuous neighbors.

Out of the turmoil of the depression, new political forces arose that shifted the political spectrum to the left. The Conservatives and the Liberals grew closer together as the combined forces on the right, now more fearful of socialism than of their traditional enemies in the anticlerical camp. The Radicals replaced the Liberals as the swing party in the center, now that they were outflanked on the left by the growing PCCh and the Socialist Party. A small group of Catholics known as the Falange broke away from the Conservative Party in 1938 to form a new party, the National Falange (Falange Nacional). It offered a non-Marxist, centrist vision of dramatic reform, a vision that would take wing in the 1950s under the name of Christian Democracy.

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Page last modified: 04-12-2012 19:01:42 ZULU