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Juan Antonio Ríos Morales (president, 1942-46)

A Radical even more conservative than Aguirre Cerda, Juan Antonio Ríos Morales (president, 1942-46), won the 1942 presidential election with 56 percent of the vote. Although the formal Popular Front had been terminated, the Socialists and Communists still gave their votes to Ríos to avoid a return of Ibáñez as the candidate of the Conservatives and Liberals. Under the stringencies of wartime, the new president further soft-pedaled social reform and emphasized industrial growth, under the slogan, "To Govern Is to Produce." Although he made some improvements in housing and health care, Ríos concentrated on promoting urban enterprises.

Ríos continued his predecessor's policy of neutrality in World War II. Although sympathetic to the Allies, many Chileans worried about the vulnerability of their Pacific Coast. Because of a desire for closer economic and security ties with the United States, Ríos finally bowed to pressure from Socialists, Communists, and other staunch antifascists, severing relations with the Axis in January 1943.

Even after breaking relations, Chile was never satisfied with the amount of aid and Lend-Lease military equipment it received from the United States. The United States, in turn, was equally discontent with languid Chilean action against Axis agents and firms. Nevertheless, Chile subsidized the Allied cause by accepting an artificially low price for its copper exports to the United States while paying increasingly higher prices for its imports. The war boosted Chile's mineral exports and foreign-exchange accumulation. At the same time, United States trade, credits, and advisers facilitated state support for new enterprises, including steel, oil, and fishing.

Not unlike Ibáñez in the 1920s, Ríos hoped to develop the national economy through external alignment with the "Colossus of the North." After displacing Britain as Chile's most important economic partner in the 1920s, the United States faced a period of German competition in the 1930s and then reasserted its economic dominance in the 1940s. That economic domination would last until the 1980s.

As Ríos's health deteriorated in 1945, another Radical, Alfredo Duhalde Vásquez (president, June-August 1946), took over as interim chief executive. Reacting against Ríos's conservatism and Duhalde's antilabor policies, progressive factions of the Radical Party joined with the Communists to field a left-wing Radical, Gabriel González Videla, for president in the 1946 election. González Videla also received the backing of most Socialists.

Trying to revive the reformist spirit of 1938, González Videla eked out a plurality of 40 percent against a field of rightist contenders. Once again, the candidate of the left had to walk a tightrope from election to inauguration because Congress had the right to pick either of the two front-runners when no one polled an absolute majority. González Videla ensured his congressional approval by granting landowners new legal restrictions on peasant unionization, restrictions that lasted from 1947 until 1967. He also appeased the right by including Liberals in his cabinet along with Radicals and Communists, the most exotic ministerial concoction Chileans had ever seen, again demonstrating the politician's ability to cut deals transcending ideology.





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Page last modified: 04-12-2012 19:01:43 ZULU