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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 10 / 46





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446                         Politics of Latin America

1925. Unfortunately, Alessandri did not share the junta's pro-labor position. His anti-labor stance and continued economic hard times brought him into conflict with the military, and he resigned the presidency in October 1925.

Colonel Carlos Ibanez del Campo emerged from the ensuing political in­stability as the strong-man of Chile. After his formal election to the presi­dency in 1927, he established a dictatorship that lasted until 1931. Ibanez jailed opponents, especially labor leaders, and suspended civil liberties. However, he also favored state activism in the economy. Borrowing heav­ily from abroad, the government stimulated railroad construction, road-building, and the erection of power utilities. The Great Depression that be­gan with the stock market crash in 1929 put an end to that economic program as foreign loans dried up and the price of nitrate and other commodities fell precipitously. A wave of protest that united professional members of the middle class and labor forced Ibanez to resign in 1931.

Political instability engulfed Chile once again. A dizzying array of gov­ernments came and went over the next year, including the 100-day "Social­ist Republic" led by Marmaduque Grove and Carlos Davila, who alternated in power with support from military factions. Although brief, this regime established the newly formed Socialist party as a force to be reckoned with. Economic chaos and a lack of consensus among civilian and military lead­ers brought the Socialist Republic (which had seen a succession of six gov­ernments) down. The period ended with a military coup designed to get the armed forces out of government, the high command being disillusioned with politics. At the head of a provisional government. General Bartolome Blanche scheduled elections to return Chile to full political democracy. Ar-turo Alessandri won those elections and began his second presidency in late 1932. His administration marked the beginning of forty years of uninter­rupted democratic rule, a period that ended with the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.

Conservatives, Reformers, and Revolutionaries

The political system that emerged from the ruins of the parliamentary re­public had a number of well-defined features. It was a highly presidential-ist and centralized system; the presidency initiated most of the significant legislation, and all important decisions for the country—including educa­tion—were made in the capital, Santiago. The congress mainly negotiated bills with the presidency, fine-tuning them to the interests of the political parties and their constituencies. However, the congress had the power to kill bills. When no candidate won a clear majority in presidential elections, the congress nominated the president from the top two vote-getters. This occurred with some frequency and a tradition formed in which the congress ratified the candidate with the most votes.

Chile had long had a multiparty instead of a two-party political system. During this period, however, it was a solidly tripolar system when mea­sured on an ideological spectrum from Left to Right. On the Right were the

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