X hits on this document

Word document

Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 8 / 46





8 / 46

444                           Politics of Latin America

culminated in the constitution of 1925, a document that reestablished pres­idential dominance over the legislature, introduced direct popular elections for both chambers of congress, and lasted until 1973.

Chile underwent substantial socioeconomic change between 1860 and the early twentieth century, principally with the emergence of the mining in­dustry. This change began in earnest after Chile's second war against Peru and Bolivia: the War of the Pacific (1879-1884). Victorious, Chile annexed the Bolivian province of Atacama and the Peruvian provinces of Tarapaca and Arica. This act deprived Bolivia of its access to the Pacific ocean and gave Chile vast mineral wealth—first nitrate and then copper.

Mining brought three changes. First, it created a new, very wealthy social group, mineowners, who became part of the socioeconomic elite of Chile. Second, mirdng ushered in an enduring characteristic of Chile's economic system: control of its principal export product by foreign economic interests. After the War of the Pacific, the British gained control of nitrate mining. They allied themselves with Chilean mineowners in defense of economic lib­eralism (free trade and the night-watchman state, a state devoted almost ex­clusively to the maintenance of internal order and external defense) and fiercely opposed state efforts to tax and regulate them. In fact, such efforts had been one of the catalysts for the civil war of 1891. Third, mining neces­sitated miners, most of whom came from rural Chile. Miners were ruthlessly exploited and became increasing militant in their demands for fairness and social justice. Laboring under harsh working conditions in repressive com­pany town systems, miners provided the foundation for the more activist and radical sectors of the working class. Chilean governments violently sup­pressed their attempts to organize in the first two decades of the twentieth century. These clashes cost hundreds, sometimes thousands, of lives.

Landowners, financiers, and merchants—the traditional socioeconomic elite of Chile—also supported the free-trade economic model. Although no longer exported in large quantities, agricultural products (with the excep­tion of cattle) competed with imports. Landowners also had family links to the financial sector and a growing industrial sector dominated by import-competitive food and beverage industries. These elites supported labor re­pression. With the export boom in nitrates, rapidly expanding trade, and in­cipient industrialization came urbanization and a growing service and industrial labor force. It too attempted to organize and had to be kept un­der control.

Between 1891 and 1920, the parliamentary republic served Chile's agro-•mineral, financial, and merchant oligarchy and British economic interests well. Free trade, a minimalist state almost entirely devoted to the mainte­nance of internal order, and brutal labor repression were the order of the day. But socioeconomic change pressured the stability of this political regime. Urbanization and the expansion of mining, industrial, and service wage labor under harsh working conditions generated spontaneous labor organizing. These early, illegal, and often militant unions could be repressed, but they could not be eliminated. Urbanization and Chile's nitrate-fueled

Document info
Document views116
Page views116
Page last viewedThu Dec 08 14:34:29 UTC 2016