VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > E. Latin America and the Caribbean, 1914–1945 > 2. South America > b. Chile
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1916)
b. Chile
Chile remained neutral in the First World War despite violation of its neutrality by both German and British warships. The war demand for Chilean nitrate in large quantities generated a brief boom, but the discovery of the Haber process for fixing nitrogen from the air in 1914 spelled the end for this industry. In the meantime, however, Chilean copper was emerging as an immensely important industry. U.S. firms dominated this extremely profitable enterprise. From an investment of merely $15 million in 1912, American investments in Chilean copper totaled almost $500 million by the late 1920s.  1
1919, Aug
Increasingly militant organized labor staged a demonstration of 100,000 people in Santiago, protesting inflation, declining wages, and government repression.  2
1920, Jan. 10
Chile became a member of the League of Nations.  3
Chile suffered severely from the general world slump and the cessation of the demand for nitrate. The lower classes demanded a more democratic regime and extensive social legislation.  4
ARTURO ALESSANDRI (1869–1950) elected president after a disputed election. Candidate of the Liberal Alliance Party, he advocated wide political and social reforms. His election represented a victory for the middle classes, supported by labor elements. But during his term, Alessandri, impeded by the elite-dominated parliamentary system, was unable to make much progress. At the same time many military officers, seeing the ineffectiveness of repression, began to pressure the government for social reforms. They did gain child labor laws, recognition for unions, and increases in army salaries. When in 1924 the government began to return to more traditional ways, the military forced Alessandri from office.  5
1925, Jan. 23
After control by a military junta under Gen. Luis Altamirano, in a climate of increasing labor militancy and widespread strikes, a coup d'état engineered by pro-reform officers and led by Maj. Carlos Ibánez (1877–1960) resulted in the recall of Alessandri. At this point military leaders believed they needed to co-opt labor movements to maintain order.  6
In a reversal of his earlier stances, Alessandri cracked down on striking nitrate workers. This initiated a period of severe government repression of labor movements.  7
Sept. 18
New constitution, providing a stronger executive, broader suffrage, separation of Church and State, provincial autonomy, etc.  8
Oct. 1
Alessandri resigned, in view of the continued disorder and uncertainty.  9
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.