Ramón Barros Luco

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Ramón Barros Luco
Barros Luco2.jpg
16th President of Chile
In office
December 23, 1910 – December 23, 1915
Preceded by Emiliano Figueroa
Succeeded by Juan Luis Sanfuentes
Personal details
Born (1835-06-09)June 9, 1835
Santiago, Chile
Died September 20, 1919(1919-09-20) (aged 84)
Santiago, Chile
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Mercedes Valdés

Ramón Barros Luco (June 9, 1835 – September 20, 1919) was President of Chile between 1910 and 1915.

Barros Luco was born in 1835 in Santiago, Barros Luco was son of Ramón Luis Barros Fernández and Dolores Luco Fernández de Leiva. He graduated from Law School in 1858. He died in Santiago in 1919.

He was elected representative for the city of Casablanca in 1861, and from then on occupied a seat in the Lower House, being elected representative for Caldera (1867–70), Curicó (1870–73), Valparaíso (1873–76, and 1888–91), as well as for Santiago, during four separate terms, between 1876-1894. Later, he was elected senator for Linares (1900–06).

In his position as President of the House of Deputies in 1891, he endorsed the move to dismiss the then President of the Republic, José Manuel Balmaceda, a move drawn up by the Congress. In addition, he lent his support to the uprising of the National Army, whose movements he oversaw, (alongside Waldo Silva, vice-president of the Senate), until they took their place in the government in Iquique. The revolution having succeeded, he resumed his functions as a parliamentarian, performing as a minister on several occasions, whenever the situacion called for, "someone who posed no threat to anybody".

In 1910, given the existing tensions between liberals and nationals in the debate over a common candidate, he was chosen as the representative for both parties. His career to date assured both parties that, if he were to be elected, their interests would remain unharmed.

Government[edit]

The philosophy of Barros Luco's government can be summarised with the following phrase, well known in Chile, "99% of problems solve themselves, and the remaining 1% have no solution" ("El 99% de los problemas se resuelven solos y el 1% restante no tiene solución"). He applied this maxim to his administration, which would be consumed by the machinations of the parliament at large, the propensity of which was to delay or hinder the government under any pretense, including the most trivial claim of a minor deputy. However, Barros Luco cannot be accused of mere acceptance and reluctance to act, as he possessed a plan to counter the aforementioned political strategy of accusations and delays, and subsequent frequent change of ministers, known as the "rotativa". His policy was as follows: anytime a deputy placed an accusation against a minister leading to said minister's downfall, the accusing deputy would be called upon to head the new cabinet.

His hopes were dashed however, as this "rotary" system arrived at a total of 15 ministers, the first of whom lasted only 18 days in office, and the last of whom failed even to appear before Congress, the previous minister having resigned only days before the handover of government.

Some deputies, led by the liberal Manuel Rivas Vicuña, tried to correct the parliamentary vices, with the support of Pres. Barros Luco. In 1912 he approved a modification to the system of parliamentary debate (in particular the system to finish debates), however if a large enough group opposed a motion or accused a minister, parliament could still be severely delayed.

Meanwhile, the corruption amongst the political parties had reached alarming levels, in answer to which laws against fraud were approved in 1914 and 1915, in addition to a reform of the municipal system, which managed to eliminate the falsification of results, allowing for greater transparency. However this reform brought with it an unexpected negative side effect: an increase in electoral bribery.

Barros Luco also focused his efforts on public works; during his term of office he initiated the construction of the port of San Antonio, in addition to the construction of roads, bridges, drinking water and sewers.

Also, the national School of Engineering, Museum of History, National Archives, School of Aviation and the Arica-La Paz railway were built during his tenure as President. However, the large majority of works during his time represented the completion of projects begun by Pedro Montt Montt, fulfilling a promise of Montt's, "like the tale of a child with an egg. Another started the work, and no one will know in the end to whom the credit is due. They will end up by paying graditude to the one who has had the least to do with the project" (Pres. Montt was reputed to have complained thus as he laid the cornerstone of the National Library of Chile).

Caricature of Barros Luco (1910)

Foreign policy[edit]

On the international scene, on 25 May 1915, he signed the ABC Pact. This pact, signed between the so-called "ABC Powers" (Argentina, Brazil and Chile), was a means to combat the influence of the United States in the region, as well as to establish an equilibrium and channels of communication between the three signatories. The official name of the pact was the Non-Aggression, Consultation and Arbitration pact.

During his government the First World War broke out, with Chile adopting a neutral position. While this position would bring initial economic benefits, in the long term the consequences were dire; although the price of salitre (sodium nitrate) had risen due to European demand, the limitation of salitre exports to Germany would mean that, apart from losing a valuable market, Chile would also lose their natural monopoly as a result of the development of synthetic salitre. This would spell the beginning of the end of the salitre industry in Chile.

Trivia[edit]

Barros luco 01.jpg

His name has become famous, not for his time as president, but rather due to the fact that he used to eat a particular sandwich often, which became known as a Barros Luco. This sanguche (Spanish: Sandwich) is made with a slab of steak or multiple slices of beef with melted cheese, prepared on the grill (similar to a philly cheesesteak sandwich) and served hot. The sandwich is still served today in most restaurants throughout Chile.

Barros Luco was elected diputado (similar to a Member of Parliament) to the Chamber of Deputies of Chile in 1861. From 1870 on, he was elected to Congress, later becoming president of it in 1891. He supported the impeachment of José Manuel Balmaceda.

A trait of his peculiar personality took place when, present during a Congress session, a congressman was passionately describing the violent clashes between the police and rioting miners in Lota. "And who's winning?" Barros Luco unabashedly asked the congressman.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Emiliano Figueroa
President of Chile
1910-1915
Succeeded by
Juan Luis Sanfuentes
Government offices
Preceded by
Camilo Cobo
Minister of Finance
1872-1876
Succeeded by
Rafael Sotomayor
Preceded by
Pedro Lucio Cuadra
Minister of Finance
1884-1885
Succeeded by
Pedro Nolasco Gandarillas
Preceded by
José Manuel Balmaceda
Minister of the Interior
1885
Succeeded by
José Ignacio Vergara
Preceded by
Pedro Lucio Cuadra
Minister of the Interior
1888-1889
Succeeded by
Demetrio Lastarria
Preceded by
Jorge Riesco
Minister of Industry
and Public Works

1889
Succeeded by
José Miguel Valdés
Preceded by
Manuel José Yrarrázabal
Minister of the Interior
1891-1892
Succeeded by
Eduardo Matte
Preceded by
Eduardo Matte
Minister of the Interior
1892-1893
Succeeded by
Pedro Montt
Preceded by
Enrique Mac-Iver
Minister of the Interior
1894-1895
Succeeded by
Manuel Recabarren
Preceded by
Aníbal Zañartu
Minister of the Interior
1901
Succeeded by
Ismael Tocornal
Preceded by
Ismael Tocornal
Minister of the Interior
1902
Succeeded by
Elías Fernández
Preceded by
Elías Fernández
Minister of the Interior
1903
Succeeded by
Rafael Sotomayor Gaete