Socialist Republic of Chile
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Socialist Republic of Chile (June 4, 1932 – September 13, 1932) (Spanish: República Socialista de Chile) was a short-lived political entity in Chile, that was proclaimed by the Government Junta that took over that year.
President Juan Esteban Montero had assumed office on November 15, 1931. By mid-1932, he was already in serious problems, due to the economic impact of the market crash of 1929. To the very grave social and economic problems he faced, he could add the growing political instability that was gripping the country. He was pictured as an inefficient and unpopular leader, and the number of conspiracies that sought to displace him was growing by the day.
On June 4, 1932, a group of young socialists under the leadership of Eugenio Matte; some air force personnel under colonel Marmaduke Grove; and some army personnel (followers of former president Carlos Ibáñez del Campo) under Carlos Dávila staged a coup d'état by taking over the Air Force base of El Bosque, in Santiago, demanding the resignation of President Montero.
Montero refused to call on the army to put down the coup, and instead chose to resign. That same night, the victorious revolutionaries organized a Government Junta composed of retired General Arturo Puga, Eugenio Matte and Carlos Davila, with colonel Grove as their minister of Defense. They immediately proceeded to proclaim the Socialist Republic of Chile.
Creation and fall
The proclamation took by surprise and divided public opinion immediately. The Communist Party of Chile (PCCh) and the trade unions manifested their opposition, because they considered the coup as "militarist". At the same time, businessmen, professionals and students of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile also heatedly opposed it, also on ideological grounds. At the end the new republic received only the guarded support of the socialists and the employees' associations.
A few days following the proclamation of the new “Socialist Republic of Chile,” the Junta dissolved Congress and, among other measures, stopped evictions from low-rental properties, decreed a three-day bank holiday (which was followed by strict controls on withdrawals), and ordered the “Caja de Crédito Popular” (a savings and loan bank for Chileans of modest means) to return clothes and tools which had been pawned there.
The new Junta ordered a half-million free meals served daily by the Government to Chile's unemployed. State pawnshops had to obey an order to return, free of any charge, sewing machines and all tools pawned by the "certified unemployed." After only a few days in office the Government began to run short of funds, so it ordered the police to raid all the jewelry shops in Santiago, seizing valuables from helpless jewelers. To avoid what it could be termed as a "confiscation", the police gave each jeweler "compensation" in the form of a receipt which they could cash in paper pesos. Credits and deposits in foreign currency in the national and foreign banks operating in Chile were declared the property of the State. They also pardoned all the people involved in the Sailors' mutiny. A General Commissariat of Subsistence and Prices was also established with the authority to fix the price of staple foods.
The division of public opinion was also present inside the Government Junta, where the followers of General Ibáñez opposed the radicalization of the socialist movement promoted by Grove and Matte. On June 13, Carlos Dávila resigned in protest. Three days later, on June 16, and with the support of the army, he proceeded to expel the socialist members of the government, and replace them with his own supporters. Eugenio Matte and Marmaduque Grove were arrested and exiled to Easter Island. Some authors consider this date as the true end of the socialist republic.
With army support, Carlos Dávila, proclaimed himself provisional President of the “Socialist Republic of Chile”. At the same time he declared a state of emergency, press censorship, and a host of centrally-planned economic measures. Nonetheless, the lack of military and public opinion support forced him to resign on September 13, 1932. The office was passed onto General Bartolomé Blanche, who was replaced, under threat of a military uprising, by the President of the Supreme Court, Abraham Oyanedel, who immediately called for presidential and congressional elections.
- Presidential Republic
- Government Junta of 1932
- List of Government Juntas of Chile
- List of Chilean coups d'état
- List of Heads of State
- A History of Chile, 1808-1994, by Simon Collier and William F. Sater