Chile Parliamentarism Part I

The government of Jorge Montt Alvarez

The first president of the Chilean Parliamentary Republic was Vice Admiral Jorge Montt Álvarez, he did not represent any political party and was a complete stranger in politics. He accepted the position due to the circumstances that the country was experiencing, and due to the need for someone who was outside the party conflicts to govern. He was characterized by being prudent and there was very good judgment of him as head of the 1891 revolution. He never got involved in the struggles of the party groups and respectfully accepted the resolutions of the Congress, demonstrating that the purpose of his government was to carry out with total loyalty the principles of the parliamentary system that prevailed in Chile since his mandate.

During his government the Fiscal Defense Council was created; the naval forces were increased with ships acquired from English artillerymen; the arrival of foreign capital began; loans were contracted abroad; the Autonomous Commune Law was promulgated; the law on the electoral system, and the nitrate reserves were auctioned, as a resource to obtain money. In addition, the only constitutional reforms of the entire parliamentary period were made, within them the granting to the Conservative Commission of the power to convene extraordinary sessions when necessary, the establishment of the agreement of the Senate as a requirement for the appointment of ministers and diplomats, the promulgation of the law on parliamentary incompatibilities, approved under the mandate of José Manuel Balmaceda and the houses of Congress were allowed to insist on a bill previously vetoed by the president, overriding the absolute veto and increasing the power of Parliament.

In August 1906, a terrible earthquake practically destroyed the city of Valparaíso and devastated neighborhoods in Santiago, killing more than 3,000 people and leaving nearly 100,000 homeless. At the end of his government, the Metal Conversion Law was enacted, which failed to prevent the fiscal deficit, nor the increase in the external debt existing at the time.

The government of Federico Errázuriz Echaurren

Federico Errázuriz Echaurren was the ruler who succeeded Montt, a lawyer by profession and comes to the presidency with the support of conservative, national and liberal coalitionists. During his administration, disputes occurred with Argentinaover the Puna de Atacama in 1898. Thanks to his intelligence and pacifist policy, the conflict did not erupt into a war between the two countries.

During his tenure, an act known as “Abrazo del Estrecho” was carried out on February 15, 1899. Interview carried out in the Strait of Magellan, with the participation of the Chilean president and the president of Argentina, Julio Roca, whose objective was to commemorate the agreement reached between both countries to resolve the difficulties arising from the interpretation of the Border Treaty of 1881.

The area in which his government stood out the most was public works. Tram service was promoted in Santiago, Valparaíso, San Felipe and San Bernardo. The Santiago sewer system was built in 1898, ensuring the supply of drinking water for Valparaíso and Viña del Mar the following year, through the construction of the Peñuelas reservoir. In 1900, the Central Station was inaugurated in the capital, gas lighting was introduced and communications were improved, incorporating the placement of telephones at the end of the century.

According to, Errázuriz could not conclude his presidential term for health reasons and died in July 1901, in Valparaíso. He had to be substituted twice in his position by the Vice President of the Republic. The second time he handed it over to the Minister of the Interior, Aníbal Zañartu, who ruled until the change of command.

The government of Germán Riesco Errázuriz

Germán Riesco Errázuriz assumed command of the nation on 18 of September of 1901, Judge of the court that was not a politician nor possessed the character enough to function in a parliamentary regime starting to rot but it was elected by the Liberal Alliance. His government was summarized on the issue of legal reforms, which were finalized with the enactment of the Code of Civil Procedure in 1902 and later the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1906, at the end of his term.

During his government, he continued the pacifist work begun by Federico Errázuriz, by signing the May Pacts between Chile and Argentina, which resolved an imminent armed conflict due to border problems at the end of 1901. He also signed the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” with Bolivia on October 20, 1904. In the educational field, it created high schools for boys and high schools for girls, normal schools for preceptors, commercial institutes, the Institute of Physical Education and the Agricultural School. In addition, the construction of the Palace of the Courts of Justice was ordered in 1905, the Santiago sewer system was continued and the electric trams between Santiago and San Bernardo were established.

The Social Workers Congress was also founded in 1900, which brought together more than 150 workers’ societies and in 1909 the Chilean Workers Federation, better known as FOCH, was born, which later became linked to the Socialist Party, founded by Luis Emilio Recabarren in 1912.

During this period, the dockers’ strike also broke out in 1903., with a balance of 50 dead and 200 wounded. In 1905, the meat strike was carried out in Santiago, with an approximate total of 30 thousand people, a generalized protest in order to request a reduction in the price of this product, ending in a confrontation that the police tried to contain with bullets. These acts of violence lasted about a week – a period known as the red week – and resulted in 70 deaths. A few months later, Antofagasta faced a similar situation, the workers who carried out the work on the railway from Antofagasta to Bolivia presented a list of requests that was rejected by the company and there was a general strike, there was a new confrontation that left 58 dead and more than 300 injured.

Chile Parliamentarism 1