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Carlos Ibáñez del Campo

two-time President of Chile

Carlos Ibanez del Campo

Carlos Ibáñez del Campo was born in Linares, Chile, on November 3, 1877. He attended and graduated from a military school in Santiago, after which he was appointed military adviser to the army of El Salvador. After returning to Chile, he served as director of the cavalry school and the police academy.

Rise to Prominence

Ibáñez rose to political prominence as a result of the bloodless military coup that ousted President Arturo Alessandri Palma in September 1924. He and a few close associates led a counter-coup in January 1925 that restored Alessandri to the presidency. Ibáñez was rewarded by being named Minister of War, and, later, as Minister of the Interior.

Although Ibáñez had been instrumental in restoring Alessandri to the presidency, the two men frequently found themselves at odds with each other. Believing that Ibáñez was trying to wield too much power, Alessandri resigned and went into exile in October 1925. Emiliano Figueroa Larrain was subsequently elected President, while Ibáñez maintained his position as Minister of the Interior.

First Presidency

Continuing disputes within the government led Figueroa to resign in April 1927, elevating Ibáñez to the presidency according to provisions of the Constitution then in effect. A special election was held in May, and Ibáñez was formally inaugurated as President on May 10, 1927.

Although often seen as more of a dictator than a President, Ibáñez enjoyed wide popularity among Chileans. During his administration the country enjoyed growing economic prosperity, thanks in large part to an influx of foreign investments. Ibáñez used that prosperity to initiate a series of public works projects, which in turn led to a decline in the national unemployment rate. His greatest foreign policy achievement came in 1929, when he signed the Treaty of Lima, in which Chile agreed to return the Tacna Province, which had been seized during the War of Pacific, to Peru.

Chile's economic prosperity came to an end as depression gripped the world in 1930. Unable to restore that prosperity, Ibáñez faced growing public dissent, and was finally driven into exile on July 26, 1931.

Interim Career

Ibáñez returned to Chile after Alessandri was again elected President in 1932, and soon became an active member of the opposition. In 1938, with backing from several small Nazi and Fascist groups, he ran for the presidency, but withdrew from the race after Chilean Nazis staged an unsuccessful coup against Alessandri.

Ibáñez ran for President again in 1942. This time, in addition to the Nazis and Fascists, he had support from the Conservative and Libert parties. Although he won 44% of the popular vote, he lost the election to leftist Juan Antonio Ríos, and remained a leader of the active opposition.

In 1944, a few Nazi soldiers and national policemen, with support from Argentine President Juan Perón, tried to overthrow President Gabriel González Videla and make Ibáñez President. The plot was uncovered before anything happened, however, and the coup plotters were arrested. Although he was the central figure of the planned coup, Ibáñez was absolved of all blame and no charges were ever filed against him.

Second Presidency

In 1952, Ibáñez organized the Agrarian-Labor Party, which in turn got him elected to the presidency with 47% of the popular vote; he took office again on November 3, 1952. By now an old man, Ibáñez found his second presidency far more difficult than his first. Almost constantly at odds with Congress, he was unable to accomplish much and chose not to run for another term. He left office on November 3, 1958, and was succeeded by Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, son of Arturo Alessandri.

Jorge Alessandri (left), the new President of Chile, and Ibáñez chat after the November 3 inaugural ceremony at the National Congress in Santiago.
Ibanez and incoming President Alessandri

Carlos Ibáñez del Campo died in Santiago on April 28, 1960.

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This page was last updated on September 14, 2018.