Chile: key historical events
Page last modified 29/7/2020
13/10/2010, 33 Chilean miners were rescued, having spent 69 days underground at San Jose mine.
10/12/2006, General Pinochet, former dictator of Chile (born 1915) died.
2004, Divorce was legalised in Chile.
8/2004, Chile’s Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 9 to 8, that Pinochet (biorn 1915) could stand trial. However he was now suffering from mild dementia, and doctors would have to certify that he was fit for trial.
1/2000, In Britain, a medical team deemed Pinochet too ill to stand trial. This permitted his return to Chile.
3/1998, General Pinochet relinquished command of the Army and was made ‘Senator for life’; a move that granted him legal immunity from any atrocities committed under his rule of Chile.
11/12/1993, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, leader of the Coalition for Democracy, was elected President of Chile.
11/3/1990. In Chilean democratic elections, 71-year-old Patricio Alwyn soundly beat Pinochet’s nominee, Hernan Buchi.
14/12/1989, Chile held its first free elections in 16 years. The winner was the Christian Democrat, Patricio Alwyn.
5/10/1988, The Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was defeated in a plebiscite meant to reinforce his rule. 55% voted against him.
6/11/1984. Chile’s president Pinochet re-imposed a state of emergency.
12/8/1983, 17 people were killed in Santiago, Chile, in protests against General Pinochet.
14/6/1983, Protests in Santiago, Chile, against the rule of General Pinochet.
11/3/1981, Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was sworn in for an 8-year term as President.
11/9/1980, A referendum in Chile approved an eight-year extension of Pinochet’s military government.
12/3/1977, In Chile, political parties were banned and censorship was tightened.
21/9/1976, The former Chilean Ambassador to the US, Orlando Letelier, was killed by a car bomb explosion in Washington DC. He had been an outspoken critic of President Pinochet.
14/9/1973, Most Chileans supported the coup by Pinochet, believing he had saved the country from a Left-wing coup. Pinochet began a savage repression of Allende’s supporters. Many were executed without trial, or simply ‘disappeared’. Congress was dismissed and strict Press control began. This repression was to continue for the next fifteen years.
11/9/1973. A military junta took control in Chile after President Salvador Allende, elected leader of a left-wing government, was deposed. He committed suicide as his palace was bombarded by planes and tanks. The coup was mounted by General Augusto Pinochet, and backed by the USA. Pinochet had made a show of loyalty towards Allende right up till the moment it was clear the military coup was going to succeed.
This was the prelude to a savage repression in Chile in which at least 3,000 civilians were killed, and tens of thousands tortured or exiled. A majority of Chileans had probably favoured the overthrow of Allende, but did not support the repression that followed. Allende had attempted to run a Socialist government but with parliamentary democracy; however there was widespread unrest from business interests, and a major lorry drivers strike in 1972-3, backed by the CIA. Coups swiftly followed in Uruguay and Argentina, where 30,000 were killed by the dictatorship.
Due to Pinochet’s rule, and that of Mexico’s Carlos Salinas and Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, many Latin Americans in 2003 associate free-market economics with authoritarian rule. Augusto Pinochet ruled for 17 years. His free-market reforms led to rapid economic growth for Chile, but at great cost to human life and rights.
22/8/1973, The Chilean Interior Minister, General Carlos Prats, warned Allende that a coup was now inevitable. Prats resigned, and reassured Allende that his replacement, General Pinochet, was loyal to him. However Prats also warned Allende that the momentum for a coup by the Army was now so strong that any officer who tried to resist it would be powerless.
26/7/1973, A truckers strike began in Chile, backed by the CIA. After 2 months the strike was estimated to have cost the Chilean economy some US$ 100 million, and inflation reached 320%. The Chamber of Deputies called on the Chilean Army to stage a coup to overthrow Allende, and unlike in 1970 (see 17/9/1970) the Army generals were happy to comply, fearing a Left-wing coup. The Deputies hoped that after the coup the Army would retire and civilian rule resume.
1972, Chile’s economy imploded, as the balance of payments deficit rose to US$ 298 million, inflation reached 163%, and real wages fell by 7%. Allende’s Leftist policies had not helped, but there had also been a major fall in the world price of copper, Chile’s main export earner. Allende was forced to consider food rationing as agricultural imports rose 84% to US$ 400 million. Chile began printing money to cover the deficit. The USSR was also reluctant to bail out a President who had made such a mess of his own economy. With the middle class destroyed by Allende, the country was polarised into his keen supporters and strong opposers, and with both sides amassing arms stockpiles, even civil war seemed possible. Nixon was happy.
11/1971, Chile suspended foreign loan repayments, unable to make them. The first year of Allende’s rule had appeared to be economically successful. Chilean unemployment had fallen to 3.8%, industrial production was up 6.3% on the previous 12 months, agricultural productivity was up 5.3%, and real wages were 27% higher. Now, however, the wealthy were resentful that they had paid for this success, whilst the Left believed there was no limit to their gains. In fact the economic gains were illusory, brought about by a one-off windfall from nationalising foreign assets in Chile. By end-1971 shortages began appearing in Chilean shops. Housewives protested in what became nown as the ‘March of the Empty Pots’. US President Nixon cut foreign aid to Chile at this time, as did other Western powers.
3/11/1970. Allende became President of Chile, winning by a narrow margin. He nationalised much of the Chilean economy, recognised the Castro regime in Cuba, and was regarded as a danger by the USA..
22/9/1970, In Chile, Viaux’s operatives severely injured Schneider (see 17/9/1970); he died three days later. However no coup resulted from this assassination, and Vaux’s supporters melted away. To the great relief of Nixon, no US connection was uncovered by the Chileans. Allende was duly elected President by Congress, with 153 votes for him and just 42 against or abstaining.
17/9/1970, The CIA began investigating ways to stop Allende becoming President of Chile (see 4/9/1970). The Chilean military were unhappy with the prospect of Allende as leader. A Chilean General, Roberto Viaux, ambitious but recently dismissed from service, was willing to assassinate Allende, but the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army, General Rene Schneider, was too principled and would not interfere with the democratic process, even if it had produced Allende as winner. The danger was that the coup would fail, the connection to the CIA would be exposed, and the US would suffer a setback comparable to the failed Bay of Pigs adventure in Cuba, a failed 12961 attempt to oust Fidel Castro. The US administration was coming around to playing the long game, living with the Allende administration until 1976 when the next elections were due and he would no longer be President. See 22/9/1970.
4/9/1970, Salvador Allende, Communist, was elected President of Chile. In the 1964 Chilean elections the Right wing Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei, had won 56% of the vote, against Allende’s 39.4%. However Frei had raised unfulfilled expectations regarding the alleviation of serious underdevelopment in Chile; he had also lost support by taxing the rich, Chilean debt and inflation had worsened as Frei overborrowed, Yet he still had sufficient support to win in 1970, but under Chilean law he could not run for a second term, so the Right chose the uncharismatic Radomiro Tomic as candidate. The US administration and CIA did not believe Allende would win and spent only a small amount – US$ 400,000 – on influencing the Chilean electorate. President Nixon did not want to be seen to overtly intervene in the election. A US company, ITT, with interests in Chile, offered the CIA US$ 1 million to stop Allende but this was turned down. Allende actually won with 36.3% of the vote, a smaller share than he got in 1964, because a third candidate split the opposition vote. The US administration now decided they had until 24/10/1970, 7 weeks, until the Chilean Congress conformed the Presidency, to stop Chile going Communist. Nixon feared that with Communists in both Chile and Cuba, South America would become a ‘Red sandwich’.
7/3/1937, Parliamentary elections were held in Chile. The Liberal Party won a slim majority in the Senate and tied with the Conservative Party in the Chamber of Deputies.
1932, A coup installed the 100-day Socialist Republic of Carlos Davila.
1929, Chile lost some territory in the north to Peru during a brief war.
5/9/1924, In Chile, a military junta took power.
1920, President Arturo Alessandri,or ‘The Lion’ was elected. He introduced social and labour reforms, but some of his policies were blocked by the legislature, and he resigned in 1924. However he was recalled in 1925 with army support; a new Constitution bolstered his powers.
25/11/1915, General Augusto Pinochet, Chilean dictator who overthrew Allende in 1973, was born.
26/7/1908, Salvadore Allende, President of Chile 1970-3, was born.
17/9/1906, Senor Pedro Montt, President-elect, took up office in Chile.
16/8/1906. Severe earthquake killed 3,000 in Valparaiso, Chile. 100,000 were left homeless.
1902, Chile extended its sovereignty southwards into Patagonia, and onto the island of Tierra del Fuego, shared with Argentina.
1888, Chile gained sovereignty over Easter Island.
1886, The Presidency of Jose Manuel Balmaceda began.
4/4/1884. By the Treaty of Valparaiso, Bolivia granted Chile the right to control Antofagasta, including the Atacama Desert.
22/10/1883, The Chilean occupation of Lima, Peru, ended, see 17/1/1881.
1881, Argentina and Chile agreed in a treaty that their mutual border should be “The line of highest peaks which divides the waters”. However subsequent exploration revealed that faster flowing westwards streams had, by headwaters erosion, established a watershead many miles east of the line of highest peaks of the Andes. The two countries asked Queen Victoria of Britain to arbitrate a border, which was done at the Courth of Arbitration in 1902, by best available mapping. Subsequently, improved mapping rendered that border ambiguous, and in 1965 the British Government was again asked to arbitrate. On 9/12/1966 the British Government set a new border, which was marked on the ground in early 1967.
18/1/1881, Callao, Peru, surrendered to Chilean forces.
17/1/1881, A Chilean army occupied Peru, see 22/10/1883.
15/1/1881, Battle of Miraflores. Despite strong Peruvian defence, the Chileans prevailed, destroying most of the Peruvian Army.
13/1/1881, Chilean forces under Baquedano attached the defences of Lima at Chorillos; Chilean victory.
18/11/1880, Chilean forces disembarked at Baquedano, to march on Lima.
26/5/1880, Battle of Tacna; Chilean victory over Peru.
17/12/1879. Chilean troops took Lima, Peru.
8/10/1879, The Peruvian Navy was effectively destroyed in fighting with Chile.
23/3/1879, The Pacific War between Chile and Bolivia, Peru. Bolivia had seized the assets of the Chilean Nitrate Company at Antofagusta, then in the Bolivian province of Atacama. On this day Chilean militia marched into Bolivian territory. Bolivia had declared war on 1/3/1879 but Peru did not declare war until 5/4/1879; this delay enabled Chile to occupy all Bolivia’s ports, and from there to attack Peru.
14/2/1879. The Chilean army under Colonel Emilio Sotomayor Baeza occupied the Bolivian Pacific port of Antofagasta, and on 1/3/1879 Bolivia declared war against Chile. Chile also occupied part of the Peruvian Pacific coast. On 11/12/1883 a peace treaty between Chile and Bolivia was signed whereby Bolivia agreed to the occupation of its seacoast by Chile
31/3/1866, A Spanish fleet under Admiral Casto Mendez Nunez bombarded the port of Valparaiso, Chile. Peru allied with Chile.
1862, The short-lived Mapuche ‘Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia’ was jointly supressed by Chile and Argentina. The Mapuche tribes of southern South America had made a treaty with the Spanish in 1641 establishing their territory as south of the Bobio River in what is now Chile. For some decades the area south of the Bobio was barely touched by European settlers. When Chile began to colonise the area, a French lawyer, Orelie-Antoine de Tounens, attempted, in 1861 to save the Mapuche lands by establishing himself as ‘king’ of the area. Under international law at the time, annexing a people ruled by a Christian European monarch would have been illegan. However in 1862 Chile arrested de Tounens for sedition, only reprieving him from execution becayse he was deemed insane. De Tounens, banished from Chile, retiunred to France where he died in poverty in 1878, never succeeding in his aim of returning to the Mapuche territory. Chilean and Argentine colonisation of the Maouche lands resulted in a decline in Mapuche numbers of 90%. In 2017 an estimated 1.5 million Mapuche lived in Chile and a further 0.2 million resided in Argentine territory. Their fight for a homeland continues with attacks on farms, suppressed by military raids and heavy law enforcement.
1849,The city of Puntas Arenas (Sand Point) was founded, as a penal colony,
1846, The Chilean Government invited people from Germany to migrate there, to establish agriculture.
1836, Chile began a war with Peru. Chile won, but Portales was assassinated. The war ended in 1839.
1829, Brief civil war in Chile, between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Then a Conservative Alliance, led by Diego Portales, took power.
4/9/1821, Jose Miguel Carrera, leader in the Chilean fight for independence from Spain, died (born 15/10/1785).
1818, Bernard O’Higgins, former Viceroy of Chile and now known as ‘The Liberator’, became autocratic leader of Chile. He established a strong Presidency of a centralised State.
1818, The Battle of Maipu finally secured Chilean independence.
5/4/1818, Chile achieved independence from Spanish rule, after a revolutionary war led by Bernard O’Higgins.
12/2/1818. Chile proclaimed independence from Spain after a revolution led by San Martin and Bernard O’Higgins.
15/10/1785, Jose Miguel Carrera, leader in the Chilean fight for independence from Spain, was born (died 4/9/1821).
15/10/1775, Miguel Carrera, fighter for Chilean independence, was born (died 4/9/1821).
1557, Lautaro, leader of the Auracanian Amerindians, who fiercely resisted the Spanish, was killed by them.
1557, Valdivia was killed by the Araucanian Amerindians.
1550, The city of Conception was founded by Pedro de Valdivia.
12/2/1541, The Spaniards founded Santiago, Chile.
1540, A Spanish expedition led by Pedro de Valdivia first crossed the Andes into what is now Chile.