Arturo Fortunato Alessandri Palma (Latin American Spanish: [aɾˈtuɾo aleˈsandɾi ˈpalma]; December 20, 1868 – August 24, 1950) was a Chilean political figure and reformer who served thrice as president of Chile, first from 1920 to 1924, then from March to October 1925, and finally from 1932 to 1938.

Arturo Alessandri
17th and 21st President of Chile
In office
24 December 1932 – 24 December 1938
Preceded byAbraham Oyanedel (acting)
Succeeded byPedro Aguirre Cerda
In office
12 March 1925 – 1 October 1925
Preceded byEmilio Bello Codesido
Succeeded byLuis Barros Borgoño (acting)
In office
23 December 1920 – 9 September 1924
Preceded byJuan Luis Sanfuentes
Succeeded byLuis Altamirano
Senator of the Republic of Chile
for the 4th Provincial Grouping of Santiago
In office
1949 – 24 August 1950
Succeeded byArturo Matte Larraín
President of the Senate of Chile
In office
22 June 1949 – 24 August 1950
Succeeded byFernando Alessandri
In office
22 May 1945 – 31 May 1949
Preceded byJosé Francisco Urrejola Menchaca
Succeeded byHumbero Álvarez Suárez
Senator of the Republic of Chile
for the 6th Provincial Grouping of Curicó, Talca, Maule and Linares
In office
1944 – 15 May 1949
Preceded byAmador Pairoa Trujillo
Minister of the Interior
In office
22 April 1918 – 6 September 1918
PresidentJuan Luis Sanfuentes
Succeeded byPedro García de la Huerta Izquierdo
Minister of Finance
In office
16 June 1913 – 17 November 1913
PresidentRamón Barros Luco
Preceded byManuel Rivas Vicuña
Succeeded byRicardo Salas Edwards
Personal details
Born(1868-12-20)December 20, 1868
Longaví, Chile
DiedAugust 24, 1950(1950-08-24) (aged 81)
Santiago, Chile
Political partyLiberal
SpouseRosa Ester Rodríguez
Alma materUniversity of Chile

Early life

Arturo Alessandri during his youth.

Arturo Alessandri was the son of Pedro Alessandri Vargas and Susana Palma Guzmán. His grandfather, Pietro Allesandri Tarzi, was an Italian immigrant from Tuscany who had arrived in Chile from Argentina. Alessandri’s father, Pedro, became head of the family at the age of 19; at the time of Alessandri’s birth, he ran an estate in Longaví. At the age of 12, Alessandri enrolled at the Sacred Hearts High School, where his brothers and father had studied.

At the age of 20, Alessandri began his legal studies at the University of Chile.[1] In 1891, while studying, he participated in the newspaper La Justicia, which was opposed to then President José Manuel Balmaceda. After graduating in 1893, Alessandri married Rosa Ester Rodríguez Velasco, with whom he had 9 children.

In 1897, Alessandri began his political career, becoming a member of the Liberal Party and representative of Curicó, a seat he would keep for nearly 20 years. In 1915, already aspiring to the presidency, Alessandri challenged the senator of Tarapacá Province, Arturo del Río; he won a hard-fought victory, from where he earned the nickname of "León de Tarapacá" ("Lion of Tarapacá").

In 1920, Alessandri was the Liberal Alliance candidate for president, narrowly defeating his opponent of the Coalition Party, Luis Barros Borgoño. With speeches favoring the working class, Alessandri alarmed Chilean conservatives, who felt their interests were in jeopardy. Since the opposition controlled the National Congress, Alessandri favored strengthening the executive power, which lacked political weight before the Congress (Parliamentary Era).

First administration


During most of 1924, Chile had been politically paralyzed by a conflict between the President and the conservatively controlled Congress, who refused to enact the laws that he submitted. On September 3, 1924, a group of 56 military officers protested for their low salaries, in the incident known as the ruido de sables (or "saber-rattling"). The next day the same group of young military officers led by Colonel Marmaduque Grove and Major Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, created the "military committee" to defend themselves from the government. On September 5, the "military committee" demanded of President Alessandri the dismissal of three of his ministers, including the Minister of War; the enactment of a labor code, the passage of an income tax law, and the improvement of the military salaries. Alessandri had no option but to appoint General Luis Altamirano, the Army Inspector General, as head of a new cabinet. On September 8, General Altamirano appeared in front of Congress to demand the passage of eight laws, including Alessandri's labor code. Congress didn't dare to protest, and the laws were passed in a matter of hours.

At that point, Alessandri felt that he had become just a pawn of the military and on September 9, he resigned, and requested asylum at the US Embassy. Congress refused to accept his resignation, and instead granted him a six-month constitutional leave of absence. He left the country immediately for Italy. On September 11, a military Junta — the September Junta — was established to rule the country in his absence.

Second administration

Official portrait of Arturo Alessandri.
Arturo Alessandri (sitting in center) together with his Ministers of State, in April 1934.
Arturo Alessandri, Gustavo Ross and Ulk

The September Junta was not homogeneous, and quickly a progressive wing, headed by Marmaduke Grove and Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, developed contacts with the Comité Obrero Nacional and others labour organizations who advocated for Alessandri's return. This led to a coup in January 1925, directed by Colonel Grove who handed out the power to General Pedro Dartnell as interim president while waiting for Alessandri's return. Dartnell formed the January Junta, before retroceding the power to Alessandri on March 20, 1925. Alessandri had a new Constitution drafted, and approved by plebiscite by 134,421 voters on August 30. The Constitution, which was promulgated on September 18, 1925, reinforced presidential powers over the legislative. Furthermore, Alessandri created a Central Bank, initiating the first rupture with laissez faire policies.[2]

His second government began with the support of left-wing and radical groups. However, this second group began to distance itself from the President. In March 1925, Alessandri's government repressed a demonstration, leading to the Marusia massacre, soon followed by La Coruña massacre. This break with the working classes caused him to try to maintain a right-wing-radical alliance until 1937, when it took a turn towards the left. In order to face the threats of a coup, Alessandri relied on the republican forces, entrusted with repressing any intent to revolt and never to get involved in politics. They were created shortly before Alessandri's return, as a consequence of the civil movement. They functioned in secret and then publicly, marching in a great parade May 7, 1933, in front of the President, who saluted them. They auto-disbanded in 1936, having considered their mission complete. The President asked the Parliament on several opportunities for the state of constitutional exception, resulting in illegal actions, such as the famous burning of the Topaze Magazine issue No. 285, which depicted a caricature of Alessandri he considered offensive.

That time was also marked by the appearance of new violent occurrences, such as the rural rebellion of Ránquil and their bloody repression, and the Nazi-inspired National Socialist Movement of Chile of Jorge González von Marées. In the economic sphere, the recovery of the crisis of 1929 was begun with the work of the Treasury Minister Gustavo Ross, a pragmatic liberal who implemented a "towards in" approach to growth. With respect to nitrates, he dissolved COSACH and created the COVENSA (Corporation of Nitrate and Iodine Sale), a multi-faceted distributor and not a producer. He balanced the fiscal deficit with new taxes and resumed payment of the external debt, with losses for holders of Chilean bonds. When they reached a surplus, they focused on public works. The construction of the National Stadium in Santiago, inaugurated in December 1938, stands out.

The degree of Alessandri's responsibility in the 1938 Seguro Obrero massacre has been a subject of speculation.[citation needed]

Public life after the presidency


His political life did not end with his presidency. Due to the death of the communist Senator of Curico, Talca, Linares and Maule, Amador Pairoa, he participated in a complementary Senatorial election and won, returning to the Senate on November 8. In 1949 he was reelected but this time for Santiago, while also chosen to be President of this body.

He was of vital importance in the presidential elections of 1942 and 1946, in the first by causing a division of votes of the liberals, supporting Juan Antonio Ríos, and in the second by presenting himself as a preliminary candidate of the liberals. He later yielded his candidacy to his son Fernando, resulting in the division of the presidential candidates of the right and conservative support for Dr. Eduardo Cruz-Coke, in turn favoring the victory of Gabriel González Videla. While President of the Senate of Chile, Alessandri died at the age of 82, on August 24, 1950, and was replaced by his son Fernando Alessandri. One of his other sons, Jorge Alessandri, was president of Chile from 1958 to 1964.

Honours and awards

Arms of Arturo Alessandri as knight of the Order of the Dannebrog

Foreign Honours





See also



  1. ^ The International Who's Who 1943-44. 8th edition. George Allen & Unwin, London, 1943, p. 11.
  2. ^ Intervenciones militares y poder factico en la politica chilena (de 1830 al 2000) Archived 2007-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, Luis Vitale, 2000 (p.38) (in Spanish)
  3. ^ "Order of the Dannebrog". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  4. ^ "Entidades Estrangeiras Agraciades Com Ordens Portuguesas – Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  5. ^ Guía Oficial de España: 1930. p. 612. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Industry and Public Works
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of the Interior
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Preceded by President of Chile
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Chile
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Chile
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Senate of Chile
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Senate of Chile
Succeeded by