Balta, José (1814–1872)

views updated

Balta, José (1814–1872)

José Balta (b. 1814; d. 26 July 1872), president of Peru (1868–1872). A soldier of common background and strong convictions, he led troops from Chiclayo on the northern coast against the government when President Mariano Ignacio Prado issued decrees to curb the political power of Catholic bishops. With army support, Balta remained in power for a full presidential term. Convinced that Peru must escape its financial dependence on local guano consignees, he placed the Ministry of Finance in the hands of Nicolás de Piérola and approved his policy of domestic spending of income earned by contracting for a guano monopoly with the Dreyfus Company of France. Thereafter military salaries and pensions rose, and public facilities improved. Contractors laid hundreds of miles of new rail lines throughout the country, including the famous Central Railway linking Lima with the mining center of La Oroya in the Andean highlands. But expenditures quickly outran income from all sources, and public sentiment soon associated the military with public waste. Balta and Piérola clashed repeatedly until Piérola resigned in 1871. Balta then incurred new debts to the Dreyfus Company. At the end of Balta's term, Peru faced a foreign debt of £49 million, a tenfold increase over what it had been when he took office. By the election of 1872 military leadership was in disrepute. Balta's secretary, Ricardo Palma, and North American entrepreneur Henry Meiggs, among others, persuaded him not to prevent the inauguration of his successor. In the military uprising that followed this decision, Balta was imprisoned and shot dead in his cell by guards.

See alsoGuano Industry .


Fredrick B. Pike, The Modern History of Peru (1967), esp. pp. 125-126, 131-132.

Henry F. Dobyns and Paul L. Doughty, Peru: A Cultural History (1976), esp. pp. 191-194.

Additional Bibliography

Valdizán Ayala, José. José Balta Montero. Lima, Peru: Editorial Brasa, 1995.

                                           Vincent Peloso