González Videla, Gabriel (1898–1980)

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González Videla, Gabriel (1898–1980)

Gabriel González, born in La Serena, Chile, on November 22, 1898, was a politician and president of Chile. After serving in the legislature as a Radical Party representative, he became president in 1946, the candidate of an odd coalition of Radicals, Liberals, and Communists. Unfortunately for him, González confronted numerous problems: a postwar economic contraction, severe inflation, and increased worker militancy. Increasingly Gonzá-lez came to feel that the Communists were fomenting labor unrest, particularly in the southern coalfield, as well as threatening to organize farm workers. Although elected with Communist support, he turned on them, expelling them from his cabinet. The Communists retaliated by organizing worker demonstrations that degenerated into riots. Fearing that he would lose the support of the Radical Party's right wing, which consisted of landowners, and the conservative Liberal Party, González's infamous "ley maldita" ("accursed law") outlawed the Communist Party in 1948. Some have argued that the promise of U.S. economic aid convinced González to turn on his former allies; others allege that he had done so out of fear of political unrest and the possibility of a military coup. Whatever the reason, González would complete his presidential term in 1952, supported by a new conservative alliance. His regime's passage marked the end of the Radical Party's control of the Chilean presidency that began with the 1938 election of Pedro Aguirre Cerda. Gonzalez's successors, Carlos Ibáñez and then Jorge Alessandri, did not represent an established political party.

González's government instituted other, less controversial reforms: enfranchising women, creating a technical university, and expanding the nation's economic infrastructure by building an oil refinery, various dams, and a steel mill. He enhanced Chile's sovereignty by claiming a 200-mile limit as well as establishing bases in the Antarctic. Continuing to be politically active, he broke with the Radical Party when it supported Salvador Allende. After the 1973 coup, González held a seat in General Augusto Pinochet's Council of State. González died in Santiago on August 22, 1980.

See alsoChile, Political Parties: Radical Party; Chile, Political Parties: Communist Party; Chile: The Twentieth Century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Collier, Simon, and William Sater. A History of Chile, 1808–2002, 2nd edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

                                            William Sater