Ibáñez del Campo, Carlos (1877–1960)

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Ibáñez del Campo, Carlos (1877–1960)

Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (b. 3 November 1877; d. 28 April 1960), Chilean army officer and president (1927–1931 and 1952–1958). Born in Linares, Ibáñez entered the Escuela Militar in Santiago in 1896. Two years later he was commissioned a second lieutenant and in 1900 he was promoted to first lieutenant. While a student at the Academia de Guerra, he was selected for the first El Salvador mission (1903) directed by Captain Juan Pablo Bennett. There he took charge of the new military school and formed the tiny nation's cavalry corps. Ibáñez won acclaim in the Central American country for his horsemanship and for taking part (against orders) in a minor battle between Salvadoran and Guatemalan forces in 1906, an adventure that made him the only Chilean officer to participate in a real war after 1883. He held the rank of colonel in El Salvador and made an advantageous marriage there to a young Salvadoran woman, Doña Rosa Quiroz Avila, with whom he returned to Chile in 1909.

Ibáñez served with the Cazadores cavalry regiment and then returned to the Academia de Guerra to complete his staff training. In 1914 he was on the staff of Division I, Tacna, and in 1919, now a major, was named police prefect in Iquique.

In 1921 President Arturo Alessandri Palma named Ibáñez director of the Cavalry School, where he came to know a number of political figures in the capital professionally and socially. He became involved with political affairs culminating in the military movements of 1924–1925 that resulted first in Alessandri's resignation and then his return. In 1925 Ibáñez became war minister, rising quickly from colonel to general. He quarreled frequently with Alessandri. In 1927, after brief stints as interior minister and vice president, he was elected president under the new 1925 Constitution. Then a widower, he married his second wife, Graciela Letellier, during his presidency.

Ibáñez's authoritarian administration (1927–1931) borrowed heavily from abroad to finance public works projects. He manipulated a spuriously elected Congress, brooked no political opposition, and applied the new constitution selectively, thus enhancing the powers of the executive branch. He involved the state in public health, communications, education, economic development, welfare, social security, and transportation more than ever before. His administration's economic policies made Chile vulnerable to the worldwide economic collapse, thus weakening his position and undermining his popularity by 1930.

Ibáñez resigned the presidency in 1931 during a general strike. He lived for a time in Argentina, returned to Chile, and was a contender for the Popular Front presidential candidacy of 1938 until his association with Chilean fascists became an embarrassment. He remained politically active in the 1940s and served as senator before being elected to a second term as president (1952–1958), as the candidate of a broad coalition of independent groups, small parties, and the corporativist Agrarian Labor Party. His repeated attempts to manipulate the army did not help him in any way and restored democratic processes precluded any return to the "good old days" of strong executive leadership. He died two years after turning the presidency over to Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, son of his old nemesis.

See alsoChile, Political Parties: Popular Front .


Luis Correa Prieto, El presidente Ibáñez, la política, y los políticos: Apuntes para la historia (1962).

René Montero Moreno, La verdad sobre Ibáñez (1952).

Frederick M. Nunn, Chilean Politics, 1920–1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces (1970), and The Military in Chilean History: Essays on Civil-Military Relations, 1810–1973 (1976).

Ernesto Würth Rojas, Ibáñez: Caudillo enigmático (1958).

Additional Bibliography

Fowler, Will. Authoritarianism in Latin America since Independence. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Rojas Flores, Jorge. La Dictadura de Ibáñez y los sindicatos (1927–1931). Santiago: Dirección de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos, Centro de Investigaciones Diego Barros Arana, 1993.

San Francisco, Alejandro, and Angél Soto. Camino a La Moneda: Las elecciones presidenciales en la historia de Chile, 1920–2000. Santiago: Instituto de Historia: Centro de Estudios Bicentenario, 2005.

Tuozzo, Celina. El Estado Policial en Chile, 1924–1931. Buenos Aires: Proyecto Actores y Coaliciones en la Integración Latinoamericana: La Crujía: Instituto Torcuato de Tella/Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, 2004.

                                        Frederick M. Nunn