Leguía, Augusto Bernardino (1863–1932)

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Leguía, Augusto Bernardino (1863–1932)

Augusto Bernardino Leguía (b. 19 February 1863; d. 7 February 1932), Peruvian politician, businessman, and landowner, and twice president of Peru (1908–1912, 1919–1930) at a time of distressing economic modernization and social upheaval. Initially an important representative of the Civilista political elite, and an example of the rise of the more business-oriented sector of the Peruvian agro-export elite, Leguía broke with the Civilista Party over issues of executive initiative and state interventionism. In his second presidential term, Leguía used both popular and elite support to enhance the role of the state aided by foreign loans which became excessive after 1925.

Leguía was born in Lambayeque and studied accounting in a British school in Valparaíso. After the War of the Pacific he was tied through marriage to agro-exporting landed interests. He also developed financial ties with foreign and local banks and insurance companies. He established the British Sugar Company in 1896 and the South America Insurance Company in 1900. He rose meteorically in politics, first serving as finance minister under Presidents Manuel Candamo and José Pardo. As a presidential candidate with the official Civilista Party blessing, Leguía was elected president in 1908. His first term of office was traumatic. In an attempted coup in 1909, Leguía almost lost his life but also demonstrated considerable courage. His attempts at modernizing the state lost him favor among the Civilistas. From 1908 to 1910 Leguía also had to face international crises with neighboring Ecuador, Colombia, and Chile. In his second term Leguía was able to settle most of these old boundary disputes.

After 1913 Leguía lived abroad, mainly in London. In 1918 he returned to Peru with strong popular support. Leguía won the presidential elections of 1919, but fearing congressional opposition by his political enemies, he rallied military support for a coup to reinforce his presidential powers. Subsequently, his efforts to establish a New Fatherland (Patria Nueva) resulted in rigged reelections in 1924 and 1929. He exiled or imprisoned many of his political adversaries. His public works in Lima and the provinces (road construction, urbanization), state modernization, and encouragement of local capitalist interests seriously floundered during the financial crisis that led to the depression of the 1930s. He was ousted by a military coup led by Colonel Luis Sánchez Cerro and died in prison in Callao.

See alsoPeru, Political Parties: Civilista Party; Sánchez Cerro, Luis Manuel; War of the Pacific.


Manuel Capuñay, Leguía, vida y obra del constructor del gran Perú (1952).

Alfonso Quiroz, Domestic and Foreign Finance in Modern Peru, 1850–1950: Financing Visions of Development (1993).

Additional Bibliography

Sánchez, Luis Alberto. Leguía: El dictador. Peru: Editorial Pachacútec, 1993.

                                      Alfonso W. Quiroz