War of the Peru–Bolivia Confederation

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War of the Peru-Bolivia Confederation

War of the Peru-Bolivia Confederation (1836–1839), a conflict between Chile and an alliance of Peru and Bolivia. In 1836, the Bolivian leader Andrés Santa Cruz created a confederation consisting of his country and Peru. The government in Santiago, displeased by the creation of a more powerful neighbor to the north, soon had reason to fear the confederation when the Santa Cruz government nullified an 1835 treaty that had given Chileans preferential tariff treatment. Peru, anxious to develop its port of Callao, also imposed a special tax on goods entering the nation via the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Both measures jeopardized Santiago's economy. Angered by these steps and the fact that a political enemy, General Ramón Freire, had used a Peruvian port to launch an expedition hoping to depose the Joaquín Prieto government, Chile's leader, Diego Portales, ordered his fleet to attack Callao, where it seized three Peruvian vessels. Infuriated, Santa Cruz arrested Chile's envoy but almost immediately released him with an apology. Portales seized upon the occasion of this diplomatic gaffe to demand that Santa Cruz apologize for the arrest; pay Chile money it had lent Peru; offer compensation for the abortive Freire expedition; and, finally, not only limit Peruvian naval strength but dissolve the confederation. When Santa Cruz refused, Portales declared war.

Initially, Chile did not fare well. Santa Cruz's troops vanquished the first Chilean expeditionary force soon after it landed in Peru. Santa Cruz's peace terms proved generous: Chile had only to return the three boats it had captured earlier and tacitly recognize the confederation. In return, the confederation would pay part of its debt to Chile and would permit Santiago's army to return home. However, once the Chileans reached home, their government repudiated the agreement and sent another army, under General Manuel Bulnes, against the confederation. In early 1839, Bulnes defeated the forces of Santa Cruz, first at the battle of Buin, then on 20 January 1839 at Yungay. The Bolivian leader fled and the confederation collapsed, allowing Chile to control the Pacific Coast for decades.

See alsoPeru-Bolivia Confederation .


Robert N. Burr, By Reason or Force: Chile and the Balancing of Power in South America, 1830–1905 (1965), pp. 33-57; Historia del ejército de Chile (1981), pp. 189-240.

Additional Bibliography

Fajardo Sainz, Humberto. Andrés de Santa Cruz y la Unión Latino Americana. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia: H. Fajardo Sainz, 2003.

Maquito Colque, Tania Micaela. La sociedad arequipeña y la Confederación Perú-Boliviana, 1836–1839. Arequipa, Peru: DREMSUREditores, 2003.

                                        William F. Sater