ALL the South American countries have been seriously affected by the world economic crisis, and within the past eighteen months six of them, including the so-called "A. B. C. Powers," have been the scene of political revolutions. In Peru, Bolivia and Chile the connection between the economic and the political crisis is obvious, although not fundamental. The Argentine and Brazilian revolutions would probably have occurred had there been no business depression; but, even so, economic distress created an atmosphere, an ambiente, which made the work of revolution easier. In all the countries named except Brazil a return to "normalcy" has apparently been achieved, and provisional governments are giving way to constitutional régimes. The Bolivian revolution occurred in June 1930, and elections were held in the following January.[i] Since then there have been presidential elections in the other republics -- in Chile on October 4, in Peru on October 11, in Ecuador on October 20, and in Argentina on November 8.

The election in Ecuador was not the aftermath of a revolution. It was occasioned by the resignation last August of President Isidro Ayora. In Dr. Ayora the country possessed a president of high character and patriotism. Under his leadership the constitution was reformed and restored to operation, the fiscal and banking systems were reorganized and public works were extended. When the economic depression reached Ecuador, however, the President was repeatedly forced to reduce expenditures in order to achieve a balanced budget; the services affected protested and there were frequent rumors of army unrest. Discouraged by the increasing economic difficulties and by his loss of congressional support, Dr. Ayora resigned. Colonel Luis Larrea Alba as Minister of Government became acting president, and called for new elections to be held October 20, 1931. On October 15, however, he surrendered his office after an attempt by several of the military units to declare him dictator.

News has now come of the election of Señor Neptali Bonifaz, an independent, one of the country's wealthiest landowners and the first president of the Central Bank created by the Kemmerer Commission. The elections seem to have been orderly and in general free. The candidate presumed to have official support, Señor Modesto Larrea Jijon, a cousin of Larrea Alba, apparently forfeited it as a result of the abortive military coup. The president-elect has been identified with the conservative classes, and it is not inconceivable that liberal and radical elements may endeavor, by resorting again to violence, to prevent his taking office.

The political situation in Peru has been more confused than in any of the other countries under review. National elections were set for September 13, 1931, but as late as July parties were still unorganized and the only candidates in the field represented the more radical elements. The nation seemed to be entirely lacking in effective political leaders, as generally happens after a long-continued dictatorship. During the eleven years of President Leguia's administration, most of the former political chiefs had died or grown old, and the younger generation had had no opportunity to gain political experience.

In preparing for the elections the Provisional Government, led by David Samanez Ocampo, promulgated a new electoral law, altering the territorial basis of representation and proving for the secret ballot and other safeguards to insure an effective suffrage.

As the presidential election drew near five or six political groups appeared, but most of them were simply attempts to revive former factions by men whose aims were chiefly personal. Exception might be made of the "Accion Republicana," and of the "Apra." The former was a new group composed of middle-class professional and intellectual elements aiming to crystallize ideas of constitutional reform. Apra, a radical labor party organized and led by an ambitious young enthusiast, Victor Haya de la Torre, came closest to achieving an effective organization. The Aprista party is nationalistic, anti-foreign and socialistic, and was formerly allied with genuine communists. Its leader, who was also its presidential candidate, is intellectual, patriotic, but opportunist and "personalist" in his objectives. The party has a strong following among young men of the middle class, and among workmen and university students. It enjoys the distinction of having maintained the only organized opposition under the Leguia dictatorship. There is reason to believe that its leaders have recently become more moderate in their point of view, that their anti-foreign complex is only the expression of an intense nationalism, and that this and their advanced socialistic preachments are being used chiefly as a battle-cry to rally popular support. Once in office they would probably not pursue an extreme anti-foreign policy.

The other prominent candidate was the successor of Leguia and former provisional president, Colonel Luis Sanchez Cerro, who was permitted by the junta to return to Peru in July. Sanchez Cerro is an army officer who before 1930 was regarded as something of a professional revolutionist. Ambitious, ultra-nationalistic and of uncertain temper, he often appeared to use his power as provisional president to take revenge against Leguia and his followers. Yet in spite of his defects of temperament and of his lack of experience he sincerely tried to work for his country. To those who had official dealings with him he appeared honest and courageous.

An attempt was also made to present a more conservative and responsible candidate than either Sanchez Cerro or Haya de la Torre. But the resulting "Concentracion Nacional" was hindered by the ambition of the "politicos" who head the numerous factions into which the educated part of the nation is divided.

In this atmosphere of political uncertainty it was decided to postpone the national elections until October 11 in order to give more time for registration under the new electoral law. Local disorders were not infrequent; there were strikes by labor and by university students, several barrack mutinies in the provinces, and rumors of mutiny in the capital. Under these difficult conditions the Provisional Government succeeded in maintaining order with surprising efficiency.

The victory of Sanchez Cerro in the elections is probably to be explained by the appeal he made as a national figure representing the semi-Indian or mestizo class, the hero of Arequipa who laid low an eleven-year dictatorship. His support must have come mainly from the middle and lower strata of the nation, with possibly some strength from the disorganized upper-class elements which would like to use him and his personal popularity in a gamble to get back into power. With the demoralization of the older political groups, the multiplicity of candidates, and the lack of definite programs, the contest was largely a personal victory for Sanchez Cerro. Peru might easily have a worse man at the helm. It is true, however, that the navy has never been very friendly to him, and that Arequipa itself has once repudiated him. It is therefore unsafe to predict whether the presidential struggle has just ended or just begun.

Chile, the most recent to register violent repudiation of its president and his supporters (July 1931), was the most prompt to hold a national election to replace him. The revolution was in several respects a remarkable one. It was a purely civilian movement, the military having no part in it except to protect the Government House from mob violence, and it brought to an abrupt close an administration which many regarded as the most enlightened and stable in South America. The revolution was so much the background of the elections which followed that a few words about it are essential.

The ascendancy of President Ibañez had been built upon the moral and political bankruptcy of the former parliamentary régime and of the parties which flourished under it. His government is difficult to describe in a few words. It was neither a personal dictatorship nor a constitutional government, but something of both, sometimes in harmony with public sentiment, sometimes running counter to it. While neither a civil nor a military government, nor yet a mixture of the two, it sometimes inclined one way, sometimes the other. But it was a strong government in which the executive, in contrast with what had gone before, had the whip hand. It was a patriotic and all in all an honest government, but in its program of national rehabilitation it was not always well-advised.

Without the political judgment that comes from long experience in statecraft, President Ibañez made some serious mistakes. One was his extreme vigor in suppressing those who openly opposed his measures. He also let himself be too easily led by advisers who favored large expenditures for public improvements, financed by long-term loans abroad, expenditures far beyond what Chile's small population and resources could stand. The government, in short, was seduced by the "easy money" which afflicted so much of the world before the autumn of 1929. This program continued virtually unmodified until the early months of 1931. Succeeding ministries talked of economies, but if they made an effort to stem the tide of expenditure they were dismissed as incorrigible pessimists. In July 1931 the President was constrained to call in a cabinet of civilian experts, under the leadership of Pedro Blanquier, to face the financial crisis. It demanded a free hand and unconditional support in the immediate restoration of constitutional guarantees, and in effecting radical economies. Within a week, after declaring a partial moratorium on the foreign debt, it resigned because President Ibañez failed to live up to his promises.

The nation was in despair. Students in the two universities declared a four-day strike of protest and took possession of the university buildings. Then what began as a student agitation soon developed into a national movement for the elimination of dictatorship and the restoration of constitutional government. On July 26, after three days of street demonstrations and clashes between the populace and the mounted police, President Ibañez resigned.

Under the acting presidency of Juan Esteban Montero, a lawyer and popular university professor, who had been Minister of the Interior in the Blanquier cabinet, a call was issued for presidential elections to be held on October 4. Five candidates appeared, but the main issue lay between Montero, who was prevailed upon to withdraw from the government and enter the contest, and Arturo Alessandri, who had been president from 1920 to 1925. The latter, exiled by Ibañez, had returned to Chile immediately after the revolution. He denied that he had any political ambitions but saw to it that his candidacy was assured. Opportunist and something of a demagogue, he was the spokesman of the radical and labor elements. The professional and business classes, and the political conservatives, rallied around Montero.

The electoral campaign was attended by considerable disorder, both in Santiago and in the provinces. On election day the casualties were numerous, and heavily-armed patrols rode through Santiago streets. Montero was elected by a large majority. Evidently the labor and middle-class support which had carried Alessandri into the presidency in 1920 had been withdrawn. The new president is a professional man, not a politician, with a reputation for disinterestedness and patriotism. The problem of economic rehabilitation confronting him is a tremendous one. But he promises to pay Chile's foreign debts, and his election gives new evidence of the essential soundness of the Chilean nation.

In Argentina the overthrow of the administration of President Irigoyen in 1930 brought into office a provisional government dominated by the minority Conservative Party which had ruled the country before the electoral reforms of 1912. It was a genuine reform government, although the Provisional President, General Uriburu, was determined that the Radical Party associated with Irigoyen's discredited régime should not come back into power even if it secured the support of a majority of the nation. Conservative leaders tried to use this circumstance for their own personal ends.

The partisan activities of Uriburu's first cabinet cost the Provisional Government dear in public confidence and led to its first defeat. Public support was alienated by the proposal to abolish the Sáenz Peña Law, which gave to Argentina the secret ballot. And when an attempt was made to put the Conservative Party into power in the Province of Buenos Aires (elections of April 1931) the Radicals won by a large popular majority. The situation was not improved when President Uriburu put off elections in the other provinces until November 8, and postponed till then the meeting of the Buenos Aires electoral college. Meanwhile there was no response to the insistent demand for the election of a constitutional president; and the continuance of the state of siege, together with the government's advocacy of constitutional reform, seemed to portend a still further postponement of the return to normal. The prospect was galling to Argentine pride, kept business stagnant and hurt the country's credit in the money markets abroad.

But the most serious question was what the President would do with the various elements composing the Radical Party. Ex-President Alvear had returned from Paris in April to try to reunite the disrupted organization. But as it was to be a renascence of the entire party, including the followers of Irigoyen, it encountered the open hostility of General Uriburu. The Corrientes revolt of July 20 gave the President the opportunity he wanted. Accusing Alvear and his associates of being privy to the conspiracy, he expelled them from the country, while hundreds of lesser fry were clapped into prison or detained in their homes. At the end of the month Uriburu nevertheless gave in to popular pressure and announced that the election of a president and vice-president would be permitted on November 8.

During August and September the various political groupings assumed definitive form and three electoral formulæ appeared.

The Democratic Progressive Party entered into a coalition, the "Alianza Civil," with the Socialist Party in support of Dr. de la Torre (Progressive) and Dr. Repetto (Socialist). The Progressives are an offshoot of the old Conservative or Autonomist Party of two decades ago, but incline toward the Left, in accord with the democratic tendency of the times. The sane political judgment of the group is evidenced by its refusal to coöperate with the Conservatives in staging the revolution of September 1930, and also by this temporary alliance with the Socialists. The party has been attacked by the clergy because it favors separating church and state, and by the land-owning aristocracy who fear the Socialists. The latter, however, have a record in congress for work and discipline, in which qualities the major parties have been conspicuously lacking.

The National Democratic Party, a new organization with a nucleus of Conservatives and "anti-Personalists" (former Radicals opposed to Irigoyen), nominated General Agustin P. Justo, an associate of General Uriburu in the revolution and for a short time his Minister of War. He has enjoyed the favor of the government (except that of the President) and he appealed to the independent vote of the country. But his support came chiefly from the upper classes, from the church and from provincial caudillos (political bosses) who were ready to follow any standard which promised them continued control.

At the end of September the Radicals in convention at Buenos Aires challenged the government by nominating Dr. Alvear as their candidate for the presidency. General Uriburu retorted a week later with two decrees, one vetoing the nomination, and the other annulling the April elections in the province of Buenos Aires. The party offered on certain conditions to change the formula, but the government remained obdurate. Alvear, from his exile in Montevideo, resigned the candidacy; but the Radical convention declined to accept it. In this defiance they made a grave mistake, for according to the constitution, which requires an interval of six years before the reëlection of a president, Alvear was clearly ineligible. The party therefore was not represented in the November elections.

It is not yet clear whether Dr. de la Torre or General Justo will be the next constitutional president of Argentina. Although the Provisional Government as the self-appointed guardian of the revolution has supported General Justo, its professed purposes and ideals would probably be best served by a victory for the "Alianza Civil."

[i] See "Revolution in South America," by Clarence H. Haring, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, January 1931.

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