You Gotta Know These South American Political Leaders
- Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan who is known as “El Libertador” for freeing much of South America from Spanish rule. He authored the Cartagena Manifesto and Decree of War to the Death in his quest to liberate Colombia and Venezuela, during which he won the Battle of Carabobo. After gaining independence from Spain, he led the short-lived republic of Gran Colombia, which from 1819 to 1830 included modern Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama.
- José de San Martín was an Argentine general who liberated Argentina and Chile from Spain with Bernardo O’Higgins. San Martín won the Battle of San Lorenzo in 1813. Later, his crossing of the Andes resulted in victories at the Battles of Chacabuco and Maipu in Chile. San Martín took part in the liberation of Peru before moving to Europe in 1824.
- Bernardo O’Higgins, a leader of Chilean independence, was the illegitimate son of an Irish-Spanish officer and a Chilean mother. His early attempt at rebellion against the Spanish crown ended in defeat at Rancagua in 1813, after which he went into exile in Argentina. O’Higgins returned to Chile with San Martín in 1817, and served as that country’s Supreme Director until 1823.
- Pedro I was the Emperor of Brazil from 1822 to 1831. The son of King John VI of Portugal, Pedro became the first ruler of the Empire of Brazil when he declared independence from Portugal in 1822 with the Cry of Ipiranga. In 1831, he abdicated in favor of his son in order to launch an ill-fated invasion of Portugal.
- Pedro II was the Emperor of Brazil from 1831 to 1889. Pedro II became emperor at age 5 when his father abdicated. During Pedro II’s reign, Brazil was victorious in several conflicts with its neighbors, including the Platine War and War of the Triple Alliance.
- Alfredo Stroessner was the dictator of Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. Stroessner ruled Paraguay with an iron fist, and was backed by the CIA for his anti-communist purges. He came to power by overthrowing Federico Chávez in 1954 and assuming leadership of his Colorado Party.
- Salvador Allende was the President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Allende was the first Marxist head of state to be democratically elected in Latin America. His policies of collectivization and nationalization angered conservatives, and Allende was overthrown and killed in a 1973 coup supported by the CIA. Allende had survived a coup called El Tanquetazo earlier in 1973.
- Augusto Pinochet was the dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990. Salvador Allende was overthrown on September 11, 1973 by Pinochet. His economic policies were informed by the Chicago Boys, Chilean economists who had studied under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, and mostly relied on privatizing the economy. Pinochet’s brutal regime was investigated in the Rettig and Valech reports, and he died awaiting trial in 2006.
- Juan Perón was the president of Argentina from 1946 to 1955 and 1973 to 1974. Juan Perón became widely admired after his 1945 marriage to actress Eva Duarte, who was immortalized in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita. The backbone of his political support were working-class people known as descamisados, meaning “shirtless ones”. His policies came to be called Perónism, represented by the three flags of economic independence, political sovereignty and social justice, which represented a Third Way between capitalism and communism. Upon Juan Perón’s death in 1974, he was succeeded as President by his third wife, Isabel.
- Hugo Chávez was the President of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. Chávez used Venezuela’s large oil revenues to lead his Bolivarian Revolution and enact socialist policies. His original party was the Fifth Republic Movement. Chávez’s had been imprisoned after a failed coup attempt in 1992. He died of cancer in 2013.
You also gotta know the current leaders of most South American countries.
This article was contributed by former NAQT writer George Stevens.