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Frei Montalva, Eduardo (1911–1982)

Chilean politician and president (1964–1970). Born in Santiago on 11 January 1911, Eduardo Frei Montalva earned a law degree from the Catholic University in Santiago in 1933. He then entered the Conservative Party, helping to organize the National Movement of Conservative Youth. After a falling out with Conservative Party leaders because of his ideas for social reform, he helped establish the Falange National and was elected president of that organization in 1941. He then led the Falange National in supporting the Radical Party, under which he began his political career as a federal government minister of public works in late 1945. Then, in 1949, he won a seat in the Chilean Senate.

Frei ran for president on the new Partido Demócrata Christiano (PDC, Christian Democratic Party) ticket in 1958 but garnered only 20.7 percent of the vote. Undeterred, he carefully prepared for the 1964 election, summoning some of Chile's top intellectuals and professionals to his cause. The PDC's political platform, "Revolution in Liberty," called for land reform, legalized unionization of rural workers, partial nationalization of Chile's mining industry, and tax reform. Fearing a victory by Salvador Allende Gossens's left-wing coalition, Washington policymakers gave covert assistance to the PDC. Frei won the 1964 election, and as president he implemented part of the PDC program.

The United States viewed Frei's Chile as a model and thus provided the nation with considerable economic assistance under President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress program. Slow economic growth and persistent inflation hurt the PDC in the 1970 elections, however, and Allende won a three-way race with a slim plurality (the PDC came in third). As dictated by the Chilean constitution, the Chilean Congress chose among the top two candidates, a process in which it normally chose the winner according to the popular election. U.S. Ambassador to Chile Edward M. Korry unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Frei to throw his support behind second-place conservative Jorge Alessandi Rodríguez in a bid to prevent the Congress from choosing Allende, who was subsequently elected.

In March 1973 Frei was elected to the Senate. Following a military coup in September 1973 that propelled General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte into power, Frei became a vocal critic of the resulting dictatorship. He died in Santiago on 22 January 1982.

James F. Siekmeier


Further Reading
Michaels, Albert L. "The Alliance for Progress and Chile's Revolution in Liberty, 1964–1970." Journal of Inter-American Studies 15(1) (February 1975): 74–99.; Sater, William F. Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict, 1810–1990. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990.
 

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