"Timeline" Continued...

Issue: "A warmer Chile," Nov. 9, 2002


Bolivia and Paraguay fight over the ownership of Gran Chaco, a massive, low-lying plain. Both sides are dissatisfied over the settlement in 1938 that gives 91,800 square miles of the disputed territory to Paraguay.


Peru defeats Ecuador in a war over the ownership of a wild, uncharted area between Ecuador and Western Brazil, annexing most of the territory.


During World War II, the Latin-American republics pledge their opposition to Germany, Italy, and Japan. Just as in World War I, Brazil is the only South American country to send soldiers to Europe; the Germans repeatedly sink Brazilian ships.


Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral-the literary pen name of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga-becomes the first Chilean, the first Latin American, and the first woman writing in Spanish to win the Nobel Prize for literature for her love poems (usually more spiritual than sensual).


Military leaders depose Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas, who has ruled since 1930, and establish a democratic government with presidential term limits. In 1947, Brazil outlaws the Communist Party and severs diplomatic relations with Russia. Vargas wins the presidency in 1950 but postwar economic problems-skyrocketing living costs and striking workers-prompt the military to demand his resignation. He resigns and then commits suicide. Constitutional changes and military takeovers bring dictators to power again during the 1960s. The first direct presidential election is not held until 1990.


Juan Peron seizes Argentina's presidency. His wife, Eva, serves as his chief aide until her death in 1952. In 1948 Peron's government buys the British-owned railroads and the American-owned telephone system. In 1951 he seizes the newspaper that had criticized him, La Prensa, and revises the constitution so he can be "reelected" that year. In 1954 he accuses Roman Catholic Church officials of agitating against the government and proposes measures to separate church and state. Church leaders, the navy, and part of the army revolt in 1955; Peron resigns and flees into exile in Spain.


The United States and 19 Latin-American republics agree in the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, or Rio Treaty, to settle their differences peaceably, and that an armed attack against one is an attack against all. In 1948, they establish the Organization of American States to establish regional cooperation. Cuba's Communist government is expelled in 1962.


In Ecuador, Huaorani Indians brutally murder five missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a U.S.-based Protestant group seeking to translate the Bible into all languages. Years later, critics falsely accuse SIL of secretly collaborating with foreign oil companies that wanted the Huaorani to abandon their oil-rich lands. SIL criticism escalates until President Jaime Roldos expels the group from Ecuador in 1981.


In Peru, former philosophy professor Abimael Guzman founds Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla organization. His terrorist campaign to destroy Peru's government and install a Maoist Communist regime rolls through the countryside, gaining support from impoverished peasants, and eventually controls 20 percent of the country. Shining Path attacks urban areas in the early 1990s, bombing banks and power plants and assassinating government officials. Fighting between guerrillas and government forces kills about 30,000 Peruvians before Guzman is sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992.


Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, the famous and aging leader of the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), wins the presidential election in Peru. The military, in a bitter feud with APRA, calls on President Manuel Prado to nix the elections. When he refuses, a military junta takes over and declines to hold elections until June 1963.


The Brazilian military overthrows the government. All Brazilian presidents come from the armed forces until 1985.


Father Camilo Torres, a prominent Colombian priest, takes up arms and dies as a leftist guerrilla. Many Catholic priests favor leftist social causes, and some 800 die for them, such as El Salvador's archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered in 1980 by a rightist death squad while saying mass.


Protestantism explodes during the late '60s with perhaps 15 million Protestant adults in South America; that figure reaches 40 million by the late 1980s. Today there are more Protestant preachers than Catholic priests in Brazil, the world's largest Catholic country, and estimates of "born-again" Brazilians range as high as 30 million. Pentecostalism, in particular, mushrooms. Many passionate Latin Americans move from childhood Catholicism to speaking in tongues, emotional worship, faith healing, and belief in the imminent return of Christ. In 1936 only 2.3 percent of all Protestants in Latin America are Pentecostal. In the '60s, Pentecostals account for over a third of Protestants, and in the '80s well over half. In Chile, they account for over 80 percent.


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