Guillermo Billinghurst

Guillermo Billinghurst

Infobox Officeholder
name = Guillermo Billinghurst

order = 33rd President of Peru
term_start = September 24 1912
term_end = February 4, 1914
predecessor = Augusto B. Leguía
successor = Óscar Benavides
birth_date = July 27, 1851
death_date = June 28, 1915
party = Democratic Party
profession = Entrepreneur

Guillermo Enrique Billinghurst Angulo (Arica, July 27, 1851Iquique, June 28, 1915) was a Peruvian politician. He succeeded Augusto B. Leguía as President of Peru from 1912 to 1914.

During his presidency, Billinghurst became embroiled in an increasingly bitter series of conflicts with Congress, ranging from proposed advanced social legislation to settlement of the Tacna-Arica dispute.

This provoked a military uprising led by Colonel Óscar Benavides to seize power and take control of the country. He was sent into exile and died in Iquique.

Member of the Civilista Party

Billinghurst belonged to the Civilistas group, which were then considered the architects of unprecedented political stability and economic growth in the country, but they also set in motion profound social changes that would, in time, alter the political panorama of Peru.

As Vicepresident under the Piérola Administration (1895 – 1899), Billinghurst was involved in several attempts to solve the Tacna and Arica territorial dispute with Chile. In April 9, 1898, a memorandum was subscribed between the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Raimundo Silva Cruz and Billinghurst. It established that before a plebiscite could be held between both countries, an arbitrage would first be requested to the Queen of Spain, María Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena (1858–1929) to determine the conditions of the vote.

Subsequent events led the "Protocol of Billinghurst-Latorre" not to be ratified by the Chilean Chamber of Deputies. A direct result of this setback was the break of diplomatic relations between Peru and Chile in 1901.

The 1912 elections

The elections of 1912 were the most passionate ones of the so-called "Aristocratic Republic" (a term coined by Peruvians referring to those in power that were mostly from the social elite of the country). The "Civilist Party" rallied behind the candidacy of Antero Aspíllaga, one of the most prominent and conservative members of the Party. His opponents accused him of being a "Chilean-born" Peruvian unfit for office.

The Civilistas, however, were unable to manage the new social forces that their policies unleashed. This first became apparent in 1912 when the millionaire businessman Guillermo Billinghurst-–the reform-minded, populist former mayor of Lima-–was able to organize a general strike to block the election of the official Civilista presidential candidate and force his own election by Congress.


One of main accomplishments of the Billinghurst administration was the establishment of important legislation that guaranted the 8-hours of work.

When Congress opened impeachment hearings against Billinghurst in 1914, he threatened to arm the workers and forcibly dissolve Congress.

Guillermo Billinghurst was overthrown on February 4, 1914, in a military coup headed by colonel Oscar R. Benavides, Javier and Manuel Prado, and conservatives members of the Civilista Party. Later in exile, Billinghurst claimed the following:"The young Prado, in an extense and pathetic speech, gave me the details and motives behind the coup: All of them (the mutineerered) recognised my patriotism, integrity and my capability to handle the government. However, the only and most serious mistake that I made was the course that my internal politics was doing to the country and, finally, I think the sons of former president Prado must «clean his fathers memory»"

See also

* Politics of Peru
* List of Presidents of Peru

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