Figueroa mutiny was a failed attempt to restore royal power and is the first coup d'etat to ever take place in Chile.
When the First Government Junta decreed that elections were to be held for a National Congress, the decree left open to every administrative division of the country the decision of when to carry them. Immediately, political intrigue began amongst the ruling elite, with news of the political turbulence and wars of Europe all the while coming in. It was eventually decided that elections would be held in 1811. By March of that year all major cities had held them with the exception of Santiago and Valparaiso. The great surprise up to that point were the results from the other center of power, Concepcion, in which Royalists had defeated the supporters of the president of the Junta, Juan Martinez de Rozas. In the rest of Chile, the results were more or less equally divided: twelve pro-Rozas delegates, fourteen anti-Rozas and three royalists. So, the Santiago elections were the key to Rozas' desire to remain in power. This election was supposed to take place on April 10, but before they could be called, the mutiny broke out.
The origins of the mutiny were never fully clarified. Close to the expected day for elections, the monarchist Lieutenant Colonel Tomas de Figueroa, who considered the notion of elections to be too populist, led the revolt. The night before a group of mutineers (who were never identified) proclaimed Colonel Figueroa as their chief, and early on the morning of April 1, 1811, he went to the San Pablo Army Barracks, taking command and mutinying the troops, in the mistaken belief that he had the support of all the other army units in Santiago.
Once in control of the barracks, he paraded his troops, headed by drums, towards the main square with the intention of taking over the Government. He even stopped on the way to politely salute lady Mariana de Aguirre, who came out to her balcony to see him go by. When he finally arrived to the government palace he found it empty since everyone had left at the news of his coming. Nonplussed, he directed himself to the Real Audiencia that was still peacefully in session. There, the judges calmly heard his requests of restoring the old regime but only resolved to send a minute to the government transcribing his demands.
In the interval, the members of the Junta under the command of Fernando Marquez de la Plata, sent Colonel Juan de Dios Vial with an Army Battalion composed of 500 men to put down the mutiny. A brief combat ensued in the main square but soon Figueroa's troops ran away or surrendered upon noticing that they didn't have any support for their movement. Colonel Figueroa, seeing his defeat, took refuge in the Santo Domingo Monastery.
The populace, under the leadership of Fr. Camilo Henriquez, reacted angrily against the mutineers. Martinez de Rozas, who had been extraordinarily absent during the whole course of events, ordered that the monastery be broken into and Colonel Figueroa arrested, violating his right of sanctuary. Rozas was well aware that if he didn't execute Figueroa quickly, the popular feeling would save him. So, he had him tried and sentenced to death in less than 24 hours.
When Figueroa was notified of his death sentence, he behaved bravely. He refused to name his co-conspirators and assumed the whole responsibility for the events. He was given four hours to prepare himself, and then was executed the next morning , at 3.30 AM. The body, with the face disfigured by the shots, was publicly exposed in the main square, outside the city jail.
The mutiny was successful in that it temporarily sabotaged the elections, which had to be delayed until November of the same year. In addition, the revolt was used as a pretext for dissolving the Real Audiencia, a longstanding pillar of Spanish crown control, and full independence gained momentum. Eventually, however, the Congress was duly elected. Moderates advocating only greater autonomy of the elites from Spanish Imperial control, without a complete rupture, gained the majority of seats, while a minority were held by revolutionaries who wanted complete and instant Independence from Spain.
The popular feeling, that originally had reacted against Figueroa, was soon canalized against Rozas. The fact that he had not led the defense of the government and the fear of reprisals in case of a Royalist restoration made him very unpopular and it became politically expedient to get rid of him as soon as possible. He was immediately replaced as leader of the Junta by Fernando Marquez de la Plata, and the very next year he was banished by his political rival, Jose Miguel Carrera, never to recover power.
History of Chile
List of coup d'etat in Chile
Information on the events
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Figueroa mutiny