Chile - Geography
Official Name: Republic of Chile
Capital City: Santiago de Chile
Languages: Spanish (Official language); German; Indigenous languages: Mapudungun, Quechua, Rapa Nui, Huilliche, Aimara, Kawesqar and Yamana
Official Currency: Peso (CLP)
Religions: Catholicism (around 70% of the total Chilean population), Protestantism (15%), other religions
Population: 16,763,470 (June 2008)
About 85% of the Chilean population is urban-dwelling, roughly half of which (approx. 6.5 million people) is densely concentrated in Santiago. The population growth is amongst the lowest in Latin America, at around 0.97%, and comes in third only to Uruguay and Cuba. Population density: 22/km2
Land Area: 756,950 km2
Borders: Chile is a country in South America occupying a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage at the country's southernmost tip. It is one of only two countries in South America that does not have a border with Brazil. The Pacific forms the country's entire western border, with a coastline that stretches over 6,435 kilometres.
Landforms: The Chilean landscape is extremely diverse as the country extends over 4,300 km along the southwestern coast of South America from a latitude of 17° South to Cape Horn at 56°. At the same time, its width never exceeds 240 km, making the country more than eighteen times longer than its widest point. The northern Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper and nitrates. The relatively small Central Valley, which includes Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. Southern Chile is rich in forests, grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. The Andes Mountains are located on the eastern border. The highest point in the country is Ojos del Salado Mt., at 6,893 m - the highest volcano in the world.
Land Divisions: Chile is divided into 15 regions.
Climate: The climate of Chile comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large geographic scale, extending across 38 degrees in latitude, making generalisations difficult. Chile hosts within its borders at least seven major climatic subtypes, ranging from desert in the north, to alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and southeast, humid subtropical in Easter Island, Oceanic in the south and mediterranean climate in central Chile. There are four seasons in most of the country: summer (December to February), autumn (March to May), winter (June to August), and spring (September to November).
Chile - History
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Native Americans settled in fertile valleys and along the coast of what is now Chile. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the area's barrenness prevented extensive settlement.
In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the earth, the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, discovered the southern passage now named after him, the Strait of Magellan. The next Europeans to reach Chile were Diego de Almagro and his band of Spanish conquistadors, who came from Peru in 1535 seeking gold. The Spanish encountered hundreds of thousands of Native Americans from various cultures in the area that modern Chile now occupies. These cultures supported themselves principally through slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting. The conquest of Chile began in earnest in 1540 and was carried out by Pedro de Valdivia, one of Francisco Pizarro's lieutenants, who founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541. Although the Spanish did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile's central valley, and Chile became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The drive for independence from Spain was precipitated by usurpation of the Spanish throne by Napoleon's brother Joseph in 1808. A national junta in the name of Ferdinand—heir to the deposed king—was formed on September 18, 1810. The junta proclaimed Chile an autonomous republic within the Spanish monarchy. A movement for total independence soon won a wide following. Spanish attempts to re-impose arbitrary rule during what was called the "Reconquista" led to a prolonged struggle.
Intermittent warfare continued until 1817, when an army led by Bernardo O'Higgins, Chile's most renowned patriot, and Jose de San Martin, hero of the Argentine War of Independence, crossed the Andes into Chile and defeated the royalists. On February 12, 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic under O'Higgins' leadership. The political revolt brought little social change, however, and 19th century Chilean society preserved the essence of the stratified colonial social structure, which was greatly influenced by family politics and the Roman Catholic Church. A strong presidency eventually emerged, but wealthy landowners remained extremely powerful.
A new constitution which enters an indirect and qualificational electoral right was founded in 1833. Even though corrected and changed, this constitution remains in action right until 1925.
In 1881, Chile signed a treaty with Argentina confirming Chilean sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan. As a result of the War of the Pacific with Peru and Bolivia (1879–83), Chile expanded its territory northward by almost one-third, eliminating Bolivia's access to the Pacific, and acquired valuable nitrate deposits, the exploitation of which led to an era of national affluence. The Chilean Civil War in 1891 brought about a redistribution of power between the President and Congress, and Chile established a parliamentary style democracy. However, the Civil War had also been a contest between those who favored the development of local industries and powerful Chilean banking interests. Hence the Chilean economy partially degenerated into a system protecting the interests of a ruling oligarchy. By the 1920s, the government became relatively more liberal. A new constitution which increased the power of the president of the Chilean republic was accepted in 1925. In addition, a communist and socialist motion in the country emerged by the trade-union motion at the beginning of the 20-th century. In 1932, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. It became the key force in coalition governments for the next 20 years.
By the 1960s, the newly elected Cristian Democratic government made an attempt for a significant economic development and agrarian reform.
In 1970 Salvador Allende became a president of Chile. The left politics of Allende and the serious economic difficulties to the country, attended by some social swells guided to a military coup in september 1973. A military government, led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, took over control of Chile for the following 16 years.
In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, General Pinochet was denied another 8-year term as a president of Chile. The military rule ended finally in 1990.
Chileans elected a new president and the majority of members of a two-chamber congress on December 14, 1989. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 center-left political parties called the "Concertacion" , received an absolute majority of votes. President Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994, in what was considered a transition period.
In December 1993, Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle led the Concertacion coalition to victory with an absolute majority of votes. Frei Ruiz-Tagle was succeeded in 2000 by Socialist Ricardo Lagos, who won the presidency in an unprecedented runoff election against Joaquin Lavin of the rightist Alliance for Chile. In January 2006 Chileans elected their first woman president, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party. She was sworn in on March 11, 2006, extending the Concertacion coalition governance for another four years.
Chile - Economy
Chile has a dynamic market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade.
After a decade of impressive growth rates, Chile began to experience a moderate economic downturn in 1999, brought on by unfavorable global economic conditions related to the Asian financial crisis, which began in 1997. The economy remained sluggish until 2003, when it began to show clear signs of recovery, achieving 4.0% real GDP growth. The Chilean economy finished 2004 with growth of 6.0%. Real GDP growth reached 5.7% in 2005 before falling back to 4.0% growth in 2006 which was among the weakest in South America for the first time in many years. GDP expanded 5.2% in 2007 and was estimated at $232,8 billion.
Chile has pursued generally sound economic policies for nearly three decades. The 1973-90 military government sold many state-owned companies, and the three democratic governments since 1990 have continued privatization, though at a slower pace. The government's role in the economy is mostly limited to regulation, although the state continues to operate copper giant CODELCO and a few other enterprises (there is one state-run bank). Chile is strongly committed to free trade and has welcomed large amounts of foreign investment. The country has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with a whole network of countries, including an FTA with the United States, with the European Union, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, China, and Japan. It reached a partial trade agreement with India in 2005 and began negotiations for a full-fledged FTA with India in 2006. Chile conducted trade negotiations in 2007 with Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand, as well as with China to expand an existing agreement beyond just trade in goods. The country hopes to conclude FTA negotiations with Australia and the expanded agreement with China in 2008. Negotiations with Malaysia and Thailand are scheduled to continue throughout 2008.
High domestic savings and investment rates helped propel Chile's economy to average growth rates of 8% during the 1990s. Unemployment stubbornly hovered in the 9%-10% range after the start of the economic slowdown in 1999, above the 7% average for the 1990s. Unemployment finally dipped to 7.8% for 2006, and has kept falling in 2007, averaging 6.8% monthly. Wages have risen faster than inflation as a result of higher productivity, boosting national living standards. The percentage of Chileans with household incomes below the poverty line—defined as twice the cost of satisfying a person's minimal nutritional needs—fell from 45.1% in 1987 to 13.7% in 2006, according to government polls. Critics in Chile, however, argue true poverty figures are considerably higher than those officially published, due to the government's use of an outdated 1987 household budget poll, updated every 10 years. According to these critics, using the 1997 household budget data, the poverty rate rises to 29%. Chile's top 10 richest percentile possesses 47 percent of the country's wealth. In relation to income distribution, some 6.2% of the country populates the upper economic income bracket, 15% the middle bracket, 21% the lower middle, 38% the lower bracket, and 20% the extreme poor.
Chile's independent Central Bank pursues an inflation target of between 2% and 4%. Inflation has not exceeded 5% since 1998. Chile registered an inflation rate of 4.4% in 2007. The Chilean peso's rapid appreciation against the U.S. dollar in recent years has helped dampen inflation. Most wage settlements and loans are indexed, reducing inflation's volatility. Under the compulsory private pension system, most formal sector employees pay 10% of their salaries into privately managed funds.
Chile continues to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). However, 80% of FDI continues to go to only four sectors: electricity, gas, water and mining. The Chilean Government has formed a Council on Innovation and Competition, which is tasked with identifying new sectors and industries to promote. It is hoped that this, combined with some tax reforms to encourage domestic and foreign investment in research and development, will bring in additional FDI and to new parts of the economy. As of 2006, Chile invested only 0.6% of its annual GDP in research and development (R&D). Even then, two-thirds of that was government spending. The fact that domestic and foreign companies spend almost nothing on R&D does not bode well for the Government of Chile's efforts to develop innovative, knowledge-based sectors. Beyond its general economic and political stability, the government also has encouraged the use of Chile as an "investment platform" for multinational corporations planning to operate in the region. Chile's approach to foreign direct investment is codified in the country's Foreign Investment Law, which gives foreign investors the same treatment as Chileans. Registration is simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital.
Chile's economy is based on the export of minerals, which account for about half of the total value of exports. Copper is the nation's most valuable resource and Chile's overall trade profile has traditionally been dependent upon copper exports - the country is the world's largest producer of it, responsible for over a third of world's copper production. The state-owned firm CODELCO is the world's largest copper-producing company, with recorded copper reserves of 200 years.
Agriculture is the main occupation of about 15% of the population; it accounts for about 6% of the national wealth, and produces less than half of the domestic needs. The Vale of Chile is the country's primary agricultural area; its vineyards are the basis of Chile's wine industry. Grapes, apples, pears, onions, wheat, corn, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, and beans are the chief crops. Livestock production includes beef and poultry. Sheep raising is the chief pastoral occupation, providing wool and meat for domestic use and for export. Fishing and lumbering are also important economic activities. Chile's industries largely process its raw materials and manufacture various consumer goods. The most important non-mineral exports are wood and wood products, fresh fruit and processed food, fishmeal and seafood, and wine, iron and steel, transportation equipment, and textiles. The chief trading partners are the United States, China, Brazil, Argentina, and Japan.
The dependence of the economy on copper prices and the production of an adequate food supply are two of Chile's major economic problems. Chile's main imports are petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, electrical and telecommunications equipment, industrial machinery, vehicles, and natural gas.
Chile's financial sector has grown quickly in recent years, with a banking reform that broadened the scope of permissible foreign activity for Chilean banks. The Chilean Government implemented a further liberalization of capital markets in 2001, and there is further pending legislation proposing further liberalization. Over the last ten years, Chileans have enjoyed the introduction of new financial tools such as home equity loans, currency futures and options, factoring, leasing, and debit cards. The introduction of these new products has also been accompanied by an increased use of traditional instruments such as loans and credit cards. Chile's private pension system, with assets worth roughly $70 billion at the end of 2006, has been an important source of investment capital for the capital market. Chile maintains one of the best credit ratings in Latin America. The government is required by law to run a fiscal surplus of at least 1% of GDP. In 2006, the Government of Chile ran a surplus of $11.3 billion, equal to almost 8% of GDP. The Government of Chile continues to pay down its foreign debt, with public debt only 3.6% of GDP at the end of 2007.
Chile - Culture
During the period between early agricultural settlements and to the late pre-Hispanic period, northern Chile was a region of Andean culture that was influenced by altiplano traditions spreading to the coastal valleys of the north. While the central and southern regions were areas of Mapuche cultural activities. Through the colonial period following the conquest, and during the early Republican period, the country's culture was dominated by the Spanish. Other European influences, primarily English, French, and German began in the 19th century and have continued to this day. German migrants influenced the Bavarian style rural architecture and cuisine in the south of Chile in cities such as Valdivia and Puerto Montt.
Music and dance
The national dance is the cueca. Another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. Arising from music imported by the Spanish colonists, it is distinguished from the cueca by an intermediate melodic section and a more prominent melody. In the mid-1960s native musical forms were revitalized by the Parra family with the Nueva Cancion Chilena, which was associated with political activists and reformers such as Victor Jara, and by the folk singer and researcher on folklore and Chilean ethnography, Margot Loyola.
Chileans call their country "pais de poetas" - country of poets. Gabriela Mistral was the first Chilean to win a Nobel Prize for Literature (1945). Chile's most famous poet, however, is Pablo Neruda, who also won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1971) and is world-renowned for his extensive library of works on romance, nature, and politics. His three highly individualistic homes, located in Isla Negra, Santiago and Valparaiso are popular tourist destinations.
Chilean cuisine is a reflection of the country's topographical variety, featuring an assortment of seafood, beef, fruits, and vegetables. Traditional recipes include cazuela, empanadas, humitas, and curanto.
Chile's most popular sport is soccer. Chile has appeared in seven FIFA World Cups which includes hosting the 1962 FIFA World Cup where the national football team finished third. Other results achieved by the national football team include four finals at the Copa America, one silver and two bronze medals at the Pan American Games, a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics and two third places finishes in the FIFA Under-17 and Under-20 youth tournaments. The main soccer clubs are Colo-Colo, CF Universidad de Chile and CD Universidad Catolica. Colo-Colo is the country's most successful club, winning 41 national tournaments and three international championships, including the coveted Copa Libertadores South American club tournament.
Tennis is the country's most successful sport. Its national team won the World Team Cup clay tournament twice in 2003-04, and played the Davis Cup final against Italy in 1976. At the 2004 Summer Olympics the country captured gold and bronze in men's singles and gold in men's doubles. Marcelo Rios became the first Latin American man to reach the number one spot in the ATP singles rankings in 1998. Anita Lizana won the US Open in 1937, becoming the first women from Latin America to win a Grand Slam tournament. Luis Ayala was twice a runner-up at the French Open and both Rios and Fernando Gonzalez reached the Australian Open men's singles finals.
Rodeo is the country's national sport and is practiced in the more rural areas of the country. A sport similar to hockey called chueca was played by the Mapuche people during the Spanish conquest. Skiing and snowboarding are practiced at ski centers located in the Central Andes, while surfing is popular at some coastal towns.
Chile - Lifestyle
Chileans' lifestyle, as their culture, is strongly influenced by the Spanish world view. The population of Chile is made up of Mestizos, persons of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry, who make up for 93 percent of the current population. Only 3 percent consists of pure Native American, mainly Araucanians who are concentrated in the southern region; and the other 2 percent of the population is made up of unmixed European race. Most of the population lives in urban centers, and more than one-third of the people live in the capital city of Santiago. Communities both in the south and in the northern desert are generally isolated and separated by vast, virtually unpopulated stretches.
Chileans are a nocturnal people. Once you make a few friends, it’s not uncommon for people to come by your house late at night and stay late.
Chileans love music, art and movies. Especially art, in fact one section of downtown is devoted to the “starving artist”. There’s a large town square type of area that is populated by all types of artists. It’s called the Plaza de Armas, in downtown Santiago.
Some statistical data about the Chilean lifestyle: in 2007 the population in the country has spent $19758.7 million on food. The registered Internet users by the same year are 4,616 million, and the total newly registered passenger cars are 151200.
Chile - Political system, law and government
The politics of Chile takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Chile is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Congress. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Chile's Constitution was canceled in a national plebiscite in September 1980, under the military government of dictator Augusto Pinochet. It entered into force in March 1981. After Pinochet's defeat in the 1988 plebiscite, the Constitution was amended to ease provisions for future amendments to the Constitution. In September 2005, President Ricardo Lagos signed into law several constitutional amendments passed by Congress. These include eliminating the positions of appointed senators and senators for life, granting the President authority to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, and reducing the presidential term from six to four years.
Chile elects its President by popular vote for a four-year term. The President appoints the cabinet.
The current President of the country, Michelle Bachelet, won 53.49% of the vote in a run-off election on 15 January 2006 and was sworn in as President on March 11, 2006. This was Chile’s fourth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All four have been judged free and fair. The President is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms.
The bicameral National Congress (Congreso Nacional) consists of the Senate (Senado) and the Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados).
Chile's congressional elections are governed by a unique binomial system that rewards coalition slates. Each coalition can present two candidates for the two Senate and two lower-chamber seats apportioned to each chamber's electoral districts. Typically, the two largest coalitions split the seats in a district. Only if the leading coalition ticket outpolls the second-place coalition by a margin of more than 2-to-1 does the winning coalition gain both seats. The political parties with the largest representation in the current Chilean Congress are the centrist Christian Democrat Party and the conservative Independent Democratic Union (Union Democrata Independiente). The Communist Party and the small Humanist Party failed to gain any seats in the 1998 elections.
The Senate is made up of 38 members elected from regions or subregions which serve approximately eight-year terms.
The Chamber of Deputies has 120 members, who are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The last congressional elections were held in December 11, 2006. The next congressional elections are scheduled for December 2009.
Since 1987 the Congress operates in the port city of Valparaiso, about 110 kilometers northwest of the capital, Santiago. However some commissions are allowed to meet in other places, especially Santiago. Congressional members have tried repeatedly to relocate the Congress back to Santiago, where it operated until the 1973, but these attempts have not been successful. The last attempt was in 2000, when the project was rejected by the Constitutional Court, because it allocated funds from the national budget, which, under the Chilean Constitution, is a privilege of the President.
Chile's judiciary is independent and includes a court of appeal, a system of military courts, a constitutional tribunal, and the Supreme Court. The judges on the Supreme Court or Corte Suprema are appointed by the president and ratified by the Senate from lists of candidates provided by the court itself. The president of the Supreme Court is elected by the 21-member court.
Chile's legal system is civil law based. It is primarily based on the Civil code of 1855, derived from Spanish law and subsequent codes influenced by European law of the last half of the 19th Century. Chile provides for a very limited judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court. It does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
From the year 2000 onward, Chile completely overhauled its criminal justice system; a new, US-style adversarial system has been gradually implemented throughout the country until June 2001.