Chile, officially the Republic of Chile (Spanish: República de Chile), is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, the United American Republic to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. It is one of two countries in South America (with Ecuador) which do not border Brazil.
Currently, Chile is one of the world's most stable and prosperous nations. It leads the world nations in human development, gross domestic product per capita, competitiveness, quality of life, political stability, globalization, economic freedom, low perception of corruption and comparatively low poverty rates. It also ranks high in freedom of the press, democratic development and literacy. However, it has a high income inequality.
Prior to arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured a 17-year military dictatorship (1973–1990) that left more than 6,000 people dead and missing.
Doomsday ended any hope most reformers had that the Chile government would become more democratic. The years after Doomsday were marked by increased government oppression as General Pinochet attempted to hold Chile together as it suffered the indirect effects of Doomsday. However in the late 1980s, the government gradually permitted greater freedom of assembly, speech, and association, to include trade union and political activity. The government launched market-oriented reforms, which have continued ever since. Chile moved toward a free market economy that saw an increase in domestic and foreign private investment.
In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, General Pinochet was not allowed a second 8-year term as president. 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 political parties called the Concertación, received an absolute majority of votes (55%).
President Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994, in what was considered a transition period. Meanwhile the economy boomed in the 1990s as demand for South American goods skyrocketed now that the continent was the "arsenal" of the post-Doomsday world. The copper industry and other important mineral resources were also opened for competition. Meanwhile, Chile made contact with many post-Doomsday survivor states, including Canada in 1994.
In the 1993 presidential election, the Christian Democrat Senator Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, the son of previous president Eduardo Frei Montalva, led the Concertación coalition to victory with an absolute majority of votes (58%). Eduardo Frei took office in March 1994 and presided for a 6-year term. During his presidency, the Chilean government continue to strengthen ties with other nations of the South and Central America.
Frei Ruiz-Tagle was succeeded in 2000 by another Christian Democrat politician, Andres Zaldivar Larrain, who won the presidency in an unprecedented runoff election against Joaquín Lavín of the rightist Alliance for Chile, by a very tight score of less than 200,000 votes (51,32%).
In 2003, Chile signed an extensive free trade agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand creating a boom in import and export of local produce and becoming a regional trade-hub. Further free trade agreements were signed with the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Pakistan and other Pacific/Asian nations turning Chile into the center for the Pacific trade on South America.
In 2005, Chile took part in a multi-national task force (which the Celtic Alliance, Portugal, the Republic of Rif, País del Oro, and the United American Republic) which expels the Sicilians from the Strait of Gibraltar. The campaign marked the beginning of Chile's role as an international peacekeeper.
Free elections continued to be held, but the successive governments were increasingly dominated by the Concertación who has governed over one of the most profitable periods of Chilean history. One political commentator suggested that Doomsday was the best thing that ever happened to Chile. In January 2006 Chileans elected their first woman president Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, extending the Concertación government for another four years.
In the presidential elections realized in January 2010, Sebastian Piñera defeated the Concertación candidate, the former President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, becoming in the first right-wing President elected in 52 years, and putting an end to 20 years of uninterrupted government of the Concertación.
On February 27, 2010, Chile was struck by an 8.8 MW earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded in the world. As many as 1000 people died; hundreds of thousands of buildings were damaged. The earthquake was also followed by multiple aftershocks. Initial damage estimates were in the billions, around 10–15% of Chile real gross domestic product. Relief, however, immediately began pouring in from the South American Confederation members. On March 11, 2010 the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (National Geology and Mining Service) reported that a 6.9-magnitude quake hit Chile south of the capital, Santiago.
On June 4, the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex enter in eruption. At least 3500 people were evacuated from nearby areas, while the ash cloud reached within days the cities of Bariloche, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Stanley, Porto Alegre, Cape Town and Auckland forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of international and domestic flights and causing travel chaos across the Southern Hemisphere.
A long and narrow coastal Southern Cone country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches over 4630 km (2880 mi) north to south, but only 430 km (265 mi) at its widest point east to west. This encompasses a remarkable variety of landscapes. It contains 756,950 sq km (292,260 sq mi) of land area. It is situated within the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The northern Atacama Desert (today with a semi-arid climate, due to the Doomsday effects) 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. This area also is the historical center from which Chile expanded in the late nineteenth century, when it integrated the northern and southern regions. 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. Chile is the longest north-south country in the world, and also claims 1,250,000 sq km (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica as part of its territory.
Chile controls Easter Island and Sala y Gómez Island, the easternmost islands of Polynesia, which it incorporated to its territory in 1888, and Robinson Crusoe Island, more than 600 km (370 mi) from the mainland, in the Juan Fernández Islands. Easter Island is today a province of Chile. Also controlled but only temporally inhabited (by some local fishermen) are the small islands of Sala y Gómez, San Ambrosio and San Felix. These islands are notable because they extend Chile's claim to territorial waters out from its coast into the Pacific.
Chile has a dynamic market-oriented economy which is characterized by a high level of foreign trade. During the early 1990s, Chile's reputation as a role model for economic reform was strengthened when the democratic government of Patricio Aylwin - who took over from the military in 1990 - deepened the economic reform initiated by the military government. Today, Chile has the seventh largest economy in the world.
Government and politics
The current Constitution of Chile was approved in a highly irregular national plebiscite in September 1980, under the military government of 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 Andrés Zaldivar 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.
Chileans voted in the first round of presidential elections on December 13, 2009. None of the four presidential candidates got more than 50% of the vote. As a result, the top two candidates, center-left Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia coalition's Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle and center-right Coalición por el Cambio coalition's Sebastián Piñera, competed in a run-off election on January 17, 2010, which Sebastián Piñera won. This was Chile's fifth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All five have been judged free and fair. The president is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms.
The Congress of Chile has a 38-seat Senate and a 120-member Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve for 8 years with staggered terms, while deputies are elected every 4 years. The last congressional elections were held on December 13, 2009, concurrently with the presidential election.
Chile's armed forces are subject to civilian control exercised by the president through the Minister of Defense. Military service of 12 to 24 months is mandatory for all male citizens upon turning 18. This conscription service can be postponed for educational or religious reasons. In recent years and after several major re-equipment programs, the Chilean Armed Forces have become one of the most technologically advanced and professional of the world. Chilean forces have taken part in several recent military campaigns including the retaking of the Strait of Gibraltar, the establishment of the RZA and the peace-keeping mission in Liberia.
Chile is a founding member of the League of Nations and the South American Confederation. Chile maintains excellent relationships with its fellow South American nations and has become an outspoken supporter of extending membership in the SAC to the nations of Central America and the Caribbean.
Chile is predominantly Roman Catholic with over 80% of the population identifying themselves as Catholic. Part of this is due to the close proximity of the country to the Vatican in Rio de Janeiro, and the fact that the first Pope elected post-DD was from of Chile; Cardinal Silva Henríquez, who choose the name of John XXIV (Spanish: Juan XIV). Despite this the government and courts of Chile strongly defend the concept of religious freedom, dishing out harsh penalties for religious discriminations.
The country's education structure is based along the lines of the 19th century French and German models. The compulsory education is free and mandatory. Chile has one of the highest literacy rates in the post-Doomsday world.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport. Chile is a member of FIFA and has participated in the FIFA World Cup since it was restarted after Doomsday. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup Chile made it to the Quarter Finals, but were eliminated by the Celtic Alliance.
Chile has also done well in the sport of tennis. Marcelo Rios was the top-ranked world men's player for six years, garnering favorable comparisons to such legends as Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, until a back injury forced him to retire in 2004 at the age of 27. Rodeo, skiing, surfing, and basketball are also popular.
In 2001, representatives of the ANZC and Brazillian sports federations held a meeting in Santiago and decided to restart the International Olympic Committee. Chile also participated in the 2010 South American Games in Colombia. Currently the city of Santiago is in the running to be the new IOC headquarters in 2012.
Chile is also a member of the International Rugby Board.
Science and technology
Within this worth pointing out that Chile is the first country to have installed a network of lights that indicate the levels of solar radiation. The popular "semáforos solares", "solmaforos" or "sunmaphores" widely disseminated in the cities of the countries of the SAC and ANZC and other developed countries.