Fact Sheet

 
 

REPUBLIC OF CHILE

 

BACKGROUND

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Inca ruled northern Chile while the indigenous Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880’s that the Machupe Indians were completely subjugated. After a series of elected governments, the 3-year old Marxist government of Salvador Allende as overthrown in 1973 by a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet, who ruled until a freely elected president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980’s, have contributed to steady growth; reduced poverty rates by over half, and had helped secure the country’s commitment democratic and representative government.

LOCATION

Southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru. Bordering countries: Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

Geography Note: Strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage). Atacama Desert is one of the world’s driest regions.

Natural hazards include severe earthquakes, tsunamis and over 36 active volcanoes.

AREA

756,102 sq km. Slightly smaller than twice the size of Montana.

CAPITAL GOVERNMENT

Santiago Republic

POPULATION

16,888,760 (July 2011 est.)

CURRENCY

Chilean pesos (CLP)

 

ECONOMY

Chile has a market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade and a reputation for strong financial institutions resulting in the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America. Exports account for more than one-fourth of GDP, with commodities making up three-quarters of total exports. Copper alone provides one-third of government revenue. Since 1999, growth has averaged 4% per year. Chile deepened its longstanding commitment to trade liberalization with the signing of a free trade agreement with the U.S. - 1 January 2004. Chile has 57 free bilateral or regional trade agreements. In May 2010 Chile became the fist South American country to join the OECD as a full member. The GDP grew more than 5% in 2010. Chile achieved this growth despite the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile in February 2010, which was one of the top ten strongest earthquakes on record. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis it generated caused considerable damage near the epicenter (70 miles from Concepcion). The Chilean Ministry of Finance estimates the total immediate losses were close to 17% of GDP.

AGRICULTURE

Grapes, apples, pears, onion, wheat, corn, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, beans, beef, poultry, wool, fish, timber

NATURAL RESOURCES

Copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdeum, hydropower

INDUSTRIES

Copper, lithium, other minerals, foodstuffs, fish processing, iron and steel, wood and wood products, transport equipment, cement, textiles

LANGUAGE

Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English

ETHNIC GROUPS

White and white-Amerindian 95.4%, Mapuche 4%, other indigenous groups .6%

RELIGIONS

Roman Catholic 70%, Evangelical 15.1%, Jehovah Witness 1.1 %, other Christian 1%, other 4.6%, none 8.3%

NATIONAL HOLIDAY

Independence Day - 18 September (1810) from Spain


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