Chile

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Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the southwestern part of South America occupying a long and narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Southern Cone, and now the MERCOSUR free trade arrangement. Countries that border Chile are Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. The island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is a special territory of Chile. Chile also has territorial claims in Antarctica.

History

The area where Chile now is located was populated by indigenous people possibly 10,000 years ago.

In 1520, the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, sighted what is now known as the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile. Diego de Almagro and his band of Spanish conquistadors came from Peru in 1535 seeking gold.

Bernardo O'Higgins, a revered figure in Chilean history, crossed the Andes mountains in 1818, defeated Spanish colonial rule and declared independence.

Sentinel events in Chilean history include the War of the Pacific between 1879-1883, which resulted in expansion of national territory in the north. In the War of the Pacific, Chile fought against the united opponents of Peru and Bolivia. As a result of the War, Chile won significant coastal territories, leaving Bolivia landlocked.

The twentieth century in Chile was rife with conflict and political and economic upheaval. During the 1950s and 1960s the growth of the Chilean Socialist Party paved the way for the election of leftist President Salvador Allende in 1970. The following years resulted in a serious economic crisis, as well as debatable involvement of the CIA in the overthrow of the President. On September 11, 1973, military General Augusto Pinochet led a coup against Allende and succeeded in overthrowing his administration, resulting in Allende's death and Pinochet's appointment as President of Chile. In 1975, on Pinochet's birthday, the regional Operation Condor was created, a collaboration among military dictatorships of the region.

General Pinochet led the country as President and dictator from 1973-1990, when democratic rule was reinstated in Chile. His lengthy administration was marked by significant human rights abuses, curtailment of civil liberties of the peoples of Chile, and the implementation of severe punishment against political opponents.

Politics

Patricio Aylwin became the first post-Pinochet democratic president in 1990.

Sebastian Pinera was inaugurated as president in March 2010, minutes after severe earthquakes. He succeeded Michelle Bachelet, after winning a runoff election in January.

Allende and overthrow

After Pinochet

"Recognizing the still delicate status of democracy, the first Concertación administration allowed a 1978 amnesty law to remain in place, but established a National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation to investigate political disappearances and killings during the authoritarian period. The Commission’s recommendations led to the Chilean government awarding reparations to family members of those killed or disappeared." [1]

After being deposed as dictator, attempts were made numerous times to try Pinochet for the abuses for which his regime was responsible. These attempts however, repeatedly failed. Pinochet died of heart failure in the military hospital in Santiago in December 2006.

Former intelligence chief, retired General Manuel Contreras, was sentenced to two life prison terms in July 2008 for organizing the 1974 double assassination of General Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Contreras was already imprisoned as a result of convictions stemming from other dictatorship-era crimes, including the 1976 assassination of former Ambassador to the United States Orlando Letelier and his American associate, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington, DC.[2] Sergio Arellano Stark, the commander of the so-called “Caravan of Death” that executed 80 political prisoners of the dictatorship shortly after the coup in 1973, was sentenced to 6 years in prison in October 2008. [3]

Geography

Chile stretches laterally from Peru to Cape Horn. Due to Chile’s large land mass it has a variety of climates and topography. The entire country borders the sea on its west and the mountains on the east. Chile has the world’s driest desert, Atacama, in its northern hemisphere. In central Chile there are valleys for miles that are filled with vineyards as well as mountain parks and beaches. To the south there are forests, lakes and volcanoes that coexist by rivers and farmland.[4]

Chile is divided into 15 regions, each of which is headed by an intendant appointed by the President. Every region is further divided into provinces. Chile’s capital is Santiago and is an important business center for the country.

Economics

It is among the strongest economies in South America, the first to join the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The country has a market economy, listed as 10th in freedom worldwide by the Heritage Foundation;[5] exports account for 40% of GDP, with commodities making up some three-quarters of total exports — copper provides one third of the government's revenue. [6]

Severe earthquakes in March 2010, however, have disrupted the economy. To rebuild, the country may have to go to foreign borrowing, for the first time since 2004, and use its $15 billion reserve sovereign wealth funds. This is likely to disrupt the incoming president's campaign promise to move per-capita GNP into the ranks of developed countries.[7]

Religion

The people of Chile are predominantly Catholic but there are other religions practiced in the country.[8]

Tourism

Chile has many activities to offer such as: riding a horse around a volcano, visiting the desert, surfing waves, touring wineries, or staying at a relaxing spa for the day.

References

  1. Peter J. Meyer (10 December 2009), Chile: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress
  2. Helen Hughes & Jack Chang, “Ex-Chilean Intelligence Chief Gets 2 Life Sentences,” Miami Herald, July 1, 2008, quoted in Meyer
  3. “Condenan a General Chileno por Crímenes de ‘Caravana de la Muerte’,” Agencia Mexicana de Noticias, October 15, 2008. quoted in Meyer
  4. Hubbard, Carolyn, Brigitte Barta, and Jeff Davis. Chile & Easter Island. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 2003.
  5. 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation
  6. The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency
  7. "Quake Shakes Pinera’s Plan to Spur Chilean Economy (Update3)", Bloomberg Business News, 11 March 2010
  8. http://www.ine.cl/cd2002/sintesiscensal.pdf