Countries of the world


August 1, 2012, 11:03 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
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Glacial meltwater at Torres del Paine National Park. @ C.Michael Hogan

Chile is a nation of seventeen million people in South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru.

The country of Chile encompasses an extensive latitude span, ranging from the warm clime of the Atacama Desert in the north, Chilean matorral with a Mediterranean climate in the center to gelid ice sheet covered terrain of the Andean spine and further south to the Darwin Ice Sheet of Tierra del Fuego.


The northern Chilean desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper, but also gold, potash, and lithium salts.

The central area dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area also is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions.

Southern Chile is rich in forests and 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.

Also part of Chile is Easter Island, one of the most remote locations on Earth, is more than 3200 kilometers (2000 miles) from the closest populations on Tahiti or Chile.

The nation's major environmental issues include:

Chile has a strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage).

The Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions.

The crater lake of Ojos del Salado is the worlds highest lake (at 6,390m).

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile.

Although Chile declared its 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 Mapuche Indians were completely subjugated.

After a series of elected governments, a three-year-old Marxist government of Salvador Allende was 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 1980s, have contributed to steady growth, reduced poverty rates by over half, and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government.

Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles befitting its status as a stable democratic nation.


Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru

Geographic Coordinates: 30 00 S, 71 00 W

Area: 756,950 sq km (748,800 sq km of land, 8,150 sq km of water) . Note: includes Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) and Isla Sala y Gomez

arable land: 2.62%
permanent crops: 0.43%
other: 96.95% (2005) 

Land Boundaries:  6,339 km (Argentina 5,308 km, Bolivia 860 km, Peru 171 km)

Coastline: 6435 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200/350 nm

Natural Hazards: Severe earthquakes; active volcanism; tsunamis.

Volcanism: Chile experiences significant volcanic activity due to the more than three-dozen active volcanoes situated within the Andes Mountains; Lascar (elev. 5,592 m), which last erupted in 2007, is the most active volcano in the northern Chilean Andes.  Llaima (elev. 3,125 m) in central Chile, which last erupted in 2009, is another of the country's most active. Chaiten's 2008 eruption forced major evacuations; other notable historically active volcanoes include Cerro Hudson, Copahue, Guallatiri, Llullaillaco, Nevados de Chillan, Puyehue, San Pedro, and Villarrica

Terrain: The topography includes low coastal mountains; fertile central valley; rugged Andes in east. The highest point is Nevado Ojos del Salado (6880 m).

Climate: Temperate; desert in north; Mediterranean in central region; cool and damp in south.

Topography of Chile. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ecology and Biodiversity

The richest and most diverse region on Earth, the Tropical Andes stretches into northern Chile. 

A virtual continental island bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Andes Mountains on the east, and the Atacama Desert in the north, the Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests biodiversity hotspot harbors richly endemic flora and fauna. The hotspot encompasses about 40 percent of Chile’s land area and includes the offshore islands of San Félix and San Ambrosio and the Juan Fernández Islands.

The Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests Hotspot represents the crossroads of two major floristic and faunistic regions: the Neotropical and ancient Gondwanan provinces. The influence of past geographical links between South America and other southern lands, such as Australia, is evident in the hotspot’s high plant endemism.

Of the nearly 4,000 vascular plants found in this hotspot, about half are endemic. These numbers represent about three-quarters of all Chilean plant species and endemics in only 40 percent of the land area.

Characteristically, birds are not very well represented in this hotspot. The region's bird diversity includes just over 225 species. There are a dozen endemic bird species here, including three breeding species of petrel, and the region is considered a priority Endemic Bird Area by Birdlife International.

Mammal endemism is relatively low, with almost 70 species and only 15 endemics.

Endemism levels for both reptiles and amphibians are high. About two-thirds of the hotspot’s more than 40 reptile species are endemic. Around three-quarters of the more than 40 amphibian species in the hotspot are endemic.

Although the hotspot has a relatively small fish fauna, with only just over 40 native species, it has a remarkable two endemic families: the mountain catfishes (Nematogenyidae) and the perch-like fishes of the genus Percilia (family Perciliidae). Nearly 20 percent of the region’s fish species are relicts of Gondwanan groups and are also found in southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

The ecosystems of the Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests face severe pressure from human activities and development. Chile has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America and is still strongly dependent on natural resources. Most of the major threats are concentrated in the Mediterranean subunit in the southern part of the hotspot, where a high percentage of the Chilean population lives today.

Chile's Pan de Azucar National Park protects not merely coastal marine habitat, but also cacti of the Atacama Desert. Within Chile's Elqui Valley, aggressive expansion of fruit tree and vineyard planting have decimated previously rich populations of Copiapoa and Eulychnia cacti.

There are numerous protected areas of Chile.

Chile has eight ecoregions that occur entirely or partly within its borders on the mainland and three ecorgions offshore:

  1. Sechura desert
  2. Atacama desert
  3. Central Andean dry puna
  4. Chilean matorral
  5. Southern Andean steppe
  6. Valdivian temperate forests
  7. Patagonoan steppe
  8. Magellanic subpolar forests

Off the mainland:

  1. San Félix-San Ambrosio Islands temperate forests
  2. Juan Fernández Islands temperate forests
  3. Rapa Nui and Sala-y-Gomez subtropical broadleaf forests

Chile is bordered by the Humboldt Current large marine ecosystem.

Source: World Wildlife Fund.

People and Society

Population: 17,067,369 (July 2012 est.)

About 85% of Chile's population lives in urban areas; greater Santiago is home to more than six million people and dominates Chile's political and economic institutions. Chile is a multiethnic society, and a majority of the population can claim some European ancestry, mainly Spanish (Castilian, Andalusian, and Basque), but also German, Italian, Irish, French, British, Swiss, and Croatian, in various combinations. A small yet influential number of Irish and English immigrants came to Chile during the colonial period. German immigration began in the mid-1800s and continued into the 20th century; the southern provinces of Valdivia, Llanquihue, and Osorno show a strong German influence. In addition, there are a significant number of Middle Eastern, mainly Palestinian, immigrants and their descendants. About 800,000 Native Americans, mostly Mapuche, reside in the south-central area. The Aymara, Atacameno, and Diaguita groups can be found mainly in Chile's northern desert valleys and oases. Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is home to the Rapa Nui, an indigenous population.

Ethnic groups: white and white-Amerindian 95.4%, Mapuche 4%, other indigenous groups 0.6% (2002 census)

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 22.3% (male 1,928,210/female 1,840,839)
15-64 years: 68.1% (male 5,751,091/female 5,744,014)
65 years and over: 9.6% (male 680,450/female 944,156) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 0.884% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 14.28 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 5.79 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: 0.35 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 78.1 years

male: 75.08 years
female: 81.25 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English

Literacy:  95.7%  (2002 census)

Urbanization: 89% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 1.1% (2010-15 est.)


About 10,000 years ago, migrating indigenous peoples settled in fertile valleys and along the coast of what is now Chile. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now central Chile, but the northern area's barrenness prevented extensive settlement. The first Europeans to arrive in Chile were Diego de Almagro and his band of Spanish conquistadors, who came from Peru seeking gold in 1536. The Spanish encountered hundreds of thousands of Indians from various cultures in the area that modern Chile now occupies. These cultures supported themselves principally through slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, and fishing. 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 reimpose 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 Argentine 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. Toward the end of the 19th century, the government in Santiago consolidated its position in the south by suppressing the indigenous Mapuche. In 1881, it 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 and acquired valuable nitrate deposits, the exploitation of which led to an era of national affluence. Chile established a parliamentary democracy in the late 19th century, but this degenerated into a system protecting the interests of the ruling oligarchy. By the 1920s, the emerging middle and working classes were powerful enough to elect a reformist president, whose program was frustrated by a conservative congress. A new constitution that gave heightened power to the executive and formally separated church and state went into effect 1925. In the 1920s, Marxist groups with strong popular support arose.

Continuing political and economic instability resulted with the rule of the quasi-dictatorial General Carlos Ibanez (1927-32). When constitutional rule was restored in 1932, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. It became the key force in coalition governments for the next 20 years. During the period of Radical Party dominance (1932-52), the state increased its role in the economy.

The 1964 presidential election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva by an absolute majority initiated a period of major reform. Under the slogan "Revolution in Liberty," the Frei administration embarked on far-reaching social and economic programs, particularly in education, housing, and agrarian reform, including rural unionization of agricultural workers. By 1967, however, Frei encountered increasing opposition from leftists, who charged that his reforms were inadequate, and from conservatives, who found them excessive. At the end of his term, Frei had accomplished many noteworthy objectives, but he had not fully achieved his party's ambitious goals. In 1970, Senator Salvador Allende, a Marxist and member of Chile's Socialist Party, who headed the "Popular Unity" (UP) coalition of socialists, communists, radicals, and dissident Christian Democrats, won a plurality of votes in a three-way contest and was named President by the Chilean Congress. His program included the nationalization of private industries and banks, acceleration of agrarian reform and land expropriation, and collectivization. Allende's program also included the nationalization of U.S. interests in Chile's major copper mines.

Elected with only 36% of the vote and by a plurality of only 36,000 votes, Allende never enjoyed majority support in the Chilean Congress. Not all of his coalition’s members agreed on his “Chilean Road to Socialism,” and some pushed for more radical measures. Domestic production declined; severe shortages of consumer goods, food, and manufactured products were widespread; and inflation reached 1,000% per annum. Mass demonstrations, recurring strikes, violence by both government supporters and opponents, and widespread rural unrest ensued in response to the general deterioration of the economy. By 1973, Chilean society had split into two hostile camps.

A military coup overthrew Allende on September 11, 1973. As the armed forces bombarded the presidential palace, Allende reportedly committed suicide. A military government, led by General Augusto Pinochet, took over control of the country. The regime was marked by serious human rights violations and the stifling of civil liberties and political expression. Through a new authoritarian constitution, approved by a plebiscite on September 11, 1980, General Pinochet became President of the Republic for an 8-year term. In its later years, the regime gradually permitted greater freedom of assembly, speech, and association, to include trade union activity. In contrast to its authoritarian political rule, the military government pursued decidedly laissez-faire economic policies. During its 16 years in power, Chile moved away from economic statism toward a largely free market economy that fostered an increase in domestic and foreign private investment. In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, Chileans voted for elections to choose a new president and the majority of members of a two-chamber congress, denying General Pinochet a second 8-year term as president. On December 14, 1989, Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 political parties called the Concertacion, was elected president. Pinochet remained as commander-in-chief of the Army until 1998, when he became senator for life. Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994 and was succeeded by another Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (son of Frei Montalva), leading the same coalition, for a 6-year term. Ricardo Lagos Escobar of the Socialist Party and the Party for Democracy led the Concertacion to a narrower victory in the 2000 presidential elections. His term ended on March 11, 2006, when President Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, took office for a 4-year term.

In 2010, center-right Alianza coalition candidate Sebastian Pinera’s inauguration marked the first time the Concertacion had not held the presidency since the return to democracy in 1990. President Pinera’s inauguration came less than 2 weeks after a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake (at that time, the fifth-largest ever recorded) that struck Chile on February 27, 2010. The earthquake and its aftershocks were felt throughout the central part of Chile, home to 75% of the population. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis caused considerable damage in the two regions nearest the epicenter about 70 miles from Concepcion (200 miles southwest of Santiago); over 500 people were killed, hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged, and nearly two million people were affected. By 2011, the economy had recovered from the effects of the earthquake, and most of the damaged infrastructure was restored. In certain areas heavily affected by the earthquake, some groups expressed concern about the availability of permanent housing.

Chile achieved global recognition for the successful rescue of 33 trapped miners in 2010. On August 5, 2010 the access tunnel collapsed at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo in northern Chile, trapping 33 men 700 meters (2,300 ft.) below ground. A rescue effort organized by the Chilean Government located the miners 17 days later. All 33 men were brought to the surface on October 13, 2010, over a period of almost 24 hours, an effort that was carried on live television around the world.


Chile's Constitution was approved in a September 1980 national plebiscite. 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 included the elimination of the positions of appointed senators and senators for life, the granting of authority to the President to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, and the reduction of the presidential term from 6 to 4 years.

Presidential and congressional elections were held December 2009. In the first round of presidential elections, none of the four presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote. As a result, the top two vote-getters--center-left Concertacion coalition's Eduardo Frei and center-right Alianza coalition's Sebastian Pinera--competed in a run-off election on January 17, 2010, which Pinera 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. President Pinera and the new members of Congress took office on March 11, 2010.

Chile has a bicameral Congress, which meets in the port city of Valparaiso, about 140 kilometers (84 mi.) west of the capital, Santiago. Deputies are elected every 4 years, and senators serve 8-year terms. Chile's congressional elections are governed by a unique binomial system that rewards coalition slates. Each coalition can run two candidates for the two Senate and two Deputy seats apportioned to each electoral district. Historically, the two largest coalitions (Concertacion and Alianza) split most of the seats in a district. Only if the leading coalition ticket out-polls the second-place coalition by a margin of more than 2-to-1 does the winning coalition gain both seats.

All 120 Chamber of Deputies seats were up for election in December 2009 congressional elections. Alianza won 58, with Concertacion taking 54, Communists and Independent Regionalist Party each winning three, and independents winning two. In the Senate, where half of the 38 seats were up for election, Concertacion regained a slim majority and has 19 seats to Alianza’s 17, with independents holding the remaining two.

Government Type:  Republic

Capital: Santiago - 5.883 million (2009)

Other Major Cities: Valparaiso 865,000 (2009)

Administrative divisions: 15 regions (regiones, singular - region);

  1. Tarapaca,
  2. Antofagasta,
  3. Atacama,
  4. Coquimbo,
  5. Valparaiso
  6. Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins,
  7. Maule,
  8. Biobio,
  9. Araucania,
  10. Los Lagos,
  11. Aisen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo,
  12. Magallanes y de la Antartica Chilena,
  13. RM Region Metropolitana (Santiago),
  14. Los Rios,
  15. Arica y Parinacota,
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica

Independence Date: 18 September 1810 (from Spain)

Legal System:   civil law system influenced by several West European civil legal systems; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court.  Chile has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; but accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction. Chile's judiciary is independent and includes civil, criminal, family and labor courts, courts of appeal, a system of military courts, a constitutional tribunal, and the Supreme Court. In June 2005, Chile completed a nation-wide overhaul of its criminal justice system. The reform replaced inquisitorial proceedings with an adversarial system, similar to that of the United States.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

International Environmental Agreements

Chile is party to the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling.

Chile is a constructive participant in international talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, supporting the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Cancun Agreements in 2010. The country also pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 (from a 2007 base).


Chile has limited domestic energy resources. As a result, the country must import the bulk of its energy needs. Chile's growing reliance on energy imports, particularly on natural gas, has not been without consequences. In April 2004, Argentina began restricting natural gas exports to Chile, with cuts reaching nearly 50 percent of contracted volumes on some days. Chile, in turn, began to reconsider its energy policy, which, prior to the import restrictions, had assumed an increased use of natural gas and power imports from Argentina. Most importantly, Chile has begun to pursue other sources of natural gas, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or piped gas from other countries.

If Chile meets its stated goal of 6% annual economic growth, its energy demand could nearly double by 2020. While the economy as a whole is expanding, providing energy to the booming mining sector (investments up to $100 billion over 10 years) is particularly challenging. Chile has considerable hydroelectric resources, but relies on imported hydrocarbons to meet approximately 70% of its energy needs. Chile reduced previous dependence on imported gas from Argentina by completing two liquefied natural gas (LNG) re-gasification terminals. Chile is increasing thermoelectric capacity and exploring the option of civil nuclear energy.

A drought in 2010-2011 has reduced hydroelectric production and raised concerns about electricity rationing. Longer term, Chile is exploring tapping into its considerable renewable energy sources, pursuing solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and biomass projects, and looking to collaborate on energy with other countries in the region and beyond.

See Energy profile of Chile for more information.


Chile has pursued sound economic policies for nearly three decades. 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, including one state-owned bank--Banco Estado. Chile joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, the first South American nation to do so.

Chile is strongly committed to free trade and has welcomed large amounts of foreign investment. The business climate is generally straightforward and transparent. Chile's sound, market-oriented policies have created significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate in the country's steady economic growth. Foreign investors receive treatment similar to Chilean nationals in nearly all sectors. There are generally no special exemptions or incentives for foreign investment as a matter of policy. A broad political consensus on the advantages of foreign investment means that Chile's policies toward foreign direct investment are unlikely to change. The country has trade agreements with 60 countries, including a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, which was signed in 2003 and implemented in January 2004. The United States and Chile are participating in trade negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with seven other nations.

Chile's overall trade profile has traditionally been dependent upon copper exports. The state-owned firm CODELCO is the world's largest copper-producing company, with recorded copper reserves of 200 years. Several large Chilean and international private copper companies also operate in Chile. Chile has made an effort to expand nontraditional exports. The most important non-mineral exports are forestry and wood products, fresh fruit and processed food, fishmeal and seafood, and wine. In 2010 total exports were $69.6 billion, an important increase from 2009 ($53.7 billion) due mainly to cooper prices. Imports increased from $39.7 billion in 2009 to $54.5 billion in 2010, driven in large part by higher petroleum prices. In 2010, China was Chile’s largest export market, followed by Japan, the United States, Brazil, and the Netherlands. Chile’s most important sources of imports are the United States, China, Brazil, Argentina, and South Korea.

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. Net foreign direct investment in Chile in 2010 was $18.2 billion, up 43% over 2009.

Chile's Government received high marks from economists and its citizens for its countercyclical spending in 2009 (financed largely from saved copper revenues) to offset the effects of the global economic crisis. Chile has emerged from the recession that resulted from the global economic downturn as well as the economic dislocation caused by the February 2010 earthquake. Economic growth was 1.5% in 2009 and 5.2% in 2010; the economy is expected to grow around 6.5% in 2011.

During the early 1990s, Chile's reputation as a role model for economic reform was strengthened when the democratic government of Patricio Aylwin - which took over from the military in 1990 - deepened the economic reform initiated by the military government.

Since 1999, growth has averaged 4% per year.

The government is required by law to run a fiscal surplus of at least 1% of GDP; however, this rule was changed to 0.5% of GDP in 2008, and waived for 2009, given the pressures from the global economic crisis. The government had a structural deficit of 1.2% in 2010.

Unemployment reached almost 11% in mid-2009; however, it averaged 8% in 2010. Wages have risen faster than inflation as a result of higher productivity, boosting national living standards. The percentage of Chileans with incomes below the poverty line--defined as twice the cost of satisfying a family of four's minimal nutritional needs--fell from 46% in 1987 to around 18% by 2005; since 2006, the percentage of Chileans below the poverty level had been between 13% and 14%, but the economic downturn drove these numbers back up over 15% in 2009.

Chile's independent Central Bank currently pursues an inflation target of 3%. In 2007, inflation inched toward 8%--the first time inflation had exceeded 5% since 1998. In 2008, inflation increased further, hitting a high of 9.9% in October 2008, before moving lower again at the end of the year. In 2009 and 2010, inflation in Chile decreased to between 2% and 2.7%--within the Central Bank’s target range.

The Chilean peso floats freely. However, the Chilean Central Bank has made significant purchases in the foreign-exchange market on occasion in recent years to mitigate the effects of the peso’s appreciation. In March 2008, the Central Bank began a program of buying dollars to slow the appreciation of the peso, and then suspended those operations in November 2008 when the peso depreciated significantly because of the global financial crisis. The peso strengthened 8.4% in 2010, and in January 2011, the Central Bank announced it would purchase $12 billion in reserves over 2011 to slow the appreciation of the peso.

The Chilean Government estimated that the February 27, 2010, earthquake and tsunamis destroyed 3% of Chile’s capital stock and cost around $30 billion, more than 17% of Chile’s GDP. The government spent several hundred million dollars on emergency relief measures and committed an initial $8.4 billion for reconstruction focused in four main areas: rebuilding homes, reconstructing schools, restoring public infrastructure, and providing health care in heavily affected areas. Chile has made significant progress on rebuilding infrastructure (roads, bridges, potable water) and schools since the earthquake.

Chile deepened its longstanding commitment to trade liberalization with the signing of a free trade agreement with the US, which took effect on 1 January 2004. Chile claims to have more bilateral or regional trade agreements than any other country. It has 59 such agreements (not all of them full free trade agreements), including with the European Union, Mercosur, China, India, South Korea, and Mexico.

Over the past seven years, foreign direct investment inflows have quadrupled to some $15 billion in 2010, but FDI had dropped to about $7 billion in 2009 in the face of diminished investment throughout the world.

The Chilean government conducts a rule-based countercyclical fiscal policy, accumulating surpluses in sovereign wealth funds during periods of high copper prices and economic growth, and allowing deficit spending only during periods of low copper prices and growth.

As of November 2011, those sovereign wealth funds - kept mostly outside the country and separate from Central Bank reserves - amounted to more than $18 billion. Chile used this fund to finance fiscal stimulus packages during the 2009 economic downturn.

In December 2009, the OECD invited Chile to become a full member, after a two year period of compliance with organization mandates, and in May 2010 Chile signed the OECD Convention, becoming the first South American country to join the OECD.

The economy started to show signs of a rebound in the fourth quarter of 2009, and GDP grew more than 5% in 2010 and more than 6% in 2011.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $281 billion (2011 est.)

GDP: (Official Exchange Rate):  $243 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $16,100 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 5.1%
industry: 41.8%
services: 53.1% (2010 est.)

Industries: copper, other minerals, foodstuffs, fish processing, iron and steel, wood and wood products, transport equipment, cement, textiles

Natural Resources: copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdenum, hydropower

Currency: Chilean Peso

International Disputes:

Chile and Peru rebuff Bolivia's reinvigorated claim to restore the Atacama corridor, ceded to Chile in 1884, but Chile has offered instead unrestricted but not sovereign maritime access through Chile to Bolivian gas and other commodities.

Chile rejects Peru's unilateral legislation to change its latitudinal maritime boundary with Chile to an equidistance line with a southwestern axis favoring Peru. In October 2007, Peru took its maritime complaint with Chile to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Chile has a territorial claim in Antarctica (Chilean Antarctic Territory) which partially overlaps Argentine and British claims.

The joint boundary commission, established by Chile and Argentina in 2001, has yet to map and demarcate the delimited boundary in the inhospitable Andean Southern Ice Field (Campo de Hielo Sur).




Agency, C., & Department, U. (2012). Chile. Retrieved from


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