INFORMATION ABOUT THE CHILE COUNTRY

Chile Facts

 

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Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

The arid Atacama Desert in northern Chile contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and 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.

Spain conquered and colonized Chile in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule in northern and central Chile, but failing to conquer the independent Mapuche who inhabited south-central Chile. After declaring its independence from Spain in 1818, Chile emerged in the 1830s as a relatively stable authoritarian republic. In the 19th century, Chile saw significant economic and territorial growth, ending Mapuche resistance in the 1880s and gaining its current northern territory in the War of the Pacific (1879–83) after defeating Peru and Bolivia. In the 1960s and 1970s the country experienced severe left-right political polarization and turmoil. This development culminated with the 1973 Chilean coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende’s democratically elected left-wing government and instituted a 16-year-long right-wing military dictatorship that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. The regime, headed by Augusto Pinochet, ended in 1990 after it lost a referendum in 1988 and was succeeded by a center-left coalition which ruled through four presidencies until 2010.

Chile is today one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high regionally in sustainability of the state, and democratic development. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Population: 17.95 million (2015)

Languages

The Spanish spoken in Chile is distinctively accented and quite unlike that of neighboring South American countries because final syllables and “s” sounds are often dropped, and some consonants have a soft pronunciation. Accent varies only very slightly from north to south; more noticeable are the differences in accent based on social class or whether one lives in the city or the country. That the Chilean population was largely formed in a small section at the center of the country and then migrated in modest numbers to the north and south helps explain this relative lack of differentiation, which was maintained by the national reach of radio, and now television, which also helps to diffuse and homogenize colloquial expressions.

There are several indigenous languages spoken in Chile: Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara and Rapa Nui. After the Spanish invasion, Spanish took over as the lingua franca and the indigenous languages have become minority languages, with some now extinct or close to extinction.

German is still spoken to some extent in southern Chile, either in small country side pockets or as a second language among the communities of larger cities.

Through initiatives such as the English Opens Doors Program, the government made English mandatory for students in fifth-grade and above in public schools. Most private schools in Chile start teaching English from kindergarten.Common English words have been absorbed and appropriated into everyday Spanish speech.

Currency

The Chilean Peso is the currency of Chile. Our currency rankings show that the most popular Chile Peso exchange rate is the USD to CLP rate. The currency code for Pesos is CLP, and the currency symbol is $. Below, you’ll find Chilean Peso rates and a currency converter.

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Geography

A long and narrow coastal Southern Cone country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,670 mi) north to south, but only 350 km (217 mi) at its widest point east to west. This encompasses a remarkable variety of climates and landscapes. It contains 756,950 square kilometres (292,260 sq mi) of land area. It is situated within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Excluding its Pacific islands and Antarctic claim, Chile lies between latitudes 17° and 56°S, and longitudes 66° and 75°W.

Chile is among the longest north-south countries in the world. If one considers only mainland territory, Chile is unique within this group in its narrowness from east to west, with the other long north-south countries (including Brazil, Russia, Canada, and the United States, among others) all being wider from east to west by a factor of more than 10. Chile also claims 1,250,000 km2 (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica as part of its territory (Chilean Antarctic Territory). However, this latter claim is suspended under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, of which Chile is a signatory. It is the world’s southernmost country that is geographically on the mainland.

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. Also controlled but only temporarily inhabited (by some local fishermen) are the small islands of 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 Ocean.

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. This area is also the historical center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th 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.

Climate

The diverse climate of Chile ranges from the world’s driest desert in the north—the Atacama Desert—through a Mediterranean climate in the center, humid subtropical in Easter Island, to an oceanic climate, including alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and south. According to the Köppen system, Chile within its borders hosts at least ten major climatic subtypes. 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).

Religion

As of 2012, 66.6% of Chilean population over 15 years of age claimed to be of Catholic creed – a decrease from the 70% reported by the 2002 census – while 17 percent reported adherence to an evangelical church. In the census, the term evangelical referred to all non-Catholic Christian churches with the exception of the Orthodox Church (Greek, Persian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and Armenian), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, essentially limiting it to the Protestants (although Adventism is often considered a part of it). Approximately 90 percent of Protestants (evangelicals) are Pentecostal. Wesleyan, Lutheran, Reformed Evangelical, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Baptist and Methodist churches are also present. Irreligious people, atheists, and agnostics account for around 12 percent of the population.

Currently in 2015, the majority religion in Chile is Christianity (68%), with an estimated 55% of Chileans belonging to the Catholic church, 13% Protestant or Evangelical and just 7% with any other religion. Agnostics and atheist are estimated at 25%.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Church and state are officially separate in Chile. The 1999 law on religion prohibits religious discrimination. However, the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status and occasionally receives preferential treatment[citation needed]. Government officials attend Catholic events as well as major Protestant and Jewish ceremonies.

The Government-observed religious holidays include Christmas, Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints’ Day, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as national holidays.The government has recently declared 31 October, Reformation Day, a public national holiday, in honor of the Protestant churches of the country.

The patron saints of Chile are Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint James the Greater (Santiago). In 2005, St. Alberto Hurtado was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and became the country’s second saint after St. Teresa de los Andes.

Economy

The Central Bank of Chile in Santiago serves as the central bank for the country. The Chilean currency is the Chilean peso (CLP). Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations, leading Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. Since July 2013, Chile is considered by the World Bank as a “high-income economy”.

Chile has the highest degree of economic freedom in South America (ranking 7th worldwide), owing to its independent and efficient judicial system and prudent public finance management. In May 2010 Chile became the first South American country to join the OECD. In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America.

Copper mining makes up 20% of Chilean GDP and 60% of exports. Escondida is the largest copper mine in the world, producing over 5% of global supplies. Overall, Chile produces a third of the world’s copper. Codelco, the state mining firm, competes with private ones.

Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady economic growth in Chile and have more than halved poverty rates. Chile began to experience a moderate economic downturn in 1999. The economy remained sluggish until 2003, when it began to show clear signs of recovery, achieving 4.0% GDP growth. The Chilean economy finished 2004 with growth of 6 percent. Real GDP growth reached 5.7 percent in 2005 before falling back to 4 percent in 2006. GDP expanded by 5 percent in 2007. Faced with an international economic downturn the government announced an economic stimulus plan to spur employment and growth, and despite the global financial crisis, aimed for an expansion of between 2 percent and 3 percent of GDP for 2009. Nonetheless, economic analysts disagreed with government estimates and predicted economic growth at a median of 1.5 percent. Real GDP growth in 2012 was 5.5%. Growth slowed to 4.1% in the first quarter of 2013.

The unemployment rate was 6.4% in April 2013. There are reported labor shortages in agriculture, mining, and construction. The percentage of Chileans with per capita household incomes below the poverty line—defined as twice the cost of satisfying a person’s minimal nutritional needs—fell from 45.1 percent in 1987 to 11.5 percent in 2009, according to government surveys.Critics in Chile, however, argue that true poverty figures are considerably higher than those officially published.  Using the relative yardstick favoured in many European countries, 27% of Chileans would be poor, according to Juan Carlos Feres of the ECLAC.

As of November 2012, about 11.1 million people (64% of the population) benefit from government welfare programs, via the “Social Protection Card”, which includes the population living in poverty and those at a risk of falling into poverty.

The privatized national pension system (AFP) has encouraged domestic investment and contributed to an estimated total domestic savings rate of approximately 21 percent of GDP.  Under the compulsory private pension system, most formal sector employees pay 10 percent of their salaries into privately managed funds. However, by 2009, it has been reported that had been lost from the pension system to the global financial crisis.

Chile has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with a whole network of countries, including an FTA with the United States that was signed in 2003 and implemented in January 2004. Internal Government of Chile figures show that even when factoring out inflation and the recent high price of copper, bilateral trade between the U.S. and Chile has grown over 60 percent since then. Chile’s total trade with China reached US in 2006, representing nearly 66 percent of the value of its trade relationship with Asia. Exports to Asia increased from US in 2005 to US in 2006, a 29.9 percent increase. Year-on-year growth in imports was especially strong from a number of countries: Ecuador (123.9%), Thailand (72.1%), South Korea (52.6%), and China (36.9%).

Chile’s approach to foreign direct investment is codified in the country’s Foreign Investment Law. Registration is reported to be simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital. The Chilean Government has formed a Council on Innovation and Competition, hoping to bring in additional FDI to new parts of the economy.

Standard & Poor’s gives Chile a credit rating of AA-. The Government of Chile continues to pay down its foreign debt, with public debt only 3.9 percent of GDP at the end of 2006. The Chilean central government is a net creditor with a net asset position of 7% of GDP at end 2012. The current account deficit was 4% in the first quarter of 2013, financed mostly by foreign direct investment. 14% of central government revenue came directly from copper in 2012.

Health

The Ministry of Health (Minsal) is the cabinet-level administrative office in charge of planning, directing, coordinating, executing, controlling and informing the public health policies formulated by the President of Chile. The National Health Fund (Fonasa), created in 1979, is the financial entity entrusted to collect, manage and distribute state funds for health in Chile. It is funded by the public. All employees pay 7 percent of their monthly income to the fund.

Fonasa is part of the NHSS and has executive power through the Ministry of Health (Chile). Its headquarters are in Santiago and decentralized public service is conducted by various Regional Offices. More than 12 million beneficiaries benefit from Fonasa. Beneficiaries can also opt for more costly private insurance through Isapre. Hospitals in Chile are mainly located in the Santiago Metropolitan Region.

Culture

From the period between early agricultural settlements and up 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 southern regions were areas of Mapuche cultural activities. Throughout 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, Frutillar, Puerto Varas, Osorno, Temuco, Puerto Octay, Llanquihue, Faja Maisan, Pitrufquén, Victoria, Pucón and Puerto Montt.

Cultural heritage

The cultural heritage of Chile consists, first, of their intangible heritage, composed of various cultural events, such as visual arts, crafts, dances, holidays, cuisine, games, music and traditions, and, secondly, by its tangible, consists of those buildings, objects and sites of archaeological, architectural, traditional, artistic, ethnographic, folkloric, historical, religious or technological scattered through Chilean territory, among them, those goods are declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, ratified by Chile in 1980. These cultural sites are the Rapa Nui National Park (1995), the Churches of Chiloé (2000), the historical district of the port city of Valparaíso (2003), Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (2005) and the mining city Sewell (2006).

In 1999 the Cultural Heritage Day was established as a way to honour and commemorate Chiles cultural heritage. It is an official national holiday celebrated in May every year.

Transport

Due to Chile’s topography a functioning transport network is vital to its economy. Buses are now the main means of long distance transportation in Chile, following the decline of its railway network. The bus system covers the entire country, from Arica to Santiago (a 30-hour journey) and from Santiago to Punta Arenas (about 40 hours, with a change at Osorno).

Chile has a total of 372 runways (62 paved and 310 unpaved). Important airports in Chile include Chacalluta International Airport (Arica), Diego Aracena International Airport (Iquique), Cerro Moreno International Airport (Antofagasta), Carriel Sur International Airport (Concepción), El Tepual International Airport (Puerto Montt), Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport (Punta Arenas), Mataveri International Airport (Easter Island), the most remote airport in the world, and the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (Santiago) with a traffic of 12,105,524 passengers in 2011. Santiago is headquarters of Latin America’s largest airline holding company and Chilean flag carrier LAN Airlines.

Telecommunications

Chile has a telecommunication system which covers much of the country, including Chilean insular and Antarctic bases. Privatization of the telephone system began in 1988; Chile has one of the most advanced telecommunications infrastructure in South America with a modern system based on extensive microwave radio relay facilities and domestic satellite system with 3 earth stations. In 2012, there were 3.276 million main lines in use and 24.13 million mobile cellular telephone subscribers. According to a 2012 database of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 61.42% of the Chilean population uses the internet, making Chile the country with the highest internet penetration in South America. The Chilean internet country code is “.cl”.

Water supply and sanitation

Water supply and sanitation sector is characterized by high levels of access and good service quality. Compared to most other countries, Chile’s water and sanitation sector distinguishes itself by the fact that all urban water companies are privately owned or operated. The sector also prides itself of having a modern and effective regulatory framework, including an innovative subsidy to water demand by the poor. One weakness of the sector is the relatively high water losses.

 

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