Occupying the narrow strip of land between the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, Chile covers more than half the western South American coastline, bordering also on Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. The generally temperate climate ranges from dry and hot in the northern desert to cool and damp in the south and subantarctic in the Antarctic region to which Chile lays claim. The national language is Spanish, although a few indigenous languages and dialects still remain. Fully 95% of the population of about 16.4 million is of European or mestizo descent; the remainder are indigenous peoples and other groups. Some 89% of the population profess the Roman Catholic faith, with Protestants and a very small minority of Jews making up the remainder. The capital of Chile is Santiago, where almost 35% of the nation’s population lives.
Government and Politics
After becoming independent from Spain in 1818, Chile for many years charted a relatively calm political course. Largely isolated from the rest of the continent by the towering Andes, Chile avoided the frequent military coups and instability that plagued other South American nations. Colonialist politics continued to dominate the newly independent nation, however, as wealthy landowners, in concert with the clergy, retained almost complete control of society. In 1970, the government of Marxist Salvador Allende instituted socialist policies that led to rapid economic decline. A military coup in 1973 brought to power Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who ruled with an iron fist until reluctantly giving up power in 1989, when democratic elections were held. Since the return of civilian government, successive administrations have pursued free-market economic policies, expansion of democracy, and broad social welfare programs. In 2006, Chile elected its first female president, Michelle Bachelet, to continue the second presidential rule of the center-left Socialist Party of Chile since the nation’s return to democracy in 1990. Limited by the Chilean Constitution to one term, Bachelet left office in March 2010 and was succeeded by Sebastian Piñera of the center-right National Renovation (Renovacion Nacional–RN), who defeated former president Eduardo Frei in a January 17 runoff election. Piñera, a wealthy businessman, is Chile’s first democratically elected conservative leader in more than 50 years.
Chile was once sparsely populated mainly by Araucanian Amerindians. In the early 15th century Chile came under the strong influence of the Incas. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Chile they tried to over take the Amerindians. The Amerindians of course resisted with force. Which resulted in battles between the Amerindians and the conquistadors. Eventually they started to lose their land to ...
The world’s largest producer and exporter of copper, Chile derives much of its foreign capital from the sale of that mineral, and its economy is very dependent on world copper prices—even a tiny adjustment in the price of copper translates into millions of dollars in gained or lost revenue for Chile. The economy is diverse, however. A long, fertile valley between the Andes and the low coastal mountains supports a rich agricultural sector, where Chile’s world-renowned table wines are produced, and manufacturing is also an important industry. The economy gathered steam in earnest during the early 1990s, when Chile enjoyed one of South America’s highest growth rates and an estimated 1 million people climbed above the United Nations poverty level. In 1998, tight monetary policies contributed to a recession, which was exacerbated by a drought in 1999. Declining copper prices in the late 20th century required the government to relax strict regulation of the peso in an attempt to stimulate imports. Yet the country maintains a reputation for its strong financial institutions and has the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America. Chile is an associate member of the Mercosur trade group, and in 2004 it entered into a free trade agreement with the United States, as well as signing an agreement with the European Free Trade Association. In December 2009, Chile was invited to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), becoming only the second Latin American member of the group, after Mexico, and the first new member since Slovakia in 2001. The invitation, approved unanimously by the OECD’s 30 members, recognizes Chile’s efforts to achieve greater transparency in tax information and corporate governance, among other areas. The country’s main trading partners include the United States, Argentina, and Japan, and Chile has recently signed trade agreements with China, South Korea, and Japan.
Introduction In an era of globalization when states are becoming increasingly interdependent, regionalism is seen as an intermediary stage for further multilateral trade liberalization. There are, however, two types of regionalism. One is discriminatory where there is free trade amongst the members of the region but non-members are excluded as in the case of free trade areas, such as the North ...