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Chile: Overview

  • Date Submitted: 03/18/2010 01:26 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 29.9 
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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....

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