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Travel Guide > South America > Chile

Chile History & Politics

  
 
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Prior to arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Araucanians inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared 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 Araucanians were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured the 17-year military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) that left around 3,000 people, mostly leftists and socialist sympathizers, dead or disappeared.

Pinochet was widely reviled worldwide for his methods and legacy, however, a Center-Left Chilean administration came into power after he stepped down when he lost a national referendum. The new government of Patricio Aylwin thought it sensible to maintain free market policies that present-day Chile still harbors. Despite enjoying a comparatively higher GDP and more robust economy compared to most other countries of Latin America, Chile currently has one of the most uneven distributions of wealth in the world, ahead only of Brazil in the Latin American region and even lagging behind most developing sub-Saharan African nations. Chile's top 10 richest percentile possesses almost 42 percent of the country's total wealth. In relation to income distribution, some 6.2% of the country populates the upper economic income bracket, 19% the middle bracket, 24% the lower middle, 38% the lower bracket, and 13% the extreme poor.

Chile is a founding member of both United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and is also now in the OECD, the group of the "most developed" countries by current international standards, becoming the first country in South America with that honor.

Argentina's and Chile's claims to Antarctica overlap. Chile also voices a claim to a 1.25 million square kliometre portion of Antarctica, but given the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no country's territorial claims to Antartica are ever recognised or permitted to be exercised at any time.





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