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Whitaker's Almanack: Chile

Information on Chile

See also QFINANCE article

República de Chile – Republic of Chile

Whitaker's Almanack Definitions

  • Area – 756,102 sq. km
  • Capital – Santiago; population, 5,883,040 (2009 est)
  • Major cities – Antofagasta, Concepción, Iquique, Puente Alto, Punta Arenas, Temuco, Valparaíso
  • Currency – Chilean peso of 100 centavos
  • Population – 17,067,369 rising at 0.884 per cent a year (2012 est)
  • Religion – Christian (Roman Catholic 70 per cent, Protestant 15 per cent) (est)
  • Language – Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English
  • Population density – 23 per sq. km (2010)
  • Urban population – 89 per cent (2010 est)
  • Median age (years) – 32.1 (2011 est)
  • National anthem – 'Himno Nacional de Chile' ['National Anthem of Chile']
  • National day – 18 September (Independence Day)
  • Death penalty – Retained for certain crimes (last used 1985)
  • CPI score – 7.2 (2011)

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Climate and Terrain

Chile extends over 4,600km from the arid north around Arica to Cape Horn, with an average breadth of 180km. The Atacama desert lies in the north. In the central zone there is a fertile valley between the Andes and the low coastal range of mountains, with a Mediterranean climate; two-thirds of the population live here. Chilean Patagonia, in the south, extends into subantarctic terrain, with glaciers and icefields; the climate is cool with high precipitation. Elevation extremes range from 6,880m (Nevado Ojos del Salado) to 0m (Pacific Ocean). Its Pacific island possessions include the Juan Fernández group and Easter Island, and the Chilean Antarctic Territory covers the Antarctic peninsula and an area of the landmass that extends from 53°W to 90°W along a latitude of 60°S.

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History and Politics

Chile was conquered in the 16th century by the Spanish, who subjugated the indigenous population. It remained under Spanish rule until 1810, when the first autonomous government was established. Independence was achieved in 1818 after a revolutionary war.

A military coup in 1973 overthrew the Marxist president Salvador Allende. General Augusto Pinochet, the coup leader, assumed the presidency and retained the office until elections were held in 1989, beginning the transition to full democracy. Between 1998 and his death in 2006, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to bring Gen. Pinochet to trial for human rights atrocities committed during his time in office. A massive earthquake, registering 8.8 in magnitude, hit central Chile in 2010, killing about 500 people and causing widespread devastation.

In the 2009 legislative elections, the right-wing Coalition for Change (APC) won one more seat than the incumbent Coalition of Parties for Democracy (CPD) in the lower chamber, and each grouping won half the seats in the senate. Sebastián Piñera, the candidate of the National Renewal party (part of the APC), won the 2010 presidential election and formed a government consisting of members of the APC and independents.

The 1981 constitution was amended in 1989 and 2005. The executive president is directly elected for a four-year term that is not renewable. The bicameral National Congress comprises a senate of 38 members elected for an eight-year term (half renewed every four years) and a Chamber of Deputies of 118 members directly elected for a four-year term.


President, Sebastián Piñera, elected 17 January 2010, sworn in 11 March 2010


Defence, Andrés Allamand
Economy, Pablo Longueira
Finance, Felipe Larrain Bascunan
Interior, Rodrigo Hinzpeter Kirberg


37–41 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9JA
T 020-7222 2361 E W
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, HE Tomás E. Müller Sproat, apptd 2010


Avda. El Bosque Norte 0125, Las Condes, Santiago
T (+56) (2) 370 4100 E W
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, HE Jon Benjamin, apptd 2009

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All aged 16–49, 2010 estMalesFemales
Available for military service4,324,7324,251,954
Fit for military service3,621,7323,561,099

Military expenditure – US$7,392m (2011)

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Economy and Trade

Economic reforms in the late 1970s and the 1980s and sound financial management have made Chile one of the most successful economies in Latin America; in 2010 it became the first South American country to join the OECD. Growth is based on high copper prices, a strong export base and growing domestic demand. Although the economy contracted slightly in 2009 owing to the global downturn, it began to recover later that year and GDP grew over five per cent in both 2010 and 2011.

Chile is the world's largest producer of copper, and the world's only commercial producer of nitrate of soda (Chile saltpetre) from natural resources. The chief industries are mining, forestry, fishing, food and fish processing, and winemaking.

The main trading partners are the USA, China, Brazil, Argentina and Japan. Principal exports are copper, fruit, fish products, paper and pulp, chemicals and wine. The main imports are petrol and petroleum products, chemicals, electrical and telecommunications equipment, industrial machinery, vehicles and natural gas.

GNI – US$197,330m; US$10,120 per capita (2010)
Annual average growth of GDP – 6.5 per cent (2011 est)
Inflation rate – 3.3 per cent (2011 est)
Population living below poverty line – 11.5 per cent (2009)
Unemployment – 7.1 per cent (2010 est)
Total external debt – US$98.68m (2011 est)
Imports – US$58,956m (2010)
Exports – US$71,028m (2010)


Trade – US$12,073m surplus (2010)
Current Account – US$3,802m surplus (2010)

Trade with UK20102011
Imports from UK£584,394,080£739,647,988
Exports to UK£509,366,459£591,199,175

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Airports – There are 366 airports and airfields; the principal airport is at Santiago

Waterways – The main ports are Arica, Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, San Antonio and Talcahuano

Railways – 7,082km (2010)

Roadways – 80,505km, of which 16,745km is surfaced

Telecommunications – 3.458 million fixed lines in use and 19.582 million mobile subscriptions (2010); there were around 7 million internet users in 2009

Internet code and IDD – cl; 56 (from UK), 44 (to UK)

Major broadcasters – The National Television of Chile is state-owned but under direct government control; Radio Cooperativa is a news-based private network which broadcasts alongside numerous other private radio stations

Press – Major newspaper publications include El Mercurio, a conservative daily, and La Nación, a government-owned daily

WPFI score – 10,50 (33)

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Education and Health

Education is free and compulsory for 12 years, although the education system has suffered from underinvestment and mismanagement resulting in ongoing student protests.

Literacy rate – 98.6 per cent (2009 est)
Gross enrolment ratio (percentage of relevant age group) – primary 106 per cent; secondary 88 per cent; tertiary 59 per cent (2009 est)
Health expenditure (per capita) – US$787 (2009)
Hospital beds (per 1,000 people) – 2.1 (2004–9)
Life expectancy (years) – 77.7 (2011 est)
Mortality rate – 5.9 (2011 est)
Birth rate – 14.33 (2011 est)
Infant mortality rate – 7.34 (2011 est)

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