History of Chile (Wiki)
Chile (pronounced /ˈtʃɪliː/ ( listen),), officially the Republic of Chile (Spanish: República de Chile [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈtʃile] ( listen)), is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains 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. With Ecuador, it is one of two countries in South America which do not border Brazil. The Pacific coastline of Chile is 6,435 kilometres (4000 mi). Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas and Easter Island. 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 shape of Chile is a distinctive ribbon of land 4,300 kilometres (2,700 mi) long and on average 175 kilometres (109 mi) wide. Its climate varies, ranging from the world’s driest desert – the Atacama – in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The northern desert 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.
Prior to arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Chile declared its independence from Spain on February 12, 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its current northern territory. It was not until the 1880s that the Mapuche were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured the 17-year long military dictatorship (1973–1990) of Augusto Pinochet that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing.
Today, Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations and a recognized middle power. It leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high regionally in freedom of the press and democratic development. However, it has a high economic inequality, as measured by the Gini index. In May 2010 Chile became the first South American country to join the OECD. Chile is a founding member of both the United Nations and the Union of South American Nations.
Original settlement and Spanish colonization
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Native Americans settled in fertile valleys and coastal areas of what is present-day Chile. Example settlement sites from the very early human habitation are Cueva del Milodon and the Pali Aike Crater’s lava tube. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the Mapuche (or Araucanians as they were known by the Spaniards) successfully resisted many attempts by the Inca Empire to subjugate them, despite their lack of state organization. They fought against the Sapa Inca Tupac Yupanqui and his army. The result of the bloody three-day confrontation known as the Battle of the Maule was that the Inca conquest of the territories of Chile ended at the Maule river.
In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the earth, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the southern passage now named after him, the Strait of Magellan. The next Europeans to reach Chile were Diego de Almagro and his band of Spanish conquistadors, who came from Peru in 1535 seeking gold. The Spanish encountered various cultures that supported themselves principally through slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting. The conquest of Chile began in earnest in 1540 and was carried out by Pedro de Valdivia, one of Francisco Pizarro’s lieutenants, who founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541. Although the Spanish did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile’s central valley, and Chile became part of the Spanish Empire.
Pedro de Valdivia
Bernardo O’Higgins, Supreme Director of ChileConquest of the land took place gradually, and the Europeans suffered repeated setbacks at the hands of the local population. A massive Mapuche insurrection that began in 1553 resulted in Valdivia’s death and the destruction of many of the colony’s principal settlements. Subsequent major insurrections took place in 1598 and in 1655. Each time the Mapuche and other native groups revolted, the southern border of the colony was driven northward. The abolition of slavery by the Spanish crown in 1683 was done in recognition that enslaving the Mapuche intensified resistance rather than cowing them into submission. Despite the royal prohibitions relations remained strained from continual colonialist interference.
Cut off to the north by desert, to the south by the Mapuche, to the east by the Andes Mountains, and to the west by the ocean, Chile became one of the most centralized, homogeneous colonies in Spanish America. Serving as a sort of frontier garrison, the colony found itself with the mission of forestalling encroachment by both the Mapuche and Spain’s European enemies, especially the British and the Dutch. In addition to the Mapuche, buccaneers and English adventurers menaced the colony, as was shown by Sir Francis Drake’s 1578 raid on Valparaíso, the colony’s principal port. Because Chile hosted one of the largest standing armies in the Americas, it was one of the most militarized of the Spanish possessions, as well as a drain on the treasury of the Viceroyalty of Peru. By the end of the colonial period, the population reached an estimated 500,000 (not including unsubjugated Indians); approximately 300,000 of which were mestizos and about 150,000 of which were Criollos (European or European descent).
The first general census was performed by the government of Agustín de Jáuregui between 1777 and 1778. The census indicated that the population consisted of 259,646 inhabitants: 73.5% of European descent, 7.9% mestizos, 8.6% Indians and 9.8% blacks. In 1784, Francisco Hurtado, Governor of the province of Chiloé, conducted a population census and found the population consisted of 26,703 inhabitants, 64.4% of which were whites and 33.5% of which were natives.
Finally, in 1812, the Diocese of Concepción conducted a census of areas south of the Maule river, but did not include the indigenous population (estimated at 8,000 people), or the inhabitants of the province of Chiloé, (and estimated population of 210,567, 86.1% of which were Spanish or of European descent, 10% of which were Indians and 3.7% of which were mestizos, blacks and mulattos.
The Chilean economy partially degenerated into a system protecting the interests of a ruling oligarchy. By the 1920s, the emerging middle and working classes were powerful enough to elect a reformist president, Arturo Alessandri Palma, whose program was frustrated by a conservative congress. In the 1920s, Marxist groups with strong popular support arose.
A military coup led by General Luis Altamirano in 1924 set off a period of great political instability that lasted until 1932. The longest lasting of the ten governments between those years was that of General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, who briefly held power in 1925 and then again between 1927 and 1931 in what was a de facto dictatorship, although not really comparable in harshness or corruption to the type of military dictatorship that has often bedeviled the rest of Latin America . By relinquishing power to a democratically elected successor, Ibáñez del Campo retained the respect of a large enough segment of the population to remain a viable politician for more than thirty years, in spite of the vague and shifting nature of his ideology. When constitutional rule was restored in 1932, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. It became the key force in coalition governments for the next 20 years. During the period of Radical Party dominance (1932–52), the state increased its role in the economy. In 1952, voters returned Ibáñez del Campo to office for another six years. Jorge Alessandri succeeded Ibáñez del Campo in 1958, bringing Chilean conservatism back into power democratically for another term.
The 1964 presidential election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva by an absolute majority initiated a period of major reform. Under the slogan “Revolution in Liberty”, the Frei administration embarked on far-reaching social and economic programs, particularly in education, housing, and agrarian reform, including rural unionization of agricultural workers. By 1967, however, Frei encountered increasing opposition from leftists, who charged that his reforms were inadequate, and from conservatives, who found them excessive. At the end of his term, Frei had not fully achieved his party’s ambitious goals.
President Salvador AllendeIn the 1970 election, Senator Salvador Allende of the Socialist Party of Chile (part of the “Popular Unity” coalition which included the Communists, Radicals, Social-Democrats, dissident Christian Democrats, the Popular Unitary Action Movement, and the Independent Popular Action), achieved a partial majority in a plurality of votes in a three-way contest, followed by candidates Radomiro Tomic for the Christian Democrat Party and Jorge Alessandri for the Conservative Party. Allende was not elected with an absolute majority, receiving fewer than 355 votes. It became a war of classes, motivated by the central government. Despite pressure from the United States government, the Chilean Congress conducted a runoff vote between the leading candidates, Allende and former president Jorge Alessandri and keeping with tradition, chose Allende by a vote of 153 to 35. Frei refused to form an alliance with Alessandri to oppose Allende, on the grounds that the Christian Democrats were a workers party and could not make common cause with the right-wing.
An economic depression that began in 1972 bottomed out in 1975, exacerbated by capital flight, plummeting private investment, and withdrawal of bank deposits in response to Allende’s socialist program. Production fell and unemployment rose. Allende adopted measures including price freezes, wage increases, and tax reforms, to increase consumer spending and redistribute income downward. Joint public-private public works projects helped reduce unemployment.[page needed] Much of the banking sector was nationalized. Many enterprises within the copper, coal, iron, nitrate, and steel industries were expropriated, nationalized, or subjected to state intervention. Industrial output increased sharply and unemployment fell during the Allende administration’s first year.
Augusto PinochetAllende’s program included advancement of workers’ interests, replacing the judicial system with “socialist legality”, nationalization of banks and forcing others to bankruptcy, and strengthening “popular militias” known as MIR. Started under former President Frei, the Popular Unity platform also called for nationalization of Chile’s major copper mines in the form of a constitutional amendment. The measure was passed unanimously by Congress. As a result, the Richard Nixon administration organized and inserted secret operatives in Chile, in order to quickly destabilize Allende’s government. In addition, American financial pressure restricted international economic credit to Chile. The economic problems were also exacerbated by Allende’s public spending which was financed mostly by printing money and poor credit ratings given by commercial banks. Simultaneously, opposition media, politicians, business guilds and other organizations, helped to accelerate a campaign of domestic political and economical destabilization, some of which was helped by the United States. By early 1973, inflation was out of control. The crippled economy was further battered by prolonged and sometimes simultaneous strikes by physicians, teachers, students, truck owners, copper workers, and the small business class. On 26 May 1973, Chile’s Supreme Court, which was opposed to Allende’s government, unanimously denounced the Allende disruption of the legality of the nation. Although illegal under the Chilean constitution, the court supported and strengthened Pinochet’s seizure of power.
Finally, a military coup overthrew Allende on September 11, 1973. As the armed forces bombarded the presidential palace of (Palacio de La Moneda), Allende reportedly had committed suicide. A military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, took over control of the country. The first years of the regime were marked by human rights violations. On October 1973, at least 72 people were murdered by the Caravan of Death. According to the Rettig Report and Valech Commission, at least 2,115 were killed, and at least 27,265  were tortured (including 88 children younger than 12 years old). A new Constitution was approved by a controversial plebiscite on September 11, 1980, and General Pinochet became president of the republic for an 8-year term. After Pinochet obtained rule of the country, several hundred committed Chilean revolutionaries joined the Sandinista army in Nicaragua, guerrilla forces in Argentina or training camps in Cuba, Eastern Europe and Northern Africa.
In the late 1980s, the government gradually permitted greater freedom of assembly, speech, and association, to include trade union and political activity. The government launched market-oriented reforms with Hernán Büchi as Minister of Finance, but poverty levels continued growing. Chile moved toward a free market economy that saw an increase in domestic and foreign private investment, although the copper industry and other important mineral resources were not opened for competition. In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, General Pinochet was denied a second 8-year term as president (56% against 44%). Chileans elected a new president and the majority of members of a two-chamber congress on December 14, 1989. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 political parties called the Concertación, received an absolute majority of votes (55%). President Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994, in what was considered a transition period.
In December 1993, Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, the son of previous president Eduardo Frei Montalva, led the Concertación coalition to victory with an absolute majority of votes (58%).
 21st century
See also: 2010 Chile earthquake
See also: 2010 Copiapó mining accident
President Sebastián PiñeraFrei Ruiz-Tagle was succeeded in 2000 by Socialist Ricardo Lagos, who won the presidency in an unprecedented runoff election against Joaquín Lavín of the rightist Alliance for Chile. In January 2006, Chileans elected their first female president, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, defeating Sebastián Piñera, of the National Renewal party, extending the Concertación government for another four years. In January 2010, Chileans elected Sebastián Piñera, of the National Renewal party of the right-wing Coalition for Change, as the first rightist President of Chile during the Chilean presidential election of 2009-2010, defeating former President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle of the Concertación, for a four-year term succeeding Michelle Bachelet.
On February 27, 2010, Chile was struck by an 8.8 MW earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded in the world. As many as 500 people died; hundreds of thousands of buildings were damaged. The earthquake was also followed by multiple aftershocks. Initial damage estimates were in the range of US$15-30 billion, around 10% to 15% of Chile real gross domestic product. On March 11, 2010 the U.S. Geological Survey reported that a 6.9-magnitude quake hit Chile south of the capital, Santiago.
On August 5, 2010 an access tunnel caved in at Cía. Minera San Esteban Primera SA’s San José copper and gold mine. 33 miners were trapped half a mile underground. The miners were discovered alive on August 22; it took nearly two more months before an escape path could be created to rescue the miners. In a 24 hour period between October 12 and 13, more than 1 billion people watched the culmination of the two-month rescue live on television networks around the world. The survival of the San José miners surpasses a 25-day rescue of three coal miners from a flooded mine in Guizhou, China, in 2009.
Chilean President Piñera said that the San José mine would be converted into a national monument to reflect hope for future generations.