Chile Human and Economic Geography 2006

By | December 14, 2021

South American state. The country’s demographic dynamics are characterized by a sustained increase (1.1 % the annual average in the 2000-2005 period), and in the statistical survey conducted in 2002 the population was equal to 15,116,435 residents (estimated, in 2005, at 16,295,00o residents), 86.6 % of which concentrated in urban areas. The agglomeration headed by the capital, Santiago, housed 4,658,687 residents (5.900.00o according to a 2005 estimate), that is more than 30 % of the entire population.

Despite the good economic results and despite the fact that Chile appears among the emerging countries as the lowest risk one, the distribution of wealth has remained substantially uneven: the social reforms (in the fields of health, education and housing) carried out by democratic governments starting from since 1990 they have made it possible to reduce the percentage of the population living below the poverty line (which in ten years went from 38.6 % to 20.6 %), but income inequalities are unchanged (if not aggravated), and the 10 % of the population continues to control over 40 % of the wealth. However, the good performance of the economy made it possible to reduce the unemployment rate, which fell from11.4 % in 1999 to 7.8 % in 2004. In fact, despite the end of the cycle of years with strong growth (between 1986 and 1997 this had averaged 7 % per year), it continued to differentiate itself from the rest of the Andean subcontinent and, in an international context made difficult by consequences of the war in ̔Irāq, managed to record positive macroeconomic results: inflation, foreign debt, current balance of payments, growth rate (+ 3 % in 2003, + 4.5 % in 2004). The increase in the world price of copper, the main export product, and some government measures, such as the reduction of interest rates, contributed to this good economic performance. Furthermore, starting from 2002 the traditional choice of an open and free trade economy experienced an acceleration process, and agreements were signed with the major world economic poles (European Union and United States) and with South Korea (2004), which were added to those signed in previous years with most of the Latin American countries and with Canada: agreements that have made it possible to double the markets of potential consumers. For Chile 2008, please check

In the primary sector the most important sectors are fruit and vegetables (apples, pears, peaches, plums, tomatoes) and wine; significant is the production of cereals (wheat, barley, oats, maize, rice), however insufficient to cover national needs. The large companies destined for export products occupy about three quarters of the cultivated land and are mainly located in the central region, which enjoys a Mediterranean-type climate, while in the north the desert limits agriculture and microfunds are widespread, intended for to subsistence crops (legumes, cereals). The climate of the south of the country, cold and rainy, favors the breeding of sheep and forest exploitation: the green mantle that covers this region is, in fact, rich in numerous species of southern beeches and some conifers, as well as poplars and eucalyptus trees.4.8 million tonnes of fish caught in 2002), a small part destined for local consumption, mostly through the manufacture of by-products (oil and fishmeal). The secondary sector is dominated by copper, of which Chile is the first world producer (5.38 million tons in 2004), but the country also owns coal, oil, natural gas, gold, silver and iron. The manufacturing industry concerns only the processing of mineral raw materials, the forest supply chain, agri-food and textiles. Tourism is constantly growing (1.6 million entries in 2003), and is headed mainly to the ski resorts of the Andes, the beaches, Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. HISTORY

The turn of the century seemed to mark the end of the long transition from dictatorship to democracy for Chile, which began in 1989and conditioned for a decade by the role of protection that the military continued to exercise over the life of the country, and in particular General A. Pinochet. In fact, the latter’s influence on Chilean politics diminished only from the end of the 1990s (just as he became a senator for life and was appointed by the military leaders ‘commander-in-chief deserving’), when he became involved in numerous legal proceedings of different nature, first of all concerning the crimes and atrocities committed during the years of the dictatorship and then the establishment of secret funds in the name of his family and the result of illicit enrichments. This while the return of a socialist, R. Lagos, to the presidency of the Republic marked the start of reforms which were also intended to mark a clear departure from the past.

Starting in October 1998, after a first arrest in London on a mandate from the Spanish judiciary, which demanded his extradition for the crimes committed against citizens of that country, Pinochet, released in March 2000 by the British authorities for humanitarian reasons ‘was repeatedly indicted by the Chilean judges themselves. His legal proceedings, even if the trials were suspended several times due to his precarious health conditions (in 2002 he was recognized as having mild senile dementia, a diagnosis which was overcome by a new medical examination carried out in November 2005), finally forced the country to confront the period of dictatorship without hypocrisy, making clear the deep ideological and political divisions that still marked it. Divisions emerged conspicuously already in the presidential elections of December 1999 and January 2000, which had been won by Lagos and had therefore seen the return to the presidency of a socialist. Lagos, supported by the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia (CPD), had in fact beaten in the second round, with 51.3 %, the conservative candidate J. Lavín, leader of the Unión Demócrata Independiente , supported by the Alianza por Chile coalition and always a supporter of Pinochet. The vote restored the image of a country polarized between positions that are not easily reconciled. These characteristics emerged again in the legislative elections of December 2000, when the CDP won 62 of the 102 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 20 of the 38 electives of the Senate, while to the right, respectively, 57 and 16 (1 seat in the Chamber of Deputies and 2in the Senate were attributed to a minor party). With a very small majority in the Chamber (reduced to one seat after some CPD exponents, involved in corruption episodes, had lost parliamentary immunity) and with a Senate conditioned by the presence of 9 non-elected members, the government of President Lagos however he managed to express some signs of renewal. In September 2003, despite strong opposition from the Chilean episcopate, divorce was legalized through a constitutional amendment, which was then incorporated into a law approved in March 2004. The government undertook from the first months to shed full light on the years of the dictatorship and to acknowledge the requests for compensation of the victims, even if it did not modify the amnesty law passed in 1978. In November 2004, the report of the ‘Political Prison and Torture’ commission appointed by Lagos was made public, in which the torture, killings and persecutions that took place in the seventeen years of the dictatorship, as well as the names of the victims of these crimes were disclosed. In the same report, some generals admitted for the first time the responsibilities of the armed forces in organizing and implementing the repression of opponents. But it was the discovery by a US Senate commission in July 2004, of Pinochet’s huge secret funds, deposited in a Washington bank and then in other American banks and other countries, to definitively question the credibility of the former dictator. The news of these riches and the new charges in fact damaged the image of honesty which he enjoyed in the army, in the right-wing parties and in public opinion. A judicial investigation launched in Chile led, in August 2005, to the arrest of the wife and one of the former dictator’s children, for tax evasion and illicit enrichment. In July 2005, with the favorable vote also of a large part of the opposition, which by now distanced itself from Pinochet, a constitutional reform was approved by the Senate which after years freed civil power from the protection of the military one, eliminating those authoritarian elements that made de facto incomplete Chilean democracy: the rule that prevented the President of the Republic from appointing or revoking military leaders was abolished, institutional and annuity seats in the Senate were eliminated and the role of guardian attributed to COSENA ( Consejo de Seguridad Nacional ) was revoked. The reduction of the non-renewable presidential term from six to four years was also approved. In December 2005 and January 2006the elections for the presidency of the Republic took place which gave the victory in the second round with 53.5 % of the votes to the center-left candidate M. Bachelet, supported by the CPD.

On the international level, the government continued to strengthen relations with the countries of the area, and entered into a trade agreement with the EFTA ( European Free Trade Association ) in July 2003 and one with the USA in January 2004.

Chile Human and Economic Geography 2006