Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow strip of land 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.
The Republic of Chile stretches 4,260km [2,650mi] from North to South, while the maximum East to West distance is only 430km [270mi]. The Andes mountains form Chile's eastern borders with Argentina and Bolivia. Ojos del Salado, at 6,863m [22,516ft], is the second-highest peak in South America. In the North is the sparsely populated Atacama Desert, stretching 1,600km [1,000mi] South from the Peruvian border.
The extension of Chile across some 38 degrees of latitude encompasses nearly all climates, with the exception of the humid tropics. Annual precipitation differs remarkably from the dry extreme north to the very humid extreme south. Three large climatic regions may be distinguished in Chile: the northern desert, the central Mediterranean zone, and the humid-cool southern region.
Chile has market highly focused on exports.The Chilean economy remains largely dependent on a few industrial sectors sectors—namely copper mining, fishing, and forestry. The key economic sectors making up the Chilean economy are agriculture, industry and manufacturing, and services.
Primary and secondary education in Chile is compulsory by the government and it has 4 main levels: preschool, primary school, secondary school, and technical and higher education. The government of Chile offers at no cost primary and secondary levels in public schools for individuals that cannot meet the expenses in a private education. Pre-school levels are for children ages up to 5 years old, the primary education includes children ages from 5-13 years old, the secondary educations are adolescent from ages 13-18 years old.
Chile experienced 17 years of military rule under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and since then the center-left coalition of parties known as the Concertacion has governed. The coalition has made changes to the constitution in order to strengthen civilian control over the military. Concertacion policies of free market have produced great economic growth for Chile. Chile has enjoyed close relations with the United States since its transition back to democracy.
The crude death rate per 1,000 has decreased from 12 in 1960 to 5.5 in 1995. The average life expectancy in Chile in 1998 was 75 years. In 1995 the leading causes of death were diseases of the circulatory system, cancer, injuries or accidents and respiratory diseases. It is estimated that about 15% of Chileans, including 10% of children under the age of 5, fall below the minimum nutrition requirements established by the FAO. In 1995 85% of the population had access to clean water.
About 10,000 years ago, migrating indigenous peoples settled in fertile valleys and along the coast of what is now Chile and among ancient civilizations, the Incas were the most successfulto live in the area. Chile became a colony of Spain in 1541 and became independent in 1818. In the 20th century Chile faced many political challenges as it went through periods of totalitarian rule but toward the end of the century Chile has established the strongest democracy the country has had.
The most popular sport in Chile is soccer and other common pastimes include skiing, horse-racing, tennis, fishing in the Pacific for marlin or swordfish. In 1997 1,643,640 tourist visits were responsible for $1.02 billion in profit for tourism companies. Tourist attractions in Chile include the Andean lakes of South-central Chile, Robinson Crusoe Island, giant Christ of the Andes statue and famous seaside resort of Vina del Mar.
Chile has a population of about 17 million (2010). About 85% of Chile's population lives in urban areas; greater Santiago is home to more than six million people and dominates Chile's political and economic institutions. Chile is a multiethnic society, and a majority of the population can claim some European ancestry, mainly Spanish (Castilian, Andalusian, and Basque), but also German, Italian, Irish, French, British, Swiss and Croatian, in various combinations. Native Americans and Middle Easterns also represent a considerable fraction of the population (about 800,000).
Chile's armed forces are subject to civilian control exercised by the president through the Minister of Defense. Military service of 12 to 24 months is mandatory for all male citizens upon turning 18 but all males between ages of 14 and 49 are eligible for military service. In recent years and after several major reequipment programs, the Chilean Armed Forces have become one of the most technologically advanced and professional armed forces of South America.