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Country facts

Full Country Name: The Republic of Chile
Area: 756,626 sq km; 292,058 sq miles
Population: Estimated total population in early 2011: 17,000,000. Two thirds of the population is concentrated in the central zone.
Capital City: Santiago de Chile, population nearly six million.
People: Many Chileans descend from Spanish and other (mainly European) immigrants, who settled in Chile from the sixteenth century onwards, although a large number are of mixed European and indigenous ancestry. Estimates of the size of the indigenous community vary considerably but according to the results of the 2002 census 692,192 people identified themselves as belonging to an ethnic group (4.6% of the population). The indigenous community is comprised of the following groups: Mapuche (87.3%), Aymara (7.01%), Atacamenos (3.04%), Quechua, Rapa Nui (Easter Islanders), Colla, Alacalufe and Yamana.
Languages: The official language is Spanish. The indigenous community also speak Mapuche, Aymara, Rapa Nui and Quechua, amongst others. English is an obligatory second language in schools, though standards vary greatly.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic 69.96%, Evangelical 15.14% (officially defined in Chile as all non-Catholic Christian churches except the Orthodox, the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses), other Christian churches 2.04%, other religions (including Jews and Muslims) 4.55%, and atheists/indifferent 8.3%.
Currency: Peso (around 760 to 1 in early 2011)
Major Political Parties represented in Parliament:Right-of-centre Alianza Coalition: Renovación Nacional (RN) (National Renovation); Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) (Independent Democratic Union).
Left-of-centre: Concertación Coalition: Partido Socialista (PS) (Socialists); Partido Demócrata Cristiano (DC) (Christian Democrats); Partido por la Democracia (PPD) (Party for Democracy); Partido Radical Social Demócrata (PRSD) (Radical Social Democratic Party).
Other left-of-centre party: Partido Comunista (PC) (Communist Party).
Government: Chile has a republican system of government consisting of three separate and independent branches: the Executive Branch is headed by the President, who in turn is advised by a Cabinet of (unelected) Ministers; the Legislative Branch consists of a bicameral National Congress located in Valparaíso comprising the Senate (38 Senators) and Chamber of Deputies (120 MPs); and the Judicial Branch, headed by the Supreme Court. These institutions are defined in the 1980 Constitution (amended in 2005). The President is directly elected for a four year term (reduced from six years in March 2006), and may not serve two consecutive terms.
Head of State and Government: Mr Sebastian Piñera (from 11 March 2010)
Foreign Minister: Mr. Alfredo Moreno

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Chile is the fifth largest economy in South America and has the second highest GDP per capita in the region. It is a liberal, open market economy, with strong macroeconomic stability due to a solid fiscal responsibility rule, an inflation-targeting Central Bank, the lowest corruption rating in Latin America and a tradition of rule of law. Since 1990 Chile has experienced strong economic growth averaging 5.1% per annum. Growth has fallen below this average in the past decade due to several shocks (Asian crisis in 1999, global crisis in 2009) and a slowdown in productivity growth. But Chile is ambitious - President Piñera aims for Chile to be classed as a fully developed economy by 2020.

Chile experienced a mild recession in 2009 due to the global economic crisis. However, it has rebounded strongly, with economic growth of over 5% in 2010 and predicted growth of over 6% in 2011. This is partly due to investments to upgrade infrastructure following the devastating earthquake in early 2010, but also reflects strong economic fundamentals.

Chile is set for average annual growth of 5% to 2015 according to the IMF and other international bodies. This growth will be driven by Chile’s natural resources (particularly copper), domestic consumption growth, strong investment prospects and open economy.

Chile has a relatively developed economic structure, with almost 60% of GDP coming from services. This is likely to rise further in the future, as a growing middle class, with rising incomes and greater access to credit, demand more services. Mining is a key sector for the Chilean economy, especially copper. Chile is the world’s largest producer, and copper provides 56% of Chile’s export earnings. State owned Codelco is the largest copper firm in the world. Chile has some manufacturing capacity (including in textiles, chemicals and transport equipment), although less than in other emerging economies.

The Chilean economy is relatively open; exports and imports are worth 68% of GDP. Chile’s top trading partners are China and the US – trade with Latin American partners is relatively low. Chile is committed to open market policies, and has signed free trade agreements with over 50 countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Central Americas (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), EFTA, Japan, Mexico, Panama, South Korea and the United States. Chile also has an economic association agreement with the European Union; a partial scope agreement with India, and economic complementary agreements with Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It is an associate member of Mercosur. It is part of the newly-launched ‘Pacific Alliance’ along with Colombia, Peru and Mexico. This group of pro-market, pro-trade nations are looking to deepen economic and trade ties. Chile joined the OECD in 2010, becoming only the second Latin American country (after Mexico) to do so.

Chile is ranked the ‘most free’ economy in Latin America and 11th most free in the world (Economic Freedom Index 2011) It is the 4th easiest country in Latin America with which to do business, and 43rd in the world (World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking 2010). Chile is also perceived to be the least corrupt country in Latin America, and 21st least corrupt in the world. Chile has the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America (A+, next highest is Brazil, BBB-).

In 2010 Chilean exports totalled US$71 billion. This represents a 31% increase from the previous year and is largely a result of the rise in global demand for copper and other metals, alongside the economic recovery following the 2009 crisis. 56% of Chilean exports are made up of copper, followed by 26% in industrial exports and 6% in agriculture.

Unemployment figures for January – March 2011 stood at 7.3% for the country as a whole, and at 7.1% in Santiago.

Chile still faces significant challenges, which could constrain long-term growth. One is the lack of sufficient diversification of the economy, in particular the over-dependence on copper. If copper prices fall, growth will be more difficult to sustain. There are other successful industries including wine, salmon and fruit, all of which are important employers and export earners, but none could compensate for a mining downturn. A lack of labour availability means that with relatively low unemployment, Chile could face labour shortages. Low productivity also acts as a growth constraint. The government is aiming to boost productivity through education, labour, and innovation reforms, and by tackling bureaucracy.

Chile has the highest per capita power consumption in South America and one of the dirtier energy matrices, as economic growth has led to rapid growth in electricity demand which has mostly been met through fossil fuels. Power demand is expected to grow a further 60% between 2010 and 2018. Chile has strong potential for wave and tidal power – and pilot projects are being developed. 40% of Chile’s electricity currently comes from hydroelectric sources, although climate change is already negatively affecting Chile’s hydroelectricity generation. Chile is trying to move quickly to diversify its energy supply matrix by developing LNG (liquid natural gas), hydro, coal and wind. The opening of a US$1 billion LNG re-gasification plant in 2009, with UK energy giant the BG Group holding a 40% share of the consortium, was a key element of this strategy.

Climate change is an area where Chile has engaged relatively proactively. Chile has recently passed ambitious domestic emissions reductions targets, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, as well as sourcing 20% of all electricity from renewables by 2020. (MOVE to basic economic facts).

Basic economic facts

Nominal GDP: US$ 200 billion (2010)
Nominal GDP per head (PPP): US$15,866 (est.)
Annual growth: 5.3% (2010) – 2011 forecast 6 -6.5%
Currency: Chilean Peso May 2011 £1 = 765 or U$1 = 465)
Inflation: 3.0%, predicted to rise during 2011
Unemployment: 7.3% (2011) down from 8.2% in 2010.
Major industries: Copper mining; other mining (gold, nitrates, molybdenum, iron and silver); wood and wood products; textiles; chemicals; transport equipment; fish and fishmeal; fruits and wine.

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Key dates

Chilean territory was among the last to be populated in Latin America. Prehispanic Chile was home to over a dozen different groups of indigenous people. The 3 main cultural groups were Incan, Mapuche and Patagonian.

1520 – Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan lands at Chiloé Island. The region is known then to its native population as Tchili.
1536-37 – the beginning of the Spanish conquest of what is now Chile, when forces under the conquistador Diego de Almagro invaded from Peru.
12 February 1541 – Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago.
18 September 1810 – the first move towards independence was made when an open town meeting in Santiago decided to accept the resignation of the Spanish-appointed Governor and replace him with an oligarchy of locally elected leaders. 18 September is now officially celebrated as Chilean National Day.
1-2 October 1814 – a Royalist (pro-Spanish) army defeated the local leaders at the Battle of Rancagua, which enabled Spain to reassert control over the colony.
12 February 1817 – Independence forces defeated a Royalist army at the Battle of Chacabuco, after which Bernardo O'Higgins was proclaimed the first head of state of an independent Chile.
5 April 1818 – the Royalist forces were decisively defeated at the Battle of Maipú and independence was finally achieved.
1879-83 – War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia. Chile gained the coastal region of Bolivia and the Peruvian provinces of Tarapacá and Arica. To this day Bolivia continues to dispute by diplomatic means the loss of its sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
22 May 1960 – The largest earthquake on record (based on magnitude) occurred off the coast of Chile near Temuco approximately 1,655 were killed, 3,000 injured, 2,000,000 homeless, and $550 million damage in southern Chile.
11 September 1973 – the government of President Allende was overthrown by a military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet.
5 October 1988 – a plebiscite was held in which the electorate voted against granting General Pinochet a further 8-year term of office as President.
December 1989 – democratic presidential and legislative elections were held. Patricio Aylwin was elected President for a 4-year term and took office on 11 March 1990.
11 March 2006 - Michelle Bachelet sworn in as President.
10 December 2006 - Former General and President Augusto Pinochet died.
27 February 2010 – 7th largest earthquake (8.8 magnitude) occurs opposite Chile’s Maule region
11 March 2010 - Sebastián Piñera sworn in as President.

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Relations with neighbouring countries

Chile has frontiers with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia and has had historical rivalries with each of these neighbours. Chile expanded to its present size in the 1880s. Following her victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile gained the northern provinces of Antofagasta (from Bolivia) and Tarapacá (from Peru). There has been no armed conflict between Chile and her neighbours since 1883, but memories of the war and its territorial consequences have been an enduring source of tension in their relations ever since.


It was not until 1999 that Chile and Peru signed an agreement which finally completed implementation of the peace settlement in respect of their land frontier. Diplomatic tensions have arisen again in recent years after Peru filed a complaint against Chile over maritime borders in January 2008. The complaint is now being processed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and a decision is expected in 2012/2013.


In 1984 Chile and Argentina signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship following the settlement of the Beagle Channel Dispute, and in the 1990s the two countries settled over 20 other delimitation disputes.


Over the last ten years Chile and Bolivia have, despite their lack of full diplomatic relations, established closer contacts and discussed possible cooperation in areas such as bilateral trade, economic integration and energy links. In 2000 Bolivia appointed a Consul General in Santiago, a move reciprocated by Chile in 2001. In December 2005, Chile signed its first bilateral agreement with Bolivia: a trade agreement granting a zero tariff to most Bolivian products imported in Chile. The two countries also signed an agreement allowing visa/passport free travel for citizens. Former Chilean President Lagos' attendance at the inauguration of Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2006 was seen as a first step in improved bilateral relations. Nevertheless, the Bolivian claim for access to the Pacific continues to hamper further development of relations. In early 2011 President Morales announced his intention to pursue a solution to the Bolivian claim for sovereign access to the sea through the international court at The Hague, as Peru has done over the border dispute leading Chile into a potential new international arbitration process with a neighbouring country.

Chile's relations with the international community

Chile’s openness and integration with the global economy means that it has a relatively strong interest in global economic issues, although it does not always have a seat at the decision making table. Relations outside of the region are important for Chile, which has diversified its export partners, and now carries out substantial trade with Asia, the US and the EU.

Chile has an important position as a bridge between the developed and developing world. It is unique in being a member of both the OECD and the G-77 grouping of developing countries.

In 2010 Chile joined the OECD, becoming the second Latin American country after Mexico to do so. Chile values this membership, and sees it as a marker on the way to becoming a developed economy by 2020. Chile is an enthusiastic participant in the newly established OECD Latin America and Caribbean Initiative.

Like Europe, Asia accounts for a fifth of Chile's foreign trade. Chile is a member of APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation. APEC exists to promote economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, and has helped to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers. APEC's membership comprises 21 economies in the region. Chile chaired the organisation in 2004. The annual Asia-Pacific Leaders' Meeting was held in Chile on 20-21 November 2004.

Chile is also an Associate Member of Mercosur, the common market of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela. Although Chile has not yet joined the Mercosur trade area, it is politically committed to Mercosur's strategic vision of regional political and economic integration. Like Bolivia, Chile participates in Mercosur's Political Consultation and Coordination Forum.

Chile is an active member of the United Nations and was one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council for the period from 1 January 2003 until 31 December 2004. Chile's involvement in the UN includes a contribution of personnel from the armed forces to the UN Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and Haiti (MINUSTAH). Former Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez was recently appointed the UNSG’s Special Representative and Head of MINUSTAH.

Chile is also a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS). In May 2005, the former Chilean Interior Minister, José Miguel Insulza, was elected Secretary General. He was re-elected in 2010 for a new period of 5 years.

Relations with the European Union (EU)

In September 2002 Chile and the EU signed a scientific and technological co-operation agreement. The agreement allows scientists to take part in the other side's research programmes and provides for visits and exchanges, joint conferences and workshops, scientific networks and training, and for the exchange and sharing of facilities and equipment.

On 18 November 2002, the EU and Chile signed an Association Agreement to liberalise trade and increase political dialogue and co-operation between the two sides. Most of the Trade Chapter came into force on 1 February 2003. The Chilean National Congress has completed its ratification procedures for the Agreement, as have all EU members. The UK was among the first EU member states to ratify the Agreement.

The Agreement replaces the EU/Chile Framework and Co-operation Agreement of 1996. It establishes an area of free trade in goods, services, public contracts, liberalisation of investment and capital flows, and protection of intellectual property rights. With effect from 1 February 2003, 91% of EU products imported into Chile are tariff-free and 85% of Chilean products enter the EU tariff-free. All remaining tariffs were phased out at the end of 2010.


Bilateral relations with the UK are warm and productive, with strong historic roots. Bernardo O'Higgins, one of the heroes of Chile's struggle for independence from Spain, who later became the country's first head of state, received part of his education in Richmond upon Thames. Admiral Lord Cochrane, a famous Royal Navy officer, founded the Chilean Navy and fought successfully in defence of Chilean independence in the early nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the British led the commercial development of the nitrate fields in northern Chile.

The modern relationship between Britain and Chile encompasses political dialogue, trade and investment, defence, science, culture and education, as well as social ties. The two countries have a shared interest in removing barriers to trade, promoting sustainable development, opposing international terrorism and fighting the illegal trade in drugs. There is an extensive programme of cooperation between the two countries on climate change and energy issues.

Piñera’s government has a strong desire to strengthen bilateral ties between the UK and Chile not only in international areas of shared interest but also domestic issues such as education, justice and security, and prison reform.

Diplomatic Representation

British Embassy Santiago (

Chilean Representation in the UK (

UK Trade with Chile

The UK is seeking to develop and deepen its commercial and economic ties with emerging powers and to re-engage with Latin America. Chile is a significant part of this as, while there are larger economies in the region, it shares UK beliefs such as open markets and offers a positive, successful example of economic management and development.

The UK exported £701 million worth of goods and services to Chile in 2009, mainly crude oil, machinery and business services. The UK imported £663 million worth of goods and services from Chile in 2009, mainly wine and agricultural goods. Chile is the UK’s third largest trading partner in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. UK goods exports to Chile have trebled since 2007, partly due to tariff free access to the Chilean market for UK crude oil from the EU-Chile Free Trade Agreement.

The UK is the 4th largest investor in Chile, behind the US, Spain and Canada. There are significant UK investment opportunities in sectors such as renewable energy, infrastructure and mining. Furthermore, Chile’s sovereign wealth funds are worth $21 billion and its pension funds over $150 billion, offering opportunities for financial services firms.

A UK-Chile Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) was ratified in April 1997. A bilateral Double Taxation Agreement came into force in January 2005.

UK Trade and Investment Country Profile: Chile (

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council, the UK's international organisation for educational and cultural relations, has an office in Santiago to promote bilateral links. The overarching aims of the British Council in Chile are to promote UK education, to build partnerships between British and Chilean experts in the fields of governance and human rights and to win recognition of British artistic creativity. Further information about the work of the Council is available on its website. The website of the British Embassy in Santiago includes a section containing information about local events and activities for the British-Chilean Community in Chile.

Education links between the UK and Chile are strong and the UK is seen as a key partner for developing Chile’s human capital. In higher education, Chileans actively choose the UK as a study destination of choice which builds both UK influence and brings economic benefit to the UK. 21% of Chileans awarded a state scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies abroad come to the UK. In November 2008 an agreement was signed between the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the FCO committing to work together to strengthen educational links between institutions.

British Council, Chile (

Scientific links with the UK

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), a nine country European inter-governmental organisation for astronomical research, operates two major observatories in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The UK joined ESO in July 2002. The UK is also a member of the Gemini Observatory, a seven country collaborative project that has constructed two identical 8 metre telescopes in both hemispheres, the first (Gemini North) at Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the second (Gemini South) at Cerro Pachon in Chile. The Gemini partner countries include the UK, the United States, Argentina and Chile. Membership of ESO and Gemini will help to keep the UK at the forefront of international astronomical research.

Recent inward visits

-- Undersecretary for Defence Oscar Izurieta led a Chilean delegation to London in May 2011 for annual defence staff talks.

-- President Sebastian Piñera visited London in October 2010 as a Guest of Government. The visit involved an audience of the Queen and bilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, hosted High Level Political Talks in the margins with his Chilean counterpart, Alfredo Moreno. Economy Minister Juan Andres Fontaine and Defence Minister Andres Allamand (then Senator) formed part of Piñera’s delegation.

-- Rodrigo Alvarez, the Chilean President of the Chamber of Deputies visited the UK on 23 February 2010. He met then FCO Minister for Latin America, Chris Bryant. Alvarez subsequently became Vice Minister for Finance in Sebastian Piñera’s government.

-- The previous Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Mariano Fernández, visited the UK on 15 October 2009. He met, the FCO Minister responsible for Latin-America, issues discussed were the increased cooperation on climate change and peace building.

-- Former President Michelle Bachelet visited the UK in April 2008 as a Guest of Government. During her visit she had an audience of HM The Queen at Windsor Castle, a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister and a lunch with senior City figures hosted by the Lord Mayor.

-- A parliamentary delegation from Chile last visited the UK from 27-28 January 2005.

Recent outward visits

-- Admiral Alabaster, FOSNNI, visited Chile on the 29 Nov 2010 as part of an official invitation from the Chilean government to attend EXPONAVAL.

-- Sir Ian Andrew visited Chile the 28 of October 2010. He came to Chile to share the experience of the UK´s Strategic Defence Review and for supporting Chile in conducting its first SDR.

-- Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, 1st Sea Lord, visited Chile as part of the Bicentennial celebrations in September 2010. During his tour he met the highest military authorities and participated on the different ceremonies organized by the Chilean government during that week. HMS Portland was also in Valparaíso at the same time of 1st Sea Lord´s visit.

-- Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State for Latin-America of the FCO visited Chile the first week of August and was received by President Piñera and Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno. He also met heads of the British Chamber of Commerce in Chile to reinforce the UK government’s commitment to reinvigorating its political and trade relations with Chile. During his visit Minister Browne met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and with different authorities in at the Chilean Congress on Valparaiso.

-- Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, CINC FLEET, visited Valparaiso Naval base in January 2010, meeting the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Navy (Admiral González) whilst touring key combat capabilities of the surface fleet, air arm and marines.

-- Sir Andrew Cahn, CEO, UKTI visited Chile on 21 October 2009, touring a BG LNG re-gasification plant on the Pacific coast and meeting other British investors.

-- Led by Air Vice-Marshal Brian Bates, a Study Group from the prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) visited Chile between 27 Sep and 3 Oct, 2009. Their aim was to study at first hand, and from a strategic perspective, contemporary and relevant themes, pertinent to their year-long academic course including governance, climate change, trade and regional relationships.

-- The Rt. Hon Jack McConnell MSP, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Conflict Resolution Mechanisms, visited Chile between 13 and 15 September, 2009. He took part in a high level seminar in Santiago on the future role of the UN Peace-Building Commission (PBC) and made a speech setting out UK objectives on international conflict resolution.

-- The Chief of UK's General Staff, Sir Richard Dannat visited Chile 3-8 May 2009 at the invitation of his opposite number in Chile, General Izurieta. The two Heads of Army explored areas of co-operation, and possible future ways of strengthening the bilateral military relations.

-- Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Chile in March 2009. The visit provided an opportunity to take stock of the many ways in which the United Kingdom and Chile work together and to develop common responses to bilateral, regional and global issues. HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Chile from 08-11 March 2009. The visit provided the opportunity to discuss climate change and energy issues and to help establish the Corporate Leaders Group Chile, a body of senior Chilean businesspeople with an interest in promoting climate change and sustainable development issues.

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Chile has ratified the following international human rights treaties:

* International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
* International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
* International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination;
* Convention on the Rights of the Child;
* Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women;
* Convention against Torture or other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Chile is also a Party to the American Convention on Human Rights and has accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in San José.

UK Support for Human Rights

The British Embassy in Santiago monitors human rights developments closely and promotes human rights in Chile.

In the area of Child rights, we have provided funding for a child protection website, which features an online counselling section for abused children. We have also organised a seminar and workshops on the trafficking law, to raise awareness of the protection offered to the children (and adults) who are trafficked within Chile and across its borders. Besides that, the Embassy constantly meets with different human rights organization to understand from the civil society perspectives the situation on Chile in this topic. During 2010 the main topic on this aspect was the situation involving several indigenous condemned to prison under the existing antiterrorism law and the repercussions of these indictments on the perception of human rights respect among the Chilean population.

In the area of justice, we supported a three-year project on the protection of human rights in the Chilean prison system, in co-operation the Ministry of Justice and the International Centre for Prison studies. We also sponsored a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) seminar on ‘Access to Justice', with a British speaker from the Law Centres Federation.

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The Embassy also places great importance on supporting the government's environmental and energy policy. The latter is accomplished through good practice sharing projects and high level UK visits. Since 2009, we have worked closely with the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environment and the private sector in order to achieve an ambitious outcome at the UNFCCC climate change conference.

The Carbon Trust’s Project Director, Mr. David Vincent, helped us engage senior ministry officials on the opportunities presented by moving to a “low carbon high growth economy” during his visit in October 2008 and in April 2011. The Carbon Trust public private partnership model is today being emulated by the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Efficiency Country Programme. Through-out the negotiations leading to the COP 17 the embassy kept constant contact with the Chilean negotiating team. We provided training by the University of Cambridge through access to regional workshops and key studies such as the National Economic Climate Change Study (based on the Stern Report’s format), Climate Change Effects on the Wine Industry in Chile and the Effects of Climate Change on the Mining Industry for Chile.

The embassy engaged media on climate change matters through a BBC event about the importance of climate change coverage. For this event the Embassy brought Mr. James Painter from the Reuters Institute of Journalism at Oxford University to present on the role of media in the climate change debate in the run up to COP 15. The British embassy in Santiago followed up this event by bringing together government communication officers and key media to discuss the importance of COP 15 and obtaining a legally binding agreement. We complemented this activity by sending a financial journalist to Barcelona climate talks and the Copenhagen meeting.

Climate change was a major theme of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Chile in March of 2009. One of the main activities brought together HRH and key senior business leaders. As a result a Chilean Corporate Leader’s Group was created and the embassy sent two CLG Chile representatives to a side show event at the COP 15 in December 2009. A series of academic visits from London South Bank University and the University of Sussex have helped to further local appreciation by the government of Kyoto Protocol financing mechanisms and energy efficiency policies in the UK.

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In the UN Development Programme's Human Development Index for 2010, Chile is ranked 45th among the 169 ranked countries, running 3rd in Latin America and the Caribbean (after the Barbados and the Bahamas.) A survey carried out in December 2009 found that the Chile has 634,328 people (3.7% of the population) living in extreme poverty. Since 2006 this percentage has gone up by 0.5%, the first increase since 1990. Those affected are mainly in rural areas.

But social pressures remain despite the strong economic growth of recent years. One particular challenge is the unequal structure of income distribution. In 2008 the ratio of average income of the richest 20% is to the poorest 20% was 15.7.

Life expectancy: 79 years; (2009)
Infant mortality rate: 7.34 per 1000 live births (2011 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 0.4% (40,000) (2009)
Population growth rate: 1.2% (2009)


Travel Advice: Chile (


British Embassy Santiago (

Chilean Representation in the UK (

British Council, Chile (

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Chile's boundaries are geographically well defined: to the west is the Pacific Ocean; to the east the Andes mountains; to the north is the Atacama Desert, the driest in the World; and to the south are the ice-fields and glaciers of Chilean Patagonia. There are wide variations of soil and climate between these features. Overall the climate is temperate with a desert climate in the north, a Mediterranean climate in the central region and cool and damp in the south. Chile shares frontiers with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Its 4,500 km coastline includes an amazing assortment of archipelagos and channels south of Puerto Montt. Although Chile is 4,329 km long at no point is it wider than 180 km. Chile's sovereign territory includes some Pacific islands, among them Easter Island, and it has a claim to a sector of Antarctica.

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In January 2010 Sebastian Piñera, of the right-of centre Alianza party, was elected President, defeating former President Eduardo Frei, left-of-centre, ruling Concertacion coalition, by more than 3%. President-elect Piñera took office on 11 March 2010. The previous President Michelle Bachelet was prevented from running for a second consecutive term by law.

Since returning to democracy in 1990, Chile has been governed by four consecutive centre-left coalition governments, formed by the Concertación bloc of parties. The Concertación comprises the Christian Democrats, the Party for Democracy, the Socialist Party and the Radicals. The leaders of the first two Concertación governments, Presidents Aylwin and Eduardo Frei, were both Christian Democrats. The successor, Ricardo Lagos, was therefore Chile's first Socialist Party Head of State since the overthrow of President Allende in 1973. On 15 January 2006, Socialist Party Michelle Bachelet, also representing the Concertación, won the Presidential elections to become Chile's first female President. Bachelet governed until March 2010, as the Constitutional Reform of 2005 reduced presidential terms to four years.

Chile's successful economic model did not change much under Bachelet. Achieving higher rates of economic growth remained a priority for Chile, but the Bachelet government sought to combine this with social justice, poverty alleviation and a reduction of big inequalities in income between the rich and the poor. The government also pursued a programme to reform the health, social security and education systems as well as further constitutional reform. The Bachelet government was initially handicapped however, by its lack of a commanding majority in Congress. This changed in December 2005, when, for the first time, the centre-left coalition obtained a majority in the parliamentary elections.
President Piñera’s election in January 2010 was a watershed for Chile: the first right-of-centre President to be democratically elected since 1958 and the first since The Pinochet Era ended in 1990. His stated priorities are expanding economic growth through labour market reforms and tackling crime. Piñera was previously a highly successful businessman, owing a TV station, a football team, and about 25% of Chile’s national airline, LAN.

Chile has a bicameral parliament, the National Congress, which consists of the Senate (upper house) and the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate currently has 38 members elected by popular vote. Senators serve for eight-year terms. Elections are held every four years to choose half the elected members of the Senate and all the members of the Chamber of Deputies. The most recent elections were held on 13 December 2009 when 18 of the 38 Senators and all of the deputies (120 in total) were elected. The right-of-centre parties won more seats than the governing Concertacion in the Chamber of Deputies (58 to 54 – there are also three Communists and some independents); but it lost some seats in the Senate, where it now has 17 seats compared to 19 seats for the governing Concertacion.

Constitutional reform

On 16 August 2005 a bill embodying 58 constitutional reforms was approved by Congress, and endorsed by then President Lagos. Lagos made the reforms an objective of his government and they came into effect on 11 March 2006. This is the first major reform of congress since 1980. The key features of the reforms include:

Presidential terms reduced from 6 years to 4.

-- The end of designated senators and 'senators for life' (previously awarded to former Presidents), leaving just 38 senators elected by popular vote

-- Responsibility removed from the armed forces as 'institutional guarantors'; the change in functions of the National Security Council (Cosena); and the restoration of power to the president to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces and the forces of order.

The reform was a milestone for Chile's continuing transition to democracy as it eliminated the so-called "authoritarian enclaves" (military government appointees who had occupied seats in the Senate and who had traditionally been a block to reforms proposed by the governing left-wing coalition.)

The modification of the binominal electoral system (another Pinochet legacy which gave disproportionate representation to the right-of-centre) was another aspiration of former President Lagos, but he did not succeed in gaining the support of all the political forces in order to change it. Nonetheless it has opened up the debate in Chile and then President-elect Michelle Bachelet made an election promise to reform the electoral system during her Presidential term, but she was not able to achieve this. During President Piñera’s term, this issue will return to the fore, together with a new law to make electoral registration automatic in future: almost 90% of the youngest Chilean voters did not register for the 2009/2010 presidential elections.

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Last Updated: June 2011

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