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Chile: Mission
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Mission and Organization of the Armed Forces > Mission


The 1980 constitution, prepared and enacted by the military government, states that the armed forces "exist for the defense of the fatherland, are essential for national security, and guarantee the institutional order of the Republic" (Article 90). The military is capable of carrying out its responsibility to deter any probable enemy or group of enemies. As in most other Latin American countries, the role as guarantor of national security and institutional order is deemed to extend to the defense of national institutions against internal as well as external threats. These have been controversial notions, but the Aylwin government was unable to clarify the role of the military or to assert the principle of presidential control over the military.

The 1980 constitution and the Organic Constitutional Law of the Armed Forces (Law 18,948 of February 1990) that was enacted at the end of the military government expanded the military's autonomy from the president and gave it a voice over national affairs through its participation in the newly created National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional -- Cosena). Presided over by the president of the republic, Cosena includes the presidents of the Senate and the Supreme Court, the commanders in chief of the armed forces, and the director general of the Carabineros of Chile (Carabineros de Chile), a national police force with a paramilitary organization; and to ask any government agency for information on security matters.

In 1992 and early 1993, the Aylwin government presented constitutional reform legislation to Congress in order to reinstitute the president's right to remove military officers, including the heads of the services, at the chief executive's discretion (only Cosena has that right). Another set of proposed reforms presented in 1993 also would have eliminated the designated senators and revamped the composition of Cosena by adding the president of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Congress) to it (thereby creating a civilian majority on it), and it would have changed the Constitutional Tribunal by composing it of members chosen mainly by the president and the Senate. However, the Aylwin government lacked the congressional majorities needed to enact these reforms. As a result, these changes were not instituted.

Data as of March 1994

Last Updated: March 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Chile was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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