Chile | government and politics

Government and politics

The current Constitution of Chile was approved in a national plebiscite—regarded as "highly irregular" by some observers[66]—in September 1980, under the military government of Augusto Pinochet. It entered into force in March 1981. After Pinochet's defeat in the 1988 plebiscite, the constitution was amended to ease provisions for future amendments to the Constitution. In September 2005, President Ricardo Lagos signed into law several constitutional amendments passed by Congress. These include eliminating the positions of appointed senators and senators for life, granting the President authority to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, and reducing the presidential term from six to four years.[67]

The Congress of Chile has a 38-seat Senate and a 120-member Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve for eight years with staggered terms, while deputies are elected every 4 years. The last congressional elections were held on 17 November 2013, concurrently with the presidential election. The current Senate has a 21–15 split in favor of the governing coalition and 2 independents. The current lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, contains 67 members of the governing center-left coalition, 48 from the center-right opposition and 5 from small parties or independents. The Congress is located in the port city of Valparaíso, about 140 kilometres (87 miles) west of the capital, Santiago.

Chile's congressional elections are governed by a binomial system that, for the most part, rewards the two largest representations equally, often regardless of their relative popular support. Parties are thus forced to form wide coalitions and, historically, the two largest coalitions (Concertación and Alianza) split most of the seats. Only if the leading coalition ticket out-polls the second place coalition by a margin of more than 2-to-1 does the winning coalition gain both seats, which tends to lock the legislature in a roughly 50–50 split.

Chile's judiciary is independent and includes a court of appeal, a system of military courts, a constitutional tribunal, and the Supreme Court of Chile. In June 2005, Chile completed a nationwide overhaul of its criminal justice system.[68] The reform has replaced inquisitorial proceedings with an adversarial system more similar to that of the United States.

In the 2001 congressional elections, the conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) surpassed the Christian Democrats for the first time to become the largest party in the lower house. In the 2005 parliamentary election, both leading parties, the Christian Democrats and the UDI lost representation in favor of their respective allies Socialist Party (which became the biggest party in the Concertación block) and National Renewal in the right-wing alliance. In the 2009 legislative elections in Chile, the Communist Party won 3 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 30 years (the Communist Party was not allowed to exist as such during the dictatorship).

Chileans voted in the first round of presidential elections on 17 November 2013. None of the nine presidential candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote. As a result, the top two candidates, center-left Nueva Mayoría coalition's Michelle Bachelet and center-right Alianza coalition's Evelyn Matthei, competed in a run-off election on 15 December 2013, which Bachelet won. This was Chile's sixth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All six have been judged free and fair. The president is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms.

Foreign relations

State of Chile's international relations in the world:
  Chile
  Country with diplomatic relations and Chilean embassy in the country.
  Country with diplomatic relations and an embassy in Chile, but no Chilean embassy.
  Country with diplomatic relations but without ambassadors.
  Country with no diplomatic relations currently.

Since the early decades after independence, Chile has always had an active involvement in foreign affairs. In 1837 the country aggressively challenged the dominance of Peru's port of Callao for preeminence in the Pacific trade routes, defeating the short-lived alliance between Peru and Bolivia, the Peru-Bolivian Confederation (1836–39) in the War of the Confederation. The war dissolved the confederation while distributing power in the Pacific. A second international war, the War of the Pacific (1879–83), further increased Chile's regional role, while adding considerably to its territory.[19]

During the 19th century, Chile's commercial ties were primarily with Britain, a nation that had a major influence on the formation of the Chilean navy. The French influenced Chile's legal and educational systems and had a decisive impact on Chile, through the architecture of the capital in the boom years at the turn of the 20th century. German influence came from the organization and training of the army by Prussians.[19]

On 26 June 1945, Chile participated as a founding member of the United Nations being among 50 countries that signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California.[69][70] With the military coup of 1973, Chile became isolated politically as a result of widespread human rights abuses.[19]

Since its return to democracy in 1990, Chile has been an active participant in the international political arena. Chile completed a 2-year non-permanent position on the UN Security Council in January 2005. Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean national, was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States in May 2005 and confirmed in his position, being re-elected in 2009. Chile is currently serving on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, and the 2007–2008 chair of the board is Chile's ambassador to the IAEA, Milenko E. Skoknic. The country is an active member of the UN family of agencies and participates in UN peacekeeping activities. It was re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 for a three-year term.[71] It was also elected to one of five non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council in 2013.[72] Chile hosted the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in 2002 and the APEC summit and related meetings in 2004. It also hosted the Community of Democracies ministerial in April 2005 and the Ibero-American Summit in November 2007. An associate member of Mercosur and a full member of APEC, Chile has been a major player in international economic issues and hemispheric free trade.[27]

Border disputes with Peru

Chile's territorial gains after the War of the Pacific in 1879–83

There have been many arguments between Chileans and Peruvians since the 1800s because they both claim boundary coastal lines. Peruvians claim the Northern part of Chile, which is now South West of Peru. This is also known as the "triangulation" which was made to fix the boundary problem between Chile and Peru. The decisions were accomplished on 27 January 1839 by the International Court of Justice [73] This became the War of the Pacific which was in the years 1879–1883.[74] This conflict was caused by the mineral resources Chile had, Peruvians believed they belonged to them as well. Chile had to control sea shipping to Peru and sent out an army to invade Peru on 8 October 1879. The attempt was also made to The United States but failed badly on October 1880. There was a resistance between Peruvians and Chileans for a few years because they could not reach an agreement. The United States offered help with a treaty for both Peru and Chile, better known as the Treaty of Ancón. This was later signed by both of them on 20 October 1883 to keep peace between them. In 2008, Peru took Chile to court over their maritime disputes. Then later in 2014, the International Court of Justice's ruling resulted in Chile losing 80 miles from Northwestern ocean zone.[75] This ruling severely impacted fishers in the country making Chile lose a valuable trade in Northwest Chile.

The Chilean government has diplomatic relations with most countries. It settled all its territorial disputes with Argentina during the 1990s except for part of the border at Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Chile and Bolivia severed diplomatic ties in 1978 over Bolivia's desire to regain sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean after losing it to Chile in the 1879–83 War of the Pacific. The two countries maintain consular relations and are represented at the Consul General level.[27]

Administrative divisions

In 1978 Chile was administratively divided into regions,[76] and in 1979 subdivided into provinces and these into communes.[77][78] In total the country has 16 regions,[79][80] 56 provinces and 348 communes.[81]

Each region is designated by a name and a Roman numeral assigned from north to south, except for the Santiago Metropolitan Region, which does not have a number. The creation of two new regions in 2007, Arica and Parinacota (XV) and Los Ríos (XIV), and a third region in 2018, Ñuble (XVI) made this numbering lose its original order meaning.

Administrative divisions of Chile
Region[76][79][80] Population[4] Area (km2)[3] Density Capital
Arica y Parinacota 224 548 16 873,3 13,40 Arica
Tarapacá 324 930 42 225,8 7,83 Iquique
Antofagasta 599 335 126 049,1 4,82 Antofagasta
Atacama 285 363 75 176,2 3,81 Copiapó
Coquimbo 742 178 40 579,9 18,67 La Serena
Valparaíso 1 790 219 16 396,1 110,75 Valparaíso
Santiago Metropolitan 7 036 792 15 403,2 461,77 Santiago
Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins 908 545 16 387 54,96 Rancagua
Maule 1 033 197 30 296,1 34,49 Talca
Ñuble 480 609 13 178.5 36.47 Chillán
Biobío 1 556 805 23 890,2 112,08 Concepción
Araucanía 938 626 31 842,3 30,06 Temuco
Los Ríos 380 181 18 429,5 20,88 Valdivia
Los Lagos 823 204 48 583,6 17,06 Puerto Montt
Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo 102 317 108 494,4 0,95 Coyhaique
Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica 165 593 N 1,26 Punta Arenas
Chile 17 373 831 756 102,4(2) 23,24 Santiago
(1) Including the Chilean Antarctic Territory, its surface reaches 1 382 554,8 km2
(2) Including the Chilean Antarctic Territory, its surface reaches 2 006 360 km2

Largest cities and towns

National symbols

The national flower is the copihue (Lapageria rosea, Chilean bellflower), which grows in the woods of southern Chile.

The coat of arms depicts the two national animals: the condor (Vultur gryphus, a very large bird that lives in the mountains) and the huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus, an endangered white tail deer). It also has the legend Por la razón o la fuerza (By reason or by force).

The flag of Chile consists of two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red; there is a blue square the same height as the white band at the hoist-side end of the white band; the square bears a white five-pointed star in the center representing a guide to progress and honor; blue symbolizes the sky, white is for the snow-covered Andes, and red stands for the blood spilled to achieve independence. The flag of Chile is similar to the Flag of Texas, although the Chilean flag is 21 years older. However, like the Texan flag, the flag of Chile is modeled after the Flag of the United States.[83]