Chile is a country that is physically isolated from the rest of the world by its extraordinary geography, but it is also acknowledged as being culturally and politically sophisticated within the world community.
There is also a strong European influence with the influx of European immigrants, who have joined the existing native and colonial-era population.
While Chile is one of the oldest democracies in South America, democratic rule has endured many turbulent interruptions. Between 1924 and 1931, a military government led the middle class into power over the landowning elite. In 1970, a Marxist government was elected. This government was overthrown in 1973, and from 1973 to 1989 a government under the control of the still controversial General Augusto Pinochet ruled with dictatorial powers.
In 1989 a reformed constitution was approved, under which basic rights were guaranteed. The popularly-elected president was given stronger powers, including the right to proclaim a state of emergency for up to 20 days and to dissolve parliament once during his term of office. In 2005, the Senate approved of a number of changes to the constitution, including a change to the length of a presidential term in office, from six years to four. Nine Senate seats reserved for military officers were also removed, thus reducing the military's power over civilian authority.
The constitution calls for an independent judiciary; election every four years of a 120-member Chamber of Deputies; and a senate, of which 38 members are freely elected and 9 appointed. All former presidents have lifetime membership to the Senate, as senadores vitalicios.
There are some limitations on freedom of information and expression; and a free market economy is constitutionally mandated.
After many decades of political conflict and confusion, the people and government were bent on eradicating poverty and maintaining the robust growth of the Chilean economy. Abundant natural resources, especially copper, formed the foundation for the strong economy existent today.
The stability of the economy, a skilled, well-educated labor force, and competent management have continued to attract foreign investment. Chilean direct investment abroad skyrocketed in the early 21st century in economies such as Argentina, Cayman Islands, Panama, Peru, and the United States. While Chile has experienced some of the global economic downturn that occurred in the late 2000s, key economic indicators provide evidence of likely eventual recovery.
Expatriate life in Chile
Chileans are hospitable to newcomers and eager to accommodate. Foreigners are a natural element of the Chilean culture, and except for the potential language barrier, there are few obstacles to easy assimilation into expatriate life there.