Considered for decades an example of stability and growth in Latin America, chili It has become a whirlwind of political instability since the social protests of October 2019 and is looking this Sunday for a new president to calm the waters.
Some 15 million voters out of a population of 19 million are called to the polls to seek successor to the Conservative Sebastián Piñera. In the event of a second round, the final elections will be on December 19.
Some things to know Chile:
From dictatorship to democracy
On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende, the first Marxist elected president of Chile in 1970. Surrounded by the coup plotters, the president commits suicide in the presidential palace of La Moneda.
Pinochet has led the country with an iron fist for 17 years. His political project defeated in a plebiscite in 1988, he ceded power in 1990 after elections to the Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, although he maintained command of the armed forces until 1998.
He died in 2006 without having been tried for human rights violations and embezzlement of public funds committed during his regime, which left more than 3,200 dead and 38,000 tortured.
Among these was the socialist Michelle Bachelet, who became the first woman to preside over Chile (2006-2010). After a second term (2014-2018), she now serves as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Conservative millionaire Sebastián Piñera has succeeded him since 2018.
Pinochet applied an ultra-liberal economic policy that included the privatization of a large part of health and education. His government imposed the first completely private pension system.
The world’s leading copper producer, Chile opened up to the world and promoted exports, becoming in the 1980s the Latin American country that received the most foreign investment.
The economic model, still in force, stood out as the most dynamic in Latin America. The reverse of the medal of the so-called “Chilean miracle” is the persistent inequality among its inhabitants, which unleashed a social rebellion in October 2019, channeled through the referendum in 2020.
That year, GDP fell 5.8%, brought down by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For this year, a recovery of around 11% is expected.
Collapse of the Catholic Church
Chile was shaken by pedophile scandals within its Catholic Church, very influential until recently in this society that was characterized as one of the most conservative in Latin America.
In a highly controversial visit in 2018, Pope Francis was accused of failing to take action in the face of more than 150 allegations of sexual abuse, which involved investigations of 219 members of the Church.
Divorce was only legalized in 2014 and three years later the country ended a three-decade absolute ban on abortion. Now it is allowed in case of risk of death of the mother, rape or fetal infeasibility.
Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, Chile is long and narrow in its 4,300 kilometers and is the most seismic country in the world.
In 1960, the city of Valdivia (south) was devastated by a magnitude 9.5 earthquake, considered the most powerful ever recorded, which killed 9,500 people.
In 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami killed more than 520 people. Chile also has several active volcanoes.
Astronomy and poetry
Northern Chile is home to some of the most powerful telescopes in the world due to the clarity of its skies for most of the year.
The construction of the world’s largest telescope (ELT) began in May 2017 in the Atacama desert, the driest in the world, under the aegis of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
In addition, it has several award-winning poets, including Gabriela Mistral, the first female poet to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. She was succeeded by the poet Pablo Neruda in 1971. Other internationally known Chilean writers include Isabel Allende and Luis Sepúlveda, who died. of COVID-19.
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Copper, earthquakes and inequality, what you need to know about Chile