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Geography—note: strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions

total: 756,950 sq km
land: 748,800 sq km
water: 8,150 sq km
note: includes Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) and Isla Sala y Gomez

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than twice the size of Montana

Coastline: 6,435 km

Climate: temperate; desert in north; cool and damp in south

Terrain: low coastal mountains; fertile central valley; rugged Andes in east

Natural resources: copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdenum

Environment—current issues: air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation contributing to loss of biodiversity; soil erosion; desertification

 Population: 14,787,781 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28% (male 2,134,701; female 2,043,112)
15-64 years: 65% (male 4,768,366; female 4,811,403)
65 years and over: 7% (male 426,924; female 603,275) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.27% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 18.28 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.55 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 10.39 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.16 years
male: 72.01 years
female: 78.48 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.3 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Ethnic groups: white and white-Amerindian 95%, Amerindian 3%, other 2%

Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, Jewish

Languages: Spanish

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.2%
male: 95.4%
female: 95% (1995 est.)

National capital: Santiago

Independence: 18 September 1810 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 18 September (1810)

Constitution: 11 September 1980, effective 11 March 1981; amended 30 July 1989

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Political parties and leaders: Coalition of Parties for Democracy or CPD consists mainly of: Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Enrique KRAUSS]; Socialist Party or PS [Camilo ESCALONA]; Party for Democracy or PPD [Sergio BITAR]; Radical Social Democratic Party or PRSD [Anselmo SULE]; Union for the Progress of Chile or UPP consists mainly of two parties: National Renewal or RN [Alberto ESPINA]; Independent Democratic Union or UDI [Jovino NOVOA]

Economy—overview: Chile has a prosperous, essentially free market economy. Civilian governments - which took over from the military in March 1990—have continued to reduce the government's role in the economy while shifting the emphasis of public spending toward social programs. Growth in real GDP averaged more than 7.0% in 1991-1997, and inflation is nearing a 40-year low. Chile's currency and foreign reserves also are strong, as sustained foreign capital inflows—including significant direct investment—have more than offset current account deficits and public debt buybacks. President FREI, who took office in March 1994, has placed improving Chile's education system and developing foreign export markets at the top of his economic agenda. Despite this progress, the Chilean economy remains largely dependent on a few sectors—particularly copper mining, fishing, and forestry. Success in meeting the government's goal of sustained annual economic growth of 5% depends largely on world prices for these commodities, continued foreign investor confidence, and the government's ability to maintain a conservative fiscal stance. In 1996, Chile became an associate member of Mercosur and concluded a Free Trade Agreement with Canada.

GDP—real growth rate: 7.1% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 8%
industry: 33%
services: 59% (1995 est.)

Agriculture—products: wheat, corn, grapes, beans, sugar beets, potatoes, fruit; beef, poultry, wool; timber; 1991 fish catch of 6.6 million metric tons

total value: $16.9 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: copper 37%, other metals and minerals 8.2%, wood products 7.1%, fish and fishmeal 9.8%, fruits 8.4% (1994)
partners: EU 25%, US 15%, Asia 34%, Latin America 20% (1995 est.)

total value: $18.2 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: capital goods 25.2%, spare parts 24.8%, raw materials 15.4%, petroleum 10%, foodstuffs 5.7% (1994)
partners: EU 18%, US 25%, Asia 16%, Latin America 26% (1995 est.)

Debt—external: $26.7 billion (1997 est.)

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 3,919,465 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 2,909,927 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $2.8 billion (1997); note—includes earnings from CODELCO Company; probably includes costs of pensions and internal security

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 3.5% (1997)

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