Thinking Citizen Blog — Chile — What Should Every Thinking Citizen Know?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’s Topic — Chile — What Should Every Thinking Citizen Know?

I am writing this post on Friday, October 23rd. In two days, Chile will hold a referendumon whether to scrap the 1980 Constitution. Polls indicate that the referendum will pass. Will this be a step forward or a step backward? Is the Constitution the foundation of one of the greatest economic success stories of the last forty years or a nefarious legacy of the murderous Pinochet regime and the neocolonialist cabal of “Chicago school” economists? Opinions differ. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Geography: 2670 miles long, but only 210 miles wide at its widest point, The average width is 110 miles. The Andes to the east, the Pacific to the west. Borders Peru to the north. Bolivia and Argentina to the east. On the Pacific Ring of Fire, the country is dotted with conical volcanoes some extinct, some active. The Atacama Desert in the far north is extremely rich in minerals and one of the driest places on earth. The central region is where most of the population is located, including the three largest metropolitan areas — Santiago (5.5MM), Valparaiso (.8MM), and Concepcion (.7 MM). Southern Chile is wet, heavily forested with many lakes. “The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.”

2, Demography: 19 million up from 6 MM in 1950. Population growth rate has slowed and the population in 2050 is estimated to be 20 MM. 85% of the population is urban. 53% white, 39% mestizo, 8% Amerindian. Roman Catholic 67%, Protestant 17%, None, 11%.

3. Economics: GDP per capita (nominal) — $16,277 compared to Bolivia ($3942). Peru ($7361), Argentina ($10,604). Copper accounts for 20% of GDP and 60% of exports.

HISTORY — from the Mapuche and Valdivia (16th century) to O’Higgins and Carrera (19th)

1. The Mapuche offered fierce resistance to the Incas, then the Spaniards, then the Chileans. The “Aurancanians” (as the Spanish called them) were not definitvely subdued until the 1880s. The occupation of Mapuche land would cause the population to drop from half a million to 25,000.

2. The first Spaniard to set foot in Chile was Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. The Spanish conquest was led by Pedro de Valdivia (above) who was later killed by the Mapuche.

3. The three great leaders of the struggle for independence from Spain were Jose Miguel Carrera (1785–1821), Bernardo O’Higgins (1778–1842), and Jose de San Martin (1778–1850).


1. Salvaodor Allende (1908–1971) was one of the founders of the Socialist Party of Chile and ran for President unsuccessfully in 1952, 1958, and 1964 before winning by a plurality in 1970 in a three-way race. His program of nationalization met with fierce opposition and he was deposed in a military coup backed by the CIA in 1973.

2. Augusto Pinochet (1915–2006): appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean armed forces by Salvador Allende on August 13, 1973, he led the coup that overthrew Allende less than a month later. His dictatorship lasted until 1990. He was arrested for human rights violations in 1998. But in 2004 he was held to be medically unfit to stand trial and was placed under house arrest until his death two years later.

3. The “Chilean Miracle” (1973–2000): under the influence of the free market philosophy of Milton Friedman, industries were privatized, tariffs abolished, inflation stabilized, and democracy, eventually restored. Critics (such as Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen) have argued that the successes have been exaggerated and the costs (eg. economic inequality) swept unde the rug.




Concepción, Chile


Conquest of Chile

Bernardo O’Higgins

José Miguel Carrera

Chilean War of Independence

Economic history of Chile

Miracle of Chile

Chicago Boys

Opinion | Chile’s Suicide Mission

Chance for Chile to forge new path in vote to scrap Pinochet-era constitution

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought.

The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, and art.