Chile is a prosperous Latin American country that has rebounded from a dark period in the late 20th century that the United States helped instigate. In 1970, Chile elected a leftist president, Salvador Allende, whose socialist policies alarmed the Nixon administration and conservatives in Chile. Three years later, on September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup that overthrew Allende, leading to the president’s death. Declassified US government documents have revealed that US officials welcomed the coup, and the CIA may have had a hand in carrying it out. Furthermore, FBI agents helped Chilean security locate leftists residing in the US after the fall of Allende, and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger may have known about plans by Chilean agents to assassinate Allende’s former foreign minister in Washington, DC.
Lay of the Land: In southwestern South America, Chile's string bean profile is conditioned almost entirely by the steep wall of the Andes Mountains dividing it from Argentina to the east. The Andes, towering to almost 23,000 feet and permanently snowcapped, are almost never out of sight, for Chile's average width is only about 110 miles, although the country is 2,650 miles long. Chile has several distinctly different areas. The Atacama Desert in the north, one of the world's driest, gives way to the pleasant central region of wheat fields and vineyards. Most of the people live here in the central valley between the low coastal range and the Andes. Santiago and the other major cities are located here. Further south, the open fields yield to dense forests and a much wetter climate. In the extreme south are glaciers, fjords, and mountain lakes. Easter Island and the Juan Fernández, or “Robinson Crusoe,” islands in the Pacific are also Chilean territory.
Numerous accounts have been written implicating the United States in the overthrow of Allende and its support of Augusto Pinochet’s brutal reign. The Nixon administration was alarmed by the ascension of a Socialist in Chile, fearing the growth of Communism in the Western Hemisphere during the Cold War. Also, the United States had important economic interests in Chile, especially within the copper industry. In 1971, the Chilean government completely nationalized foreign copper firms, which were mainly owned by two US companies, Kennecott and Anaconda. Nixon’s top foreign policy adviser was Henry Kissinger, who was adamant that the United States had to prevent Chile “from going down the drain” under Allende’s leadership.
US relations with Chile improved considerably after the nation returned to democracy in 1990. Overall, the two countries have a strong relationship, characterized by strong commercial ties and extensive consultation between the two governments on bilateral and other issues of mutual concern.
Chile’s most important trade partner is the United States. Total trade with the US was $15.7 billion in 2007 as compared to $14.8 billion in 2006. In 2007, United States imports from Chile totaled $8.4 billion, representing a 10% decrease compared to 2006 ($9.3 billion). As has been the case for many years, copper continues to be Chile’s most valuable export to the US, totaling $3.3 billion in 2007 (The state-owned firm CODELCO is the world’s largest copper-producing company, with recorded copper reserves of 200 years). Second in line among imports from Chile are fruits, totaling $1.3 billion, then fish and shellfish at $1.03 billion.
Bush Proposal Rankles Chilean OAS Representative
The Chilean government has a much better human rights record than the one that ruled during the 1970s and 1980s. However, according to the State Department, there are still “isolated reports of excessive use of force and mistreatment by police forces, of physical abuse in jails and prisons, and of generally substandard prison conditions.”
Appointment: Jan 27, 1823
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 23, 1824
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jul 31, 1827
Chile’s ambassador to the United States since June 21, 2010, Arturo Fermandois Vöhringer is an attorney, professor and lover of music who plays in a rock band.
A 30-year veteran of the State Department, Alejandro D. Wolff has returned to Chile as U.S. ambassador following his first tour to the South American country earlier in his career. He began his term on September 10, 2010.