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Chile officially the Republic of Chile (Spanish: República de Chile), is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Along with Ecuador, it is one of two countries in South America that do not border Brazil. The Pacific coastline of Chile is 78,563.2 kilometers. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas and Easter Island. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.
The shape of Chile is a distinctive ribbon of land 4,300 kilometres (2,700 mi) long and on average 175 kilometers (109 mi) wide. Its climate varies, ranging from the world’s driest desert – the Atacama – in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Chile declared its independence from Spain on February 12, 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its current northern territory. It was not until the 1880s that the Mapuche were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America, Chile endured the 17-year long military dictatorship (1973–1990) of Augusto Pinochet that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing.
Today, Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations and a recognized middle power. It leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, low perception of corruption and state of peace. It also ranks high regionally in freedom of the press and democratic development. However, it has a high economic inequality, as measured by the Gini index. In May 2010 Chile became the first South American to join the OECD. Chile is a founding member of both the United Nations and the Union of South American Nations.