Chile country profile
Chile is one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. It has been relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that have blighted the continent.
The exception was the 17-year rule of General Augusto Pinochet, whose 1973 coup was one of the bloodiest in 20th-century Latin America and whose dictatorship left more than 3,000 people dead and missing.
Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape - 4,300 km long and on average 175 km wide - has given it a hugely varied climate.
This ranges from the world's driest desert - the Atacama - in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a snow-prone Alpine climate in the south, with glaciers, fjords and lakes.
Chile is a multi-ethnic society, including people of European and Indian ancestry.
Republic of Chile
Population 17.9 million
Area 756,096 sq km (291,930 sq miles)
Major language Spanish
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 77 years (men), 82 years (women)
Currency Chilean peso
President: Sebastian Pinera
Sebastian Pinera won the presidential election in December 2017, having served as president for four years until 2014.
Local markets soared on hopes of more investor-friendly policies expected to be introduced by the billionaire conservative.
Chile's national and local terrestrial TV channels operate alongside extensive cable TV networks, which carry many US and international stations.
Radio is an important source of news; there are hundreds of stations, most of them commercial.
Some key dates in Chile's history:
1535 - Indigenous Araucanian people successfully resist first Spanish invasion of Chile.
1541 - Pedro de Valdivia begins Spanish conquest and founds Santiago.
1810 - Junta in Santiago proclaims autonomy for Chile following the overthrow of the king of Spain by Napoleon, but Spain regains control of Chile in 1814.
1818 - Chile becomes independent.
1879-84 - Chile increases its territory by one third after it defeats Peru and Bolivia in War of the Pacific.
Late 19th century - Pacification of indigenous Araucanians paves way for European immigration; large-scale mining of nitrate and copper begins.
1891 - Civil war over constitutional dispute between president and congress ends in congressional victory, with president reduced to figurehead.
1970 - Salvador Allende becomes world's first democratically elected Marxist president and embarks on an extensive programme of nationalisation and radical social reform.
1973 - Chief of Staff General Augusto Pinochet ousts Allende in coup and proceeds to establish a brutal dictatorship which lasts until 1990.
1989 - Elections mark return to civilian rule.