Saturday, March 25, 2006


According to the book, Operation World, the country to pray for on the 23rd was Chile. I didn't cover it then, but since the book has China scheduled until April 5th, I thought I would cover it now.

Chile is that long stringy looking country next to Argentina, and stretches from Peru in the north to the arctic tundra of Tierra Del Fuego at the tip of South America. It's area is about 750,000 square Km, which is just slightly bigger than California and Oregon put together. With a population of about 16 million people, it's about as well populated as the two states.
The terrain ranges from arid deserts along the coast in the north part of the country, to alpine glaciers in the Andes between Chile and Argentina, to fertile valleys and arctic tundra.

Prior to the conquest by Europeans, the narrow strip of land between the Pacific and the Andes was ruled by the Incan Empire, although it hadn't been that way for long. The Incas only captured the area early in the 15th century, just before the Spanish got there. The country became independent of Spain fairly early in the grand scheme of things. They got their independence in 1810. The northern parts of the country were captured from Peru and Bolivia in 1884, and finally subdued the Mapuche of the south, who had kept the Incas and Spanish in fits for centuries.

Chile has had a representative democracy for almost all of that 200 years, although some of the pathways have been rocky. As recently as 1970, a Marxist government came into power, but soon was resisted by the right-wing military and the CIA helped Augusto Pinochet Ugarte take hold of the government. Pinochet didn't relinquish power until 1989. His entire reign was rife with oppression and human rights abuses, which are even now still getting sorted out.

They just elected a new President, Michelle Bachelet, one of the first female presidents ever in Latin America. Although she is liberal, the relative state of politics in South America makes her look conservative.

There is still a dispute with Bolivia over northern parts of the country. Bolivia wants the territory it lost in the 1884 war with Chile because otherwise it is land locked. Evo Morales called for the OAS (Organization of American States) to help with the dispute, but Chile doesn't want the OAS to get involved.

Chile's population is 90% Christian, of various denominations (although majority Catholic). The Catholic church has been hit hard by identification with liberation theology (with it's Marxist presuppositions), and many have left to protestant denominations. The wounds of the Pinochet years are still sensitive, and continue to haunt life and politics there.

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