Chile, Relations with

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CHILE, RELATIONS WITH. Although the United States began official diplomatic relations with Chile in 1823, the two nations had little contact throughout most of the nineteenth century. Chile looked to Europe for most of its cultural, economic, and military connections. The United States remained a relatively minor trading partner. In the late 1800s, Chile began to assert its claim to power in the Western Hemisphere, and in the War of the Pacific (1879–1883) decisively defeated Peru and Bolivia. In 1891, a minor incident in Valparaíso in which a group of drunken U.S. sailors fought with some Chilean civilians was blown entirely out of proportion, with both nations claiming that their national honor had been sullied.

During most of the twentieth century, Chile remained largely aloof from closer relations with the United States. Although the impact of the two world wars did lead to an increase in American trade and investment in Chile, the United States never dominated the Chilean economy as it did elsewhere in Latin America. Chile continued to follow an independent political and diplomatic course, best evidenced by the fact that, despite intense U.S. pressure, Chile was one of the last Latin American nations to sever diplomatic ties with the Axis during World War II.

Following World War II, U.S. interest in Chile increased. As Cold War battle lines were drawn, the United States began to see Chile as a more and more valuable asset in the struggle against communism. Chile's massive deposits of copper, and smaller but still valuable deposits of iron ore, molybdenum, and nitrates, acquired tremendous importance for the United States. After the rise to power of Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1959, the United States increased its efforts to establish closer relations with all of Latin America. During the 1960s a coalition of the Chilean socialist party, headed by Dr. Salvador Allende, and communist party, steadily gained power. The United States secretly pumped millions of dollars to Allende's opponents in order to forestall his victory in the 1964 Chilean presidential election. In 1970, the United States again resorted to covert efforts to influence the Chilean election, but Allende managed a slim electoral victory. Allende almost immediately affirmed the worst fears of U.S. policy makers by nationalizing many of Chile's most important industries and moving towards closer relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. The United States reacted by working to isolate Chile economically, and also covertly funded opposition forces plotting against Allende. In 1973, the Chilean military, secretly aided by the United States, toppled Allende, who then reportedly committed suicide. Under the leadership of General Augusto Pinochet, a military dictatorship ruled Chile for the next sixteen years.


Pike, Fredrick B. Chile and the United States, 1880–1962: The Emergence of Chile's Social Crisis and the Challenge to United States Diplomacy. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.

Sater, William F. Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Michael L.Krenn

See alsoLatin America, Relations with .