Since the privatization of Correos de Chile, postal service is more reliable. Domestic mail is generally cheap, international post more expensive. Major international couriers, such as DHL, provide fast, reliable services at premium prices.
General delivery at Chilean post offices is lista de correos, quite literally a list arranged in alphabetical order. Because Chileans use both paternal and maternal surnames, postal employees may confuse foreign middle names with paternal surnames—a letter to Michelle Bachelet Jeria would be found under “B,” while one to “John Forbes Kerry” might be found under “F” rather than “K.”
In Spanish-language street addresses, the number follows rather than precedes the name; instead of “1343 Washington Avenue,” for example, a comparable Chilean address would read “Avenida Bilbao 272.” Spanish speakers normally omit the word calle (street) from addresses; where an English speaker might write “499 Jones Street,” a Chilean would simply use, say, “Carrera 272.” It’s not unusual for street addresses to lack a number, as indicated by s/n (sin número, without a number).
Telephone and Fax
Chile’s country code is 56; there are area codes for individual cities and, in some cases, entire regions. All telephone numbers in the Región Metropolitana have seven digits, while those in the other regions generally have six, but in some rural areas they have seven digits beginning with 1. When dialing a local number (i.e. within the same area code), dial only the number. Beyond the local area code and with cell phones, you must dial a zero before the area code. From outside Chile, it’s necessary to dial the country code (56) and the local area code (without a zero), and the number.
Cellular phones all have seven digits, prefixed by 08 or 09. In addition, certain toll-free and other specialty numbers have six digits with a three-digit prefix.
According to The Economist, Chile has about 22 fixed-line telephones per 100 people, and about the same number of mobile phones. The fixed-line figure is equal to or greater than all other countries in Latin America, except Uruguay; the mobile phone figure is the region’s highest.
These figures may overstate the abundance of mobile phone usage. Since such usage functions on a caller-pays basis, many Chileans use them primarily for receiving calls. Cheaper fixed lines carry far more traffic.
Public telephones are abundant; some operate with coins only, but most also accept rechargeable account cards. The basic pay phone rate is Ch$100 (about US$0.15) for five minutes or so; domestic long-distance rates are not that much more expensive.
For long-distance and overseas calls, and fax services, it’s simplest to use centros de llamados (call centers), which are ubiquitous. Prices are cheaper than placing cobro revertido (collect) or tarjeta de crédito (credit card) calls to the United States or any other country.
In the last few years, public Internet access has become both abundant and cheap—rarely does it cost more than about US$2 per hour, and it’s often even cheaper. Many centros de llamados offer access, but there are also numerous Internet cafés with banda ancha (broadband) and wireless Internet. Laptop hookups are routine but not universal.
Chile may have emerged from dictatorship, but freedom of expression still has its limits. A recent study by the Universidad de Chile has criticized the concentration of print media, in particular, in the hands of large consortia such as Agustín Edwards’ El Mercurio group, which owns its influential namesake daily El Mercurio along with the daily tabloids La Segunda and Las Ultimas Noticias, and the Consorcio Periodistico de Chile (Copesa), which owns the tabloids La Tercera, La Hora, and the particularly sensationalist La Cuarta.
The study noted not just the business aspects of the oligopoly—the El Mercurio group earns about 70 percent of the US$640 million advertising revenue for print media—but also the “ideological monopoly” of the country’s most conservative elements. The Copesa group, in particular, consists of a daily newspaper and three magazines controlled by former officials of the Pinochet regime. Ironically enough, Pinochet’s political departure in 1990 made times harder for critical journalists, who lost their easiest editorial target.
Pinochet’s arrest and subsequent legal troubles, however, opened up a whole new space for irreverently satirical papers such as The Clinic, whose bimonthly circulation of 40,000 is a remarkable success story (the paper named itself for the London clinic where the former dictator was detained). Another constraint on freedom of expression disappeared when, in early 2001, Congress repealed a clause of the Pinochet-era National Security Law that permitted imprisonment for anyone who would “defame, injure, or slander members of the high courts.”
For an English-language summary of the Chilean daily press, plus occasional original reporting, look at the Internet-only Santiago Times (www.chip.cl); the weekly print tabloid News Review is business-oriented and relatively bland.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition