Territorial organization

The territorial organization of Chile corresponds to the division of the Chilean territory for political and administrative purposes, as defined by the Constitution of 1980.


This legal document stipulates that the country is a unified state, whose administration is functional and territorially decentralized or unconcentrated, in his case, in accordance with current legislation. The organs of the State should promote the strengthening of the regions of the country and the equal development and solidarity between the regions, provinces and communities within the territorial nation.

For the government and the interior administration of the State, the territory of the Republic of Chile is currently divided into fifteen regions which in turn are subdivided into provinces. For the purposes of local administration, the provinces are divided into municipalities.


The region is the largest administrative unit in which the country is divided. It was created during the regionalization process carried out in the mid-1970s, regrouping the former provinces. Twelve regions were designed originally, with the addition of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago in 1976 along with the implementation of the administrative reform in 1976; in 2007, two new regions were created from the division of other regions, resulting in the current number of 15 regions.

The regional government of the region is led by the regional intendant, appointed by the President of the Republic, and reporting to him. Ministries (except the Ministry of the Interior, National Defense, Foreign Affairs and General Secretary of the Presidency) are decentralized at the regional level, being represented by Ministerial Regional Secretaries (Seremis). These Seremis make up the so-called «regional cabinet», chaired by the mayor.

The administration of the region, meanwhile, is rooted in the Regional Government, formed by the intendant and the regional council. This regional council is responsible for the effective participation of the citizenry in the administration of the region. Until 2013, the advisors that make up this agency were selected by indirect election held by the councillors elected democratically by the citizenship. A constitutional reform changed this and since 2014, regional councillors will be directly elected every four years. The number of councillors varies by region according to the number of inhabitants, ranging from 14 advisers to 34 for the most densely populated region.


The intermediate unit of Chile’s administrative structure is the province. Currently, the province quite differs from the provinces that existed prior to 1976, when they were the highest administrative unit. In 2014, there are 54 provinces – after the creation of the Marga Marga province through a law that came into effect on March 11, 2010.

The government and administration of the province is run through the provincial government, headed by a provincial governor, appointed and trusted by the President of the Republic. He or she exercises his or her powers in accordance with the instructions of the regional intendant. According to the Constitution, the governor is responsible for overseeing the existing public services in the province. The governors of provinces where there is a regional capital, the governors act in of the intendant when he or she is absent.

The only exception is the Province of Santiago, which does not provide for a provincial government in its regulations, granting these powers to the intendant of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago. In January 2001 the position of provincial representative of Santiago was created, which in charge of a provincial representative, which performs the functions of a provincial governor in place of the retive intendant.


The commune is the basic unit of the political and administrative structure of Chile. Despite the successive administrative reforms in the country, the concept of commune has been maintained since the early days of the Republic and may even be considered a continuation of the colonial ‘cabildo’.

There are 346 communes in the country and the differences between them are substantial. While the general idea of a commune corresponds to the territory with an urban core, but this is not always true. On the one hand, there are communes that are mostly rural without a defined nucleus; on the other hand, some large areas are divided into multiple districts, the city of Santiago de Chile which is divided into 36 communes being the most obvious case. In most cases, the name of the commune comes from the location of the administrative, headquarters although there is some forty different communes where this is not the case.

The local administration of each commune, or grouping of communes, where in some specific cases- resides in a municipality, made up of a mayor and a Municipal Council, elected directly for a renewable period of four years. The Municipal Council is made up of 6, 8 or 10 councillors, according to the total number of registered voters in the commune.

The municipalities represent the decentralization of central power. They are responsible for different tasks, from the community cleanliness and programs for social development for its inhabitants to the basic services of health and primary and secondary education. They are assisted by an Economic Council and Social Committee(CESCO), consisting of representatives from major community activities and organizations. Currently, there are 345 municipalities, since the municipality of Cabo de Hornos manages both the commune of Cape Horn and Antarctica.