Military, Police, and PDI in Chile


The Carabineros are the uniformed police force of Chile. In Chile, the police (Carabineros) are a branch of the military. The Carabineros were established in 1927 and they report to the Ministerio de Defensa Nacional (Ministry of National Defense) through the Undersecretary of Carabiniers. Their goal is to maintain order and create respect for the laws of the country. Although the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security has complete control over the Carabineros, which fully separates them from the three other branches by department, they are still considered a part of the armed forces (military). All of the members of the Carabineros are fully military trained and in a war situation they are supposed to act as part of the military force.

The Carabineros drive well marked green and white cars, trucks and vans. They have 35 total aircraft to support their operations, including ten helicopters. If you ask a Chilean what they think of the police, then you will often get mixed reviews. I believe the bad reviews come from Chileans who remember when the police and government of Chile were less than desirable and that left a lasting impression and distrust. However, on the other side, you will definitely run across people who speak very favorably of the police. Overall from our experiences we have found the police to be very polite, patient, and honest, even in the big cities such as Santiago.


Chile has two branches of police in the country. The first branch is the Carabineros as listed above and the second branch is the PDI, which is also known as the Investigations Police of Chile. The Investigations Police of Chile are a civilian police force and they were founded in 1933. The main duties of the PDI as listed on their website are: Contribute to the maintenance of public order, prevent the commission of criminal acts and acts violating the fundamental stability agencies, to comply with the orders from the Public Ministry for the purposes of the investigation, as well as the orders issued by the judicial authorities, and administrative authorities in the acts which involve special courts, provide cooperation to the courts with jurisdiction in criminal matters, check the entry and exit of people from the country, to oversee the stay of foreigners in the country, to represent Chile as a member of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), comply with other functions as may be assigned by law.

If you move to Chile and go through the residency process, then you will most likely have to visit the PDI office as they handle quite a bit of Extranjeria business. After obtaining residency in Chile, then the first thing you will have to do is visit the PDI office and register in their system before you can apply for your ID card (carnet).

For more information on the PDI, visit

Military in Chile

The Armed Forces of Chile, or also known as the Fuerzas Armadas de Chile, is the military force in Chile that is subject to civilian control. The Armed Forces of Chile is the most technologically advanced and professional Armed Forces in South America. The Armed Forces is comprised of three main divisions, the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The army division in Chile has approximately 36,000 members divided into six divisions. Most of the modern, advanced equipment that supplies the Army is from Germany, Switzerland, United States, Israel, France, and Spain.

Currently the Navy of Chile (Armada de Chile) has 25,000 members, including 5,200 Marines. The Chilean Navy was ranked as the fourth most capable Navy in both North and South America. The Armada de Chile regularly carries out civil operations where Navy professionals provide social assistance and health care to the civilian population, and provide support in cases of natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. Since Chile has a long coast line and many bodies of water, the Armada de Chile can be seen many different places and they regularly patrol the waters.

The last main branch of the Chilean Armed Forces is the Chilean Air Force. Chile has its own aviation industry and even has seen some success in exporting air craft. The air force has 11,000 members and has its equipment distributed between five main air brigades in Iquique, Antofagasta, Santiago, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. The air force also operates an airbase on King George Island, Antarctica. For more information on the Air Force of Chile, visit

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