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South America Overview
South America, the planet's 4th largest continent, includes 12 independent countries and 3 major territories; the Falkland Islands, Galapagos Islands and French Guiana. The continent contains the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela; the largest river (by volume), the Amazon River; the longest mountain range, the Andes, and the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile. In addition, it includes the largest rainforest, the Amazon Rainforest; the highest capital city, La Paz, Bolivia; the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca; and, excluding research stations in Antarctica, the world's southernmost permanently inhabited community, Puerto Toro, Chile. No other continent, except Antarctica, penetrates so far to the south. Although the northern part of South America extends north of the Equator and four-fifths of its landmass is located within the tropics, it also reaches sub Antarctic latitudes.
The original inhabitants of South America are believed to have descended from the same Asiatic peoples who migrated to North America from Siberia during the most recent (Wisconsin) ice age. Few of these peoples, however, survived the arrival of Europeans after 1500, most succumbing to disease or mixing with people of European and (especially in Brazil) African origin. Some parts of the continent are now industrialized, with modern cities, but the people in rural areas still follow an agricultural way of life. The wealth of mineral products and renewable resources is considerable, yet economic development in most of the continent lags behind the more industrially advanced regions of the world. Nonetheless, concern has arisen about the rapidly increasing and often destructive exploitation of these resources.
The climate in most of South America is usually tropical. It is humid tropical and tropical savanna in the north. It is humid subtropical in the southeast. Rainfall is different according to the places. In some places it has zero inches, but there are about 80 inches in the mountains. Temperatures can also be very different. The usual temperature in the mountains is 59 degrees, while temperatures in the Tropics can be more than 100 degrees.
South America is experiencing great economic development, with Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru growing their economies by over 8% per annum, but at the same time, they are experiencing very high inflation rates, like around 22% in Venezuela. Since the 1990s, South America has experienced great economic development, with Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru growing their economies by over 8% per annum. Brazil's economy, on the other hand, is expected to grow by a more sluggish pace in the near future. South America relies heavily on the exporting of goods. On an exchange rate basis Brazil (the seventh largest economy in the world and the second largest in the Americas) leads the way in total amount of exports at $137.8 billion dollars followed by Chile at $58.12 billion and Argentina with $46.46 billion.
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