Chile begins drafting new constitution after Pinochet

Chile will officially begin writing a new constitution on Sunday to replace the one it inherited from dictator Augusto Pinochet’s era and is widely blamed for deep social inequalities that sparked deadly protests in 2019.

Chileans won the country’s biggest protests in 30 years of democracy in a referendum last October, in which a majority voted in favor of a new constitution to be drafted by a group of elected members.

Elected in May and dubbed a “constitutional convention,” this 155-member body will officially begin creating a new Magna Carta for a new Chile on Sunday.

It is a representative collection of Chileans – lawyers, teachers, a housewife, scientists, social workers, veterinarians, writers, journalists, actors and doctors – many of whom took part in the protests themselves.

The youngest is 21.

Half are women, by design, and 17 seats were reserved for representatives of indigenous groups.

The assembly holds the power to chart a new path for the country after decades of political and economic power concentrated in the hands of an elite, many of the right and defenders of the old constitution’s free-market guarantees.

“They come from the same schools, they go to the same three universities and most of them have lived in Santiago, in the most affluent neighborhoods,” Marcela Rios, assistant representative of the United Nations Development Program in Chile, told AFP. the old guard.

Diversity presents challenges

By contrast, the drafters of the new constitution come from a diverse range of backgrounds, mainly with leftist leanings, and many have gained their support through years of social work in their communities.

“Diversity is a good thing, but it also poses challenges that require concessions” to come to an agreement, says constitutional law expert Javier Couso of the University of Diego Portales.

Independent candidates won the election in May, taking 46 percent of the seats, while voters turned their backs on traditional political parties.

Center-left parties, broadly advocating greater state control of natural resources and increased social spending, received a third of the votes cast.

The right got just over 20 percent, meaning it won’t veto the body that requires a two-thirds vote to approve the draft constitution.

The document will eventually be submitted to a national referendum next year, where voting will be mandatory.

with a lot of debt

Chile’s current constitution dates back to 1980 and was enacted at the height of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule in 1973-1990.

It promotes private entrepreneurship in all sectors of the economy – including education, health care and pensions – in a country ranked as one of the most unequal of the advanced economies.

Chile has the highest per capita income and the third most multimillionaires in Latin America.

But the working class and even the upper middle class are heavily indebted, often to pay for education and private pensions.

There is low satisfaction with quality of life.

Constitutional convention member Rodrigo Rojas Vade told AFP he would try to assuage the concerns of the Chilean “tired of receiving orders, who does not make it to the end of the month, who dies in hospital without care. , the child who goes to bed with the pain of hunger every night.”

His group, the People’s List, supports water as a fundamental right, public health, free education, decent pensions and enhanced human rights guarantees.

“To this day we live in a society that is limited in the exercise of rights and freedoms because we still have a constitution inherited from this fratricide period that we experienced,” said Manuel Woldarsky, another representative of the United Nations. Population List.


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