Mapuche Woman Chosen To Lead Architects Of Chile’s Constitution After Pinochet

Deputies on Sunday chose a woman from Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people to lead them in drafting the country’s new constitution — a dramatic turning point for a group not recognized in the country’s current law code.

Elisa Loncon, 58, politically independent, is a professor at the University of Santiago and an activist for Mapuche’s educational and linguistic rights.

She was elected by 96 of the 155 men and women, including 17 indigenous peoples, who will form the constitutional body that will draft a new text to replace Chile’s previous magna carta produced during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Loncon accepted the position with a clenched fist over her head and said to her colleagues at noisy parties: “I salute the people of Chile from the north to Patagonia, from the sea to the mountains, to the islands, everyone who looks at us today, ” she said.

“I am grateful for the support of the various coalitions who have placed their trust and their dreams in the hands of the Mapuche nation, who voted for a Mapuche person, a woman, to change the history of this country.”

Her election represents a culmination in a day of major drama, including the suspension of deputies’ swearing-in after protests outside and inside the hall, and clashes with police forced a delay in the event.

Problems arose after demonstrations, organized by independent, left-wing and indigenous groups representing delegates to the constitutional body, and other interest groups, met heavily armed police barricades outside Santiago’s former congress building where the ceremony was held.

Delegates within the event then protested to organizers over heavy-handed police tactics, thumping drums and yelling at a classical youth orchestra playing the national anthem.

Amid requests from delegates to withdraw “repressive” special forces police, the electoral court official presiding over the ceremony agreed to suspend the event until noon.

The showdown underlined the intense challenges of drafting a new magna carta against a backdrop of deep divisions that still slumber after Chile was torn apart by mass protests that began in October 2019 over inequality and elitism and were sparked by a fierce police response. .

The constitutional body was elected by popular vote in May and is dominated by independent and left-wing candidates, some with roots in the protest movement, with a smaller proportion of more conservative candidates, supported by the current centre-right government.

The delegates vowed to raise issues such as water and property rights, central bank independence and labor practices, raising investors’ nerves about potentially significant changes to the free-market system of the world’s largest copper producer.

Before the ceremony began, deputies from Aymara and Mapuche held spiritual ceremonies with song and dance in the downtown streets surrounding the body’s new headquarters and on a nearby hill.

Not recognized in the current constitution, they hope that a new text will give their nations new cultural, political and social rights.

The committee has up to a year to agree on common rules, set up committees and draft a new text.

Leandro Lima, a Southern Cone audit risk analyst, said the independents have given “legitimacy” to the process given Chileans’ deep distrust of established politics, but lack of policy experience and deep ideological divisions could cause critical delays in composing the text itself.


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