Chilean president receives draft constitution

Santiago – Chile’s constitutional convention delivered its draft new constitution to President Gabriel Boric on Monday ahead of a referendum scheduled for September on whether to adopt the text.

The convention, made up of 154 members who are mostly political independents, spent a year creating the new document intended to replace the constitution adopted under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990).

The impetus to rewrite the constitution came from the massive social unrest that erupted in October 2019, initially against a hike in subway fares, but escalated into general anti-government protests against inequality.

“We should be proud that during the deepest crisis…in the decades that our country has gone through, we Chileans have chosen more democracy, not less,” Boric said at a ceremony in Santiago.

He immediately signed a decree calling for a referendum on September 4, where voting in the deeply polarized country of 19 million people will be compulsory.

Rewriting the dictatorship-era constitution was a major demand of protesters who took to the streets in 2019 and maintained weekly demonstrations for months before the coronavirus pandemic brought them to a halt.

In the first of the 388 articles of the new constitution, Chile is described as “a social and democratic state of law”, as well as “plurinational, intercultural and ecological”.

“It recognizes the dignity, freedom, substantial equality of human beings and their indissoluble relationship with nature as intrinsic and inalienable values.

“I think we responded to social demands, to citizens’ desires, that’s what people hoped and wanted from this process,” Barbara Sepulveda, a member of the Communist Party convention, told AFP.

“It is a proposal that represents a historic step forward in terms of democracy and the guarantee of social rights for our country, and in addition, it is filled with feminism from start to finish”, added Alondra Carrillo, of the Broad Front of left. .

Some right-wing Conventionists were less enthusiastic.

For Cristian Monckeberg, this is a “missed” opportunity to “build something that unites rather than divides” the country.

But with only 37 seats out of 154 at the constitutional convention, which will now be dissolved, the political right was in the minority.

The process “wasn’t as easy and user-friendly as many of us would have liked and dreamed of,” writer and journalist Patricio Fernandez, one of the convention’s 104 independent members, told AFP. .

– ‘From another era’ –

If the constitution is adopted, it will make Chile one of the most progressive countries in the region.

The national right to abortion – something that was overturned in the United States – would be enshrined in law.

“It is a constitution from another era. I have total confidence that if it is approved, when we look back on this process…it will be viewed with much more fondness and affection than we see it now,” Fernandez said.

Divided equally between men and women, the constitutional convention also contained 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples, who make up about 13% of the population.

One such member, Natividad Llanquileo, an activist from Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, said the constitutional process represented “the most democratic space we have seen in the history of this country”.

In addition to recognizing the different peoples that make up the Chilean nation, the new constitution grants a certain autonomy to indigenous institutions, particularly in matters of justice.

On several occasions in recent weeks, millennial leader Boric has reiterated his support for the constitutional project, adding that the current document represents an “obstacle” to deep social reform.

Even so, several opinion polls suggest that the new constitution could still be rejected. With the full text yet to be published, many Chileans say they are uncertain.

At Monday’s ceremony, Boric warned against “lies, distortions or catastrophic interpretations that are alien to reality” in the run-up to the referendum.

Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at the University of Diego Portales, told AFP that supporters of the new constitution “must work to convince (others) that it will truly change people’s lives”.

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