Will Chile have a new climate and gender focused Constitution?
By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Most of our readers have surely noticed that in recent months we’ve been giving extra coverage to the upcoming September 4th vote in Chile to Approve or Reject the draft proposal for a new constitution. If approved, it will replace the 1980 one, drafted during the Pinochet military dictatorship (1973-1990).
For a portion of Chilean society, including big mining and agriculture interests and socially conservative elite politicians, the Pinochet constitution was just fine. These powerful lobbies managed to thwart most attempts to amend it during the post-Pinochet period.
Decades of tremendous social and economic inequality in the country came to the forefront beginning in mid-October 2019, when months of nationwide protests paralyzed the country. The most massive demonstration, held in Santiago on October 25, 2019, brought out over a million Chileans.
The social uprising made it crystal clear to President Sebastian Piñera and the Congress that the time had come to let the people decide on whether the country was ready for a new constitution. After initial repression, they had no choice short of ordering a bloodbath like what took place a year earlier in Nicaragua.
The initial vote on whether to establish a constitutional convention was moved from April to October 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Chile. It passed overwhelmingly: 78.28% to 21.72%. Voter turnout was 51%. On May 16, 2021, a total of 155 Chileans were elected to form the Convention, charged with drafting the new constitution. Interestingly, the majority of the delegates were not part of the country’s political class; instead, a large segment came from the social movements. including indigenous representatives. The rules for electing the delegates established gender parity.
The convention was formally constituted on July 4, 2021. Exactly one year later- after an arduous and highly polemic effort to come up with the new document in a sharply divided country – the draft proposal for a new constitution was delivered.
If approved, it would be one of the most modern in the world for addressing climate change issues and granting rights to animals and nature. Guaranteeing women’s rights over their bodies and equal opportunities and pay, quality public education and health care, as well as the decentralization of government which would favor indigenous peoples, are some of the issues that big business and powerful rightwing leaders oppose.
Numerous articles in Havana Times address many of the issues involved for those in favor and against the draft. Now, Chile will hold a referendum on September 4th, to approve or reject the new constitution.
This time, voting is mandatory for all Chileans 18 or over, with fines for those who fail to cast their ballot. Both sides are engaged in a frantic effort to convince voters.
Starting August 5, and continuing seven days a week, the Approve and Reject campaigns are each allotted two daily 7.5-minute slots on National TV to plead their case. They use creative vignettes, brief interviews, and statements in which citizens put forth their questions and tell why the new constitution should be approved or not.
The style of the public slot TV campaign is a deja vu of that portrayed in the 2012 film “NO” by Pablo Larrain, set during the 1988 referendum on whether Pinochet should continue in power.
After consulting with Chilean TV, Havana Times staff decided to add English subtitles to one day’s selection of segments, to give our readers an idea of what they are like. I hope you find it interesting and informative: