Social Movements in Chile Activate Their “Approve” Campaign


With a strategy of decentralization and a strong inauguration in multiple regions and cities of Chile, the Social Movements’ launched their campaign with the slogan “I Approve the New Constitution”. The umbrella group brings together over 100 organizations, including a teachers’ union, the Movement for Defending Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection [Modatima], the March 8 Feminist Collective, and the Domestic Workers Union [Sindicato de Trabajadoras de Casa Particular].

By Raul Espina (El Mostrador)

HAVANA TIMES – On Wednesday, July 27, the Social Movements’ campaign – “I Approve the New Constitution”- was inaugurated, with activities held simultaneously in multiple Chilean cities, including Santiago, Iquique, Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, Osorno and Punta Arenas. The “Command Post” will coordinate a decentralized campaign that seeks to deploy independent sectors from the different civil society groups, after their experiences forming part of the Constitutional Convention.

In order to do this, the Social Movements campaign brings together new and old groups, totaling over 100 organizations from Arica to Punto Arenas. They’ve marked out a strategy and a territory that sets them apart from the official campaign Aprueba x Chile [“Approve for Chile”], which works more closely with the government and the established political parties.

Among the groups that form part of the campaign is the March 8 Feminist Coordinator, in charge of publicity; the Movement for Defending Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection; and unions or professional associations such as the ones of Teachers as well as the Domestic Workers Unon; the Mapuche Women’s Network; the Amagallanes Social Coordinator; and the Permanent Assembly for the Legalization of Abortion, among many others.

These groups hold a coordinating meeting every Tuesday. They’ve already held a number of sessions to examine the logistics, such as defining spokespersons and decision-making as regards the dissemination of materials, among other tasks. They also hold trainings on the preparation of briefings related to the campaign. At the same time, a communications and audiovisual team works on the contents that they’ll be using during their allotted television slots, which they estimate will be about a minute long. That process is coordinated by journalist Gonzalo Oñate.

The Coordinating Body will have three spokespersons in the Metropolitan area around Santiago and others in the different regions of the country. In contrast to the Aprueba X Chile campaign, they don’t have any direct relation to traditional politics or politicians. With respect to this, one of their Santiago spokeswomen, Manuela Royo, a former Constitutional Convention delegate and representative of Modatima, pointed out that the Social Movements could become “crucial and relevant” for the success of the Approve movement. In her judgment, their campaign is characterized by its “diversity, and social and territorial strength”. Moreover, it’s made up of public figures that “have worked for social justice in Chile for years.”

As Royo expressed it: “We believe that the decentralization and diversity of the more than 100 organizations that make us up are elements that identify us and differentiate us. We’ve set up an organization which extends throughout the Chilean territory. That also allows us to make visible a diversity of stories regarding who we are as a country. Because of this great diversity and decentralization, and because we also wanted to give voice and space to those of us who haven’t always had them, we decided to contribute as Social Movements. We want to get support the “Approve” campaign in a more territorial-based way, one that’s independent and reflects the work of social organizations that don’t necessarily identify with the Government or with Officialdom. One of our main objectives is to make visible those of us who have historically been excluded.”

Rayo added that one characteristic of the Social Movements effort is that it differentiates them from similar campaigns is that they have a presence in all the territories. There are social movements from Arica to Punto Arenas, in other words, in all regions of the country. “In that sense, we have a force that’s being deployed door-to-door, to inform. We’ll also continue joining forces between each of our little spaces. What we’ve achieved has been very positive, despite the fact that we’re self-organized,” noted one of the other Command spokeswomen from the Metropolitan Region.

A difference approach than Aprueba x Chile

Fairly recently, debate has arisen within both government coalitions regarding eventual modifications in the Constitutional draft. Groups have discussed possible changes in some specific aspects, such as the laws that are exclusively initiated by the president; a review of the justice system; or whether presidential reelection is permitted. These issues have divided two of the parties that make up the government coalition: “Apruebo Dignidad” and the Democratic Socialists. The issue at hand is if an agreement to make reforms should be realized before or after the Constitutional plebiscite on September 4.  In this controversy, the Social Movements Command Post agrees with the words of Chilean President Gabriel Boric. On July 19, in an interview with Radio Caricia of Chile, Boric reiterated: “the Constitution can be improved.” The President added that he sees “no problem in discussing it, conversing about it and coming to an agreement about some of the modifications that can be made.”

Regarding this question, Manuela Royo pointed out: “It’s important to understand that no Constitutional transformation is possible if it isn’t approved on September 4th. Given that, it seems relevant that we be clear about our main objective: assuring the Approve vote. In doing so, it’s important to advance towards consensus and accords. That’s why we concur with what President Boric has said – that today our first objective is a vote to “Approve” [the new Constitution]. There are other things that will have to be discussed later, but always with the understanding that the important thing is to finish off that old Constitution from the dictatorship and unite around that.”

In search of that “unity” to obtain a victory for the “Approve” vote, the question arose as to why the Social Movements decided to generate their own space, differentiating themselves from the narrative of Aprueba x Chile, the umbrella group that coordinates the civil society organizations with closer ties to the government. Juan Ignacio Latorre, a senator and president of the Democratic Revolution party, dismissed the notion that the organization of a parallel space on the part of the Social Movements in any way damaged the notion of “unity” around approving the new Constitution. Latorre himself is one of the most visible faces in the Approve campaign from the Frente Amplio party [“Broad Front” a left-wing Chilean political coalition founded in 2017].

“It seems to me,” Latorre stated, “that all the Approves add up – Approve to reform, simply Approve, Approve for the Social Movements – all of the Approve support contributes to the final objective. I value the organization that the Social Movements are realizing. They have the capacity to bring in territories that the traditional parties find it difficult to get to. We face the enormous challenge of mobilizing the popular sectors and the youth world. The Social Movements can provide support there as well. I believe that there’s a very deep desire among the peoples of Chile to learn about the real contents of the new Constitution, to clear up the lies and the fake news that the conservative sectors who don’t want change have instilled in this country. In that, we can all add our grain of sand to win a victory for the Approve vote on September 4th, the Senator emphasized.

Finally, given the decision of the “official” campaign for the Approve vote to name two legislators as their spokespersons: Vlado Mirosevic (Liberal Party) and Karol Cariola (Communist Party), the Social Movements would rather place their bets on a different strategy. They value the relationship with representatives of the established powers, but they prefer a strategy based on fanning out across the territories in a more decentralized way, with faces linked to social organization. They say that theirs is a narrative that “reflects reality, as it is” with the objective of “transforming the hatred propagated by the Reject campaign into a positive transformation of the country.”

“I believe that every group has its own leaders, its own voices and in that sense, it seems very important to me that the representatives of the governing powers also demonstrate their support, because that shows the transverse relations that are useful for the objective, which is a triumph of the Approve vote. From the Social Movements we’ve decided to maintain the spokespeople from each territory, as they represent our Movements. That’s definitely the tonic, making sure they’re not the same faces as always, but also giving space to new voices, always coming from social organization which is what characterizes us,” concluded Manuela Royo.

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