Alvaro Garcia Linera and the Constituent Paralysis in Chile

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The installation of the new Constitutional Council in Chile, on June 7, generates mixed feelings for those of us who look nostalgically at what happened a couple of years ago with the Constitutional Convention. It also questions about what really happened so that the political scenario in Chile has changed so much in such a short time, going from a body made up mostly of independent people and social movements, to one led by the worst of the Pinochet ultra-right.

Hence, what was proposed by former Bolivian vice president and benchmark for several Latin American lefts, Alvaro Garcia Linera. In a recent interview he said that the rejection of the constitutional proposal in September 2022 was mainly due to a paralysis of the government of Gabriel Boric, thus leaving on a platter for the large, concentrated media to carry out a massive disinformation campaign.

For the same reason, García Linera stated, without saying it explicitly, that the government of Gabriel Boric should have taken the path of presidents such as Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales. He refers to a government that would have allowed the Chilean people to come closer to the constituent process underway and thus guarantee their victory at the polls, through strong economic policies that would give certainty to the population, greatly affected by the pandemic and the increase in the cost of living.

But García Linera goes much further with his criticism of the failure of the Constitutional Convention by pointing out that the true constituent power in the region is the executive and not the assembly itself. This  seems to me highly debatable and dangerous to pose for those of us who want profound transformations, but always critics of the prevailing concentration of power and defenders of democracy and human rights, wherever they may be.

I point this out because although one can agree with the first part of Garcia Linera’s criticism, regarding the passivity of the government of Gabriel Boric in the midst of the constituent process and given the importance of the historical moment that we were living as a country. However, I cannot share his vision of the constituent assembly reproducing the worst of the authoritarian left, which has ended up appropriating the processes of social mobilization.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Garcia Linera, in his assessment of the first progressive wave, does not give any importance in his analysis to the implementation of the new Latin American constitutions, as is the case of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Instead, he focuses on certain government policies, leaving out truly revolutionary aspects of those processes, such as the formation of Plurinational States, Rights of Nature and notions such as Sumak Kawsay and Suma Qamaña, as good living.

Consequently, what matters to Garcia Linera in the end was not all that was at stake in the Chilean constitutional proposal, marked by a text with enormous horizons for Chile and the world on different issues and which took charge of enormous historical struggles in the country. Instead, he focused on the inability of the government of Gabriel Boric to concentrate power, which is quite unfortunate for someone who is taken as a reference, even for the president himself.

In other words, it is as if these constitutions have been mere means of leftist governments, which through strongmen, ended up coopting and denying the magna cartas that they promoted. Such was the case of Venezuela, which of course García Linera does not say anything about it. He implicitly denies the humanitarian crisis that country is experiencing under the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro. By doing so, he ends up giving arguments to the extreme right to grow more and more in the region and to discredit any attempt by the Latin American left to democratize their countries.

Having said this, what has been pointed out by authors who have thoroughly studied the Bolivian constituent process and the thought of García Linera makes a lot of sense. The anthropologist Salvador Schavelzon shows us how the notion of revolution that the former vice president has is marked by a deep authoritarian and monopolistic centralization of the State, greatly influenced by Lenin and the experience of Soviet Russia, where repression was always validated to maintain political control over the people and the territories.

Given this, the MAS (Movement to Socialism) project, led by Evo Morales, has always been a political project that used democracy and the constituent process itself as a tool to centralize power, as was evident with its candidacy for president in 2019, ignoring that in 2016 he lost a referendum, which made it impossible for him to run again as a candidate.

With this, of course, I do not seek to ignore the coup d’état and the subsequent dictatorship of Jeanine Añez, full of racism and colonialism, as well as what happened in Peru with Dina Boluarte. However, from there to not seeing a totally undemocratic vision of some left in the region, who believe they are the owners of the destinies of the peoples and possessors of an unquestionable truth, is to continue reproducing the worst of certain supposedly transformative experiences.

In short, surely Alvaro Garcia Linera, as a good spokesman for the authoritarian left, will think that everything is lost in Chile today, and that only a new social revolt can once again generate the conditions for a caudillo and a political sector to appear that this time will appropriate the entire process centrally, as fortunately did not happen in 2019.

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