Fear vs Participatory Politics in Chile

We care for and defend the Constitutional Convention!

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – As the constitutional process moves forward in Chile, with different laws being approved during the plenary session of this unprecedented democratic entity, some of Chilean society’s most conservative sectors were quick to express their anxiety, concerns and even fear.

Going hand-in-hand with the catastrophic images that right-wing parties and business groups expose us to every day in the largest media outlets concentrated in their hands, new sectors are joining them, who are only looking to discredit the most diverse and participatory political process in Chile’s history.

One of these sectors has garnered a lot of attention and visibility in Chile’s press oligopoly in the past month: the group called Amarillos Por Chile (1), where literature professor and radio host Cristian Warnken has been its main spokesperson, mobilizer, and most visible face of those who make up this political space.

The list of well-known names belonging to Amarillos Por Chile ranges from former Agreement members (Alejandro Foxley, Carolina Goic, Andres Velasco, Jose Joaquin Brunner, Soledad Alvear, Mariana Aylwin, Fulvio Rossi, Ignacio Walker, Gutenberg Martínez), to people close to what is known as the center-left, such as Mario Waissbluth, Luis Riveros, Sol Serrano, Ivan Jacsic, Claudio Elortegui, Jose De Gregorio, to name a few.

We could ask what’s the harm in a new political group appearing and wanting to enter the public conversation, within a context of constitutional dialogue, via statements, proposals, and points of view about what different Convention committees are discussing.

The problem doesn’t lie in what this group considers in ideological terms, but in how and when it speaks out, with a discourse focused around fear, just months before the new Constitution proposal is written, which will be put to a popular referendum vote this year.

This is why the tone of the Amarillos Por Chile’s manifesto on the Constitutional Convention’s work up until now shouldn’t come as a surprise (2), using expressions such as institutional breakdown, red flag, dead-end alleyway, dismemberment, maximalism, failure, failed experiment.

Meanwhile, it presents a rhetoric of dialogue, conversation, listening, balance, prudence, moderation, agreements, reasoning, on the other hand, as if most constituent members (who were democratically elected) only want to impose an exclusive, polarized point of views on others in an authoritarian way.

The reality is that it would be more honest on Warnken’s behalf, and the rest of Amarillos Por Chile, if they reflected upon why this center-left that they want to revive right now, doesn’t have practically any representation on the Constitutional Convention, after decades of governing (with the center-right) in a vertical hierarchy and far-removed from the demands of social movements and many civil society organizations.

Just as it would be good for them to reflect upon how this built-up unease and feeling of constant abuse, which exploded in October 2019, responds to a process of the center-left hollowing their ideology, who believed in the end of history and a very limited idea of democracy, which was completely subordinated to the country’s greatest business groups.

On the other hand, while it’s valid from their standpoint to not believe in what the Constitutional Convention is approving right now, just like what happened with the Regional State, Plurinationalism, Rights of Nature and Wellbeing, it doesn’t give them a green light to put forward a rhetoric of fear and disqualification, where approving the Constitutional text with these laws means Chile is basically jumping off a cliff.

Meanwhile, it’s especially striking to see Amarillos Por Chile pointing to the Convention with one finger, for being the ones to exclude anyone different and legitimizing violence, when none of them have raised their voice in decades to open a constitutional process of this kind in the country.

Worse still, they were comfortable and didn’t say anything during the ‘90s and 2000’s, while practically everything continued to be privatized and the State denied the population basic rights such as health, education and water, and firmly rooted racism towards indigenous peoples, by applying terrorist laws and expanding the forestry industry.

Lastly, it’s galling that they are using a political discourse that is so similar to the Right’s today, in terms of what they have to say about the Convention. It’s a little embarrassing to hear them talk about the radical Left, excessive indigenous activism, environmental fundamentalism, as if we were living under a kind of dictatorship or totalitarianism of certain groups over others.

The good thing out of all of this is that this is the last fuss of a political sector that refused to understand what was happening in Chile during the student protests in 2011 and onwards.  Amarillos Por Chile will be remembered as a mere anecdote, within a historic political process in the country.

I don’t normally go around giving out advice, but this might be the best time for Cristian Warnken to go beyond his garden and look at his surroundings with a bit more care, curiosity, and less preconceptions.


*Andres Kogan Valderrama es un sociólogo chileno

1:  https://www.amarillosxchile.cl/  

2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YX8S6TkXOk2rUyriDA2Igg42BRxzAB0X/view

Read more from Chile here on Havana Times