The New Constitution Would Mean a More Democratic Chile

The campaigns to approve or reject Chile’s new draft constitution to be voted on by public referendum on September 4th.

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The hard-fought campaign has begun in Chile to Approve or Reject our proposed new Constitution in the plebiscite scheduled for September 4th. Different political discourses have emerged to confront this historic moment the country is living through.

In fact, the campaign to Reject had already begun unofficially, in the large and concentrated media outlets and in the digital platforms of the extreme right. It began from the second the Constitutional Convention began to function a year ago and the moment of making definitions began.

In the case of the campaign to Reject, these media outlets are currently capitalizing on all their previous groundwork establishing fake news, as they did during all the months of work in the Constitutional Convention, reiterating generally apocalyptic ideas, like the Constitutional draft being extreme, favoring the indigenous people, representing a vendetta of revenge that doesn’t offer a place for everyone.

As far as specific aspects and interpretations of the text, they claim that with this Constitution the country will fragment into different nations. Among many other lies, they assert that there’ll be privileges for some over others; private pension funds will be eliminated; private health clinics will be eliminated; the health system will collapse; the state-subsidized charter schools will end; and homes will no longer be inheritable.

As can be deduced from the above, the campaign for rejection centers on instilling an interpretation of the text that is completely whimsical and full of catastrophic future scenarios. They intentionally omit any discussion of the current Constitution, since it doesn’t suit their purposes to use it for comparison with the new proposal.

As if that weren’t enough, the drive for rejection has also proposed the idea of rejecting [the new Constitutional proposal] in order to reform [the old Constitution], as was already voted down in the initial plebiscite. Only this time, they know it can’t hold weight, coming from sectors of the right. For that reason, they’ve used people from the parties of the post-dictatorship Concertation governments in order to sell the idea that now, indeed, there’ll be reforms.

As they face the possibility of a democratic Constitution in Chile, the opportunism of these groups has reached an extreme level. Now, sectors of the Reject camp have even promoted lowering the current quorum to reform the old Pinochet era Constitution from 2/3 to 4/7, after having refused to do this for 30 years.

Hence, it’s even less credible – as they’re now proposing – that if the Reject vote should win, these same conservative sectors would move to change the old Constitution, considering the enormous risks to themselves that could come from changing a document they’ve always defended and that has allowed them to become what they are.

Given this, the campaign to Approve finds itself faced with a complex scenario. Instead of focusing on highlighting all the positives in the new Constitutional proposal, they’ve had to respond to all the lies and misinterpretations of a sector that – although it clothes itself as reformist today – has never wanted to effect structural reforms in the country, much less change Pinochet’s abusive Constitution.

The clock is ticking for those of us who want a new democratic Constitution in Chile. As such, it’s become overwhelmingly necessary that we craft a message about the document that is simple, understandable, coherent, and informs people of all the rights it protects.

In order to do that, the clumsy idea of approving in order to reform it, proposed by some sectors of the center left, must be left behind us. These sectors, who have some criticisms of the proposed Constitutional draft, wish to install a discussion whose only result is to confuse and to give the idea that the new Constitution is terrible and should be immediately reformed.

This doesn’t mean not having any criticism of the text, or discounting the possibility of reforming some aspects of it. However, it’s necessary to center our discussion on the enormous possibilities that this new Constitution opens to us, where aspects such as health, education, social security, gender equality, housing, decentralization, nature, multi-nationalism, safe and violence-free environments, inclusion, participation, represent an unprecedented advance in our history as a country.

We must also keep in mind that this new Constitutional proposal, in contrast to the former one, wasn’t drafted by a small group of illustrious legal experts that no one chose and who only sought to make the dictator and the so-called Chicago Boys happy.

Contrary to what’s said, the fact that some aren’t in agreement with certain of the norms, while others believe this new proposal didn’t go far enough and/or wasn’t clear in some areas, reflects the profoundly democratic nature of the whole process, since it was drafted and agreed upon among different sectors of the country.

That’s why it’s so important that we articulate our ideas strongly and assure that our new Constitution will be approved on September 4th. If the 1988 plebiscite meant that we staked our bets on a return to democracy in the country, now we’re betting on the type of democracy that we want to have in the next decades.

Given this scenario, the appearance of different campaign efforts, like the Social Movements, the Apruebo Nueva Constitucion [“I approve the new Constitution”], Apruebo por el Agua [“I approve for water”], and Aprueba x Chile [“Approve for Chile”], all of which bring together different political parties and social organizations, gives us some room for optimism for the coming weeks of the campaign and for a television slot that demonstrates that the new Constitution unites us in our diversity, in contrast with the current Constitution, which denies and rejects this unity.

Note: For more information on the campaigns mentioned:

1: https://www.apruebonuevaconstitucion.cl/

2: https://twitter.com/aprueboxelagua

3: https://apruebaxchile.cl/

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