The Vote of Our Lives in Chile

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Only a few days are left before September 4, the day we in Chile vote and learn the results of our plebiscite for a new Constitution. Many of us are excited about what could happen on that historic day if the majority incline towards the Approve option.

At the same time, it’s impossible not to feel nervous, anxious, and highly expectant about what’s surely the most important vote of our lives in Chile. This vote follows centuries of an authoritarian State, born and structured well outside the great majorities and the existing diversity, which was never the result of a democratic process like the one we’re experiencing in these moments.

In this last plebiscite, we’re deciding the kind of democracy we’ll have in the country for the next decades. We have the opportunity to participate actively in a historic moment which will not only be crucial for the millions of Chileans, but also for all those no longer with us and also those who’ll be born in the future.

As a result, the significance of this election is immense. It’s the product of all the struggles waged up until now for a more just country – struggles that have been led by different collectives, movements and fronts since the Republic was first established in 1810.  Those fighting these struggles gave their lives to causes that centered around freedom, equality, solidarity, dignity, and respect for the other.

I’m referring to all those workers, residents, women, sexual and gender nonconformists, rural and indigenous peoples who at different moments of our history have demanded fairer treatment from the Chilean government, for a country where no one was left out, Many of them lost their own lives resisti state brutality that only underlined the government’s rejection of democracy.

Any number of incidents demonstrate that the Government of Chile has always functioned with the logic of an internal enemy: the Wallmapu occupation (1860-1883); the slaughter at the Santa Maria de Iquique School (1907); the Curanilahue Slaughter (1916); the Ranquil Massacre (1934); the Massacre at Pampa Irigon in Puerto Montt (1934); the El Salvador Massacre (1966); the military dictatorship (1973-1989); and the human rights violations during the 2019 turmoil.

Despite all the Chilean government’s criminal violence, the social movements and different civil society organizations never ceased organizing and mobilizing. They’re the great source of this entire Constitutional process we’re currently witnessing. While it certainly had its greatest expression in October 2019, that social uprising was the product of a long previous history.

On September 4th when we go out to vote for the Approve option, let’s do it in full remembrance of Chile’s history: not only for all the persecuted, tortured and murdered, but also for all the groups that have mobilized our society in marches, protests, and sometime turbulent outbursts. These bodies laid the political and social foundation for the events of 2019.

At the same time, it’s important to note the many different historic moments of struggle: the 1905 Meat Strike; the 1907 Great Tarapaca Strike; the Trial of the Subversives in 1920; the tenants’ strike of 1925; the 1949 Revolucion de la chaucha [“penny strike” against a rise in transport fares]; the first protest of the LGBTQI+ population in 1973; the Women’s Protest Days against the dictatorship in 1986; and the Triumph of the NO vote in 1988.

Looking back over the last 30 years since the return to democracy, other protests stand out: The massive “Backpack” student demonstrations in 2001; the 2006 Penguin Revolution; the “No to Profits” student demonstrations (2011); the No to Hydroaysen [against a controversial megaproject] (2012); the first march for the Defense and Recovery of Water (2013); the “No more AFP” [protesting problems with the public pension funds] (2016); the Mayo Chilote [protest of poor ecological management, culminating in a massive red tide] (2016); the 2018 Feminist May; and that October of 2019, that began with the high school students protesting inside the Santiago Metro station.

This process also belongs to all those who have historically remained silent, ignored, humiliated and with their rights trampled, as has been the case with children and teens, elders, people with disabilities or neuro-differences, animals and Nature itself, which we’re part of.

All of us who will vote on September 4th have an enormous historical responsibility. For the first time in the history of Chile, we’ll have the chance to vote for a Constitution that’s been democratically drafted via a gender parity procedure. What’s chosen that day will have enormous consequences for later generations.

One day in the future, they’ll be studying the historic moment we currently find ourselves in as a country. If the Approve option wins, it will surely be seen as the moment when we Chileans assumed responsibility for the country we live in and for its future, with hope and optimism.

If – on the other hand – the Reject option wins, it will be remembered as the day when we Chileans expressed our fear of democracy, and once more ceded our decision-making powers to the same elite groups who have always imposed upon us a Government tailored to their own interests. It will be seen as the day we lost the historic possibility of joining hands for the first time to construct a constitution for all of us.

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