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The Chilean President receives a draft constitution

#Chilean #President #receives #draft #constitution

Chile’s constitutional convention presented President Gabriel Boric with the proposal for a new constitution on Monday, ahead of a planned September referendum to adopt the text.

The convention, made up of 154 members, mostly politically independent, has spent a year drafting the new document intended to replace the constitution adopted during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

The impetus for the rewrite of the constitution was massive social unrest that erupted in October 2019, initially against an increase in subway fares but morphing into broader anti-government protests against inequality.

“We should be proud that during the deepest crisis … in the decades our country has lived through, we Chileans have chosen more democracy, not less,” Boric said during a ceremony in Santiago.

He immediately signed a decree calling for a Sept. 4 referendum in which voting will be mandatory in the deeply polarized country of 19 million.

Rewriting the dictatorship-era constitution was a key demand from protesters who took to the streets in 2019 and held weekly demonstrations for months before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed them.

In the first of the 388 articles of the new constitution, Chile is described as “a social and democratic constitutional state” and as “plurinational, intercultural and ecological”.

“It recognizes the dignity, freedom, substantial equality of human beings and their indissoluble relationship with nature as intrinsic and inalienable values.”

“I think we have met the social demands, with the desires of the citizens, what people hoped and wanted from this process,” Barbara Sepulveda, a Communist Party congressman, told AFP.

“It is a proposal that represents a historic step forward in terms of democracy and ensuring social rights for our country, and on top of that is filled with feminism from start to finish,” added Alondra Carrillo of the left Broad Front.

Some right-wing congress members were less enthusiastic.

For Cristian Monckeberg, this is a “missed” opportunity to “build something that unites the country instead of dividing it.”

But with just 37 out of 154 seats in the constitutional convention, which is now being dissolved, the political right was in the minority.

The process “wasn’t as easy and friendly as many of us would have wished and dreamed of,” writer and journalist Patricio Fernandez, one of the 104 independent members of the convention, told AFP.

– ‘From another time’ –

If approved, the constitution will make Chile one of the most progressive countries in the region.

Nationwide abortion rights – something that has been overturned in the United States – would be enshrined in law.

“It’s a constitution from another time. I truly believe that if she is approved, as we look back at this process … she will be viewed with much more tenderness and affection than we see her now,” Fernandez said.

Divided equally between men and women, the constitutional convention also contained 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples, who make up around 13 percent of the population.

One of those members, Natividad Llanquileo, an activist from Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, said the constitutional process was “the most democratic space we have known in the history of this country.”

In addition to recognizing the diverse peoples that make up the Chilean nation, the new constitution grants a degree of autonomy to indigenous institutions, particularly in matters of the judiciary.

Millennial leader Boric has repeatedly reiterated his support for the constitutional project in recent weeks, adding that the current document poses an “obstacle” to deep social reforms.

Despite this, several opinion polls suggest that the new constitution could still be rejected. With the full text yet to be released, many Chileans say they are unsure.

During the ceremony on Monday, ahead of the referendum, Boric warned against “untruths, distortions or catastrophic unrealistic interpretations”.

Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at the University of Diego Portales, told AFP that supporters of the new constitution “have to work to convince (others) that it will really change people’s lives”.

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