Political agreement in Chile to draft a new Constitution and bury Pinochet’s Magna Carta

Political agreement in Chile to draft a new constitution. The country’s parties have announced the end of more than three months of intense negotiations on a constituent process that leads to the drafting and voting of a Magna Carta that buries the legacy of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

The president of the Upper House, Álvaro Elizalde, and the president of the Lower House, Vlado Mirosevic, have been in charge of informing about the agreement, signed in the library of the old Congress of Santiago. “A new path begins to advance in a new Constitution born in democracy, it is a new opportunity to forge a new future for our country and our people,” Elizalde said. “We have taken all the precautions to avoid making the mistakes of the past and for this process to work well,” added Mirosevic.

The negotiations began after the rejection in a plebiscite on September 4 of the proposal presented by the previous constituent process. The design of the mechanism to choose the drafting body of the text was the main stumbling block. With the progress of the talks, the parties have been approaching positions until reaching the pact this Monday, which aims to finally change the Constitution inherited from the dictatorship and partially reformed into a democracy.

The agreement, from which the far-right Republican Party and the People’s Party, aligned with the populist right, have separated, establishes that the new drafting body, which will be called the Constitutional Council, will be made up of 50 people elected by the citizens. According to the pact, the process will also have the binding participation of 24 designated experts (12 by the Chamber of Deputies and 12 by the Senate in parity) who will accompany the tour. “The proposed constitutional norms will be approved by 3/5 of the councilors in office, submitting the final proposal to the Council for approval by the same quorum,” the document says.

The experts, “of indisputable professional, technical and/or academic trajectory”, will prepare a preliminary draft as of January that will be the basis of work for the drafting body, “in the style of a matrix idea”, according to the agreement. When the drafting body, which will be equal and will have indigenous seats, although it is not yet known how many, has the proposal for a new Constitution ready, it will return it to the experts who will begin a harmonization process and will be able to review substantive aspects, if they consider it so.

The last step will be to submit the resulting text to the approval of the citizens through a plebiscite, with a mandatory vote, which is projected for November 23, 2023. The pact also contemplates 12 bases of the new fundamental text that include the mention of Chile as a unitary State, the social and democratic State of law, the recognition of indigenous peoples and maintaining autonomous bodies such as the Central Bank, among others. As it is a norm that reforms the current Constitution, the agreement will have to be voted on in the form of a bill in Congress and be ratified by 4/7 of the parliamentarians.

Chile resumes the constituent stage that began three years ago, in October 2019, after the largest wave of protests it has experienced since the end of the Pinochet military dictatorship. The mobilizations began as a demonstration against the rise in the price of the subway and led to a cry for a fairer economic and social model.

There were months of peaceful street protests against the then government of Sebastián Piñera, acts of violence and harsh police repression that left some thirty dead, thousands injured, and accusations by the UN and various international organizations against the security forces. for human rights violations.

To channel the demonstrations, the political parties signed an agreement that included the holding of a plebiscite that took place on October 25, 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, in which Chileans voted if they wanted to change the current Constitution, written in 1980. by the dictatorship and partially reformed in 2005 under the socialist president Ricardo Lagos. 78% of voters opted for yes in a consultation in which barely 50% of the population participated and in which it was also decided that the new text would be drawn up by a convention ad hoc also elected at the polls.

Chileans returned to the polls in May 2021, still in a pandemic, to elect the 155 members of the Convention that should be equal and that should also reserve 17 seats for indigenous peoples, who represent about 13% of the Chilean people. The result of the election was a convention with a progressive tendency and a majority of independent candidates. The right barely achieved representation.

The Constituent Assembly wrote the draft of the constitutional text for a year, despite the controversies, noise and criticism from the right. On July 4, 2022, the draft was delivered to the president, Gabriel Boric, who immediately called the exit plebiscite, so that citizens could ratify the text.

The proposal buried the neoliberal system that has governed Chile since the dictatorship and moved towards a social state of law with a greater presence of the public. In addition, it was considered the most feminist Constitution in the world and declared the “ecological State” as a pillar, with a firm commitment to defending the environment and the vocation of fighting the climate crisis.

Among other key points, it advanced towards a universal primary health system, strengthened public education and a state pension system; it included the definition of Chile as a plurinational state and recognized the rights of indigenous peoples; and advocated ending the privatization of essential resources such as water. As soon as the results of the No in the first plebiscite, Boric publicly bet to initiate a new constituent process to discuss a new text that meets the desire expressed by the citizens at the polls.

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