A Constitution for the People of Chile
What started as a protest over a 4 cent increase in Metro fare in Santiago, Chile, turned into a nationwide push for equal representation and socio-economic reform. After hundreds of thousands of Chilean citizens protested a constitution that strongly favored the elite upper class in 2019, elected officials from a plethora of backgrounds will draft a new one that dictates equality.
A staggering 78 percent of citizens voted in favor of a left-leaning constitution that diminishes the power of the elite class and gives it to the people of Chile, but the road to reform has not been smooth (Ward 2020). 36 people were killed in the fall of 2019 after protests turned violent in the Chilean capital when demonstrators calling for a variety of amendments were met with deadly force from the Chilean government (Piscopo, Siavelis 2020).
The demonstrators were pushing to reverse inequalities that Augusto Pinochet, the former president and dictator of Chile, mapped out in his neoliberal, free-market modeled constitution that managed the country under his 17-year regime (Ward 2020). This caused education, pensions, and healthcare to become privatized, and immensely widened the socioeconomic gap between the elite and the working class. After he was removed from office in 1988, lawmakers made 42 amendments to his constitution, but it was not enough to satisfy the needs of the vast majority of Chilean citizens.
Voters elected a diverse group of delegates to draft the nation’s new constitution in order to bring “fresh air” to the representative body (Sajuria, Suarez-Cao 2021). 17 of 155 seats were allocated towards Indigenous delegates elected by the indigenous population, and an equal percentage of male and female representatives will serve in the assembly. These changes follow the progressive path that the country is observing; reforms called for during the protest have a chance of becoming reality in the new constitution. Students called for free higher education (Piscopo, Siavelis 2020). Pensioners wanted a retirement plan, workers called for better wages, and women’s rights activists pushed for an end to gender violence. The vote to approve or reject the new constitution is scheduled to take place in early 2022 (Ward 2020).
Suarez-Cao, Julieta, and Javier Sajuria. “Analysis | Chile Elected Delegates to Draft a New Constitution - and It's Not Tilted toward the Elites.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 June 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/06/24/chile-elected-delegates-draft-new-constitution-its-not-tilted-toward-elites/.
Piscopo, Jennifer M., and Peter Siavelis . “Chile Puts Its Constitution on the Ballot after Year of Civil Unrest.” The Conversation, 24 Mar. 2021, theconversation.com/chile-puts-its-constitution-on-the-ballot-after-year-of-civil-unrest-147832.
Ward, Alex. “Chileans Want a More Equal Society. They're about to Rewrite Their Constitution to Have It.” Vox, Vox, 26 Oct. 2020, www.vox.com/21534338/chile-constitution-plebiscite-vote-pinochet.