Chile Is Changing

Cover by TNGO Illustrator Francis Irabor

Chile, despite being one of the most stable countries in Latin America, suffers a structural problem: inequality. The problem started with Pinochet’s seventeen-year-long dictatorship; where he changed the structure of Chile’s economy and made the neoliberal, free-market economic model, the law. In this system, the costly education reproduces class inequalities and the pension system leaves elderly people with a pittance.

To explain what is going on in Chile, it is quintessential to first understand what happened in the last two years.

In October of 2019, large-scale protests broke out over a 4-cent metro fare hike in the country’s capital, Santiago. Multitudes from diverse backgrounds converged in these protests, united in their shared anger over the deeply entrenched social inequality in Chile. There were more than 1.2 million people participating. The biggest demand was to reform the 1980 Constitution, sanctioned by dictator Augusto Pinochet, which it was argued to be the root of most of Chile’s inequality issues by giving undue weight to the country’s private sector. Furthermore, Pinochet’s constitution and his regime made the neoliberal, free-market economic model the law, leading to, among other things, the privatization of education, health care, and pensions.

A year after the massive protests, in October 2020, Chileans voted in the first constitutional referendum since the advent of democracy. The referendum asked whether a new constitution should be drafted, as well as the form in which it should be drafted: either by a constitutional convention made up by members elected directly for this convention or by a mixed constitutional convention made up with currently-sitting members of Parliament and directly elected citizens.

Chileans protesting for a new constitution. BBC

The plebiscite resulted in a resounding victory for the pro-reform camp; with 78% of votes in favor of adopting a new constitution and 79% opting for a Constitutional Convention as the preferred mode for writing it.

The Constitutional Convention is made up of 155 citizens, many of them entirely new to politics. Independent candidates won 48 seats, the left 28, the center-left 25, and the right-wing coalition 37. In addition, 17 seats are destined for representatives of Indigenous groups. Most of them aim to promote civic participation and better the protection of the environment in the new constitution.

In July 2021, the Constitutional Convention convened for the first time and elected its first president: Elisa Loncón. She is one of the 17 representatives of the Indigenous groups, with strong leadership within the Mapuche people. She also has a master’s degree in Linguistics. After she won as president of the Convention, she made a call for the unity of Chile and spoke of

“changing the history of this country”

Elisa Loncón

The first official session of the assembly kicks off the one-year-long process of writing a new constitutional text. In mid-2022, Chile must vote for another plebiscite to approve or reject it. Currently, the Constitutional Convention has some important immediate tasks. First, they will have to define the internal regulation. Second, their own confirmation and the possibility of extending the board of directors to ensure greater political diversity. Lastly, they will have to evaluate the Convention’s budget.

This new direction Chile is taking can be deepened by the election of a new president. The future candidates are already selected. There are three favorites: Sebastian Sichel, from the right-wing alliance Chile Vamos; Yasna Provoste, from the center-left Christian Democracy (and the only woman in the election); and the young congressman Gabriel Boric, from the left-wing bloc Apruebo Dignidad. In addition, smaller campaigns such as far-right José Antonio Kast and center-left Marco Enríquez Ominami, can threaten to siphon off votes from the front-runners. In November, Chileans will also vote for new Parliament representatives – 27 of 55 senators and all 155 seats in the Chamber of Deputies – who can legislate over new equitable plans.

Candidates Gabriel Boric and Sebastian Sichel. La Nación

All eyes will be on the left and center-left – currently out of government – to see if they can win this election and transform popular discontent.

  • What will happen in November?
  • How could this election affect Chile?
  • Can the liberal regime be changed?

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Chile Is Changing

by Agustina Mininno time to read: 3 min