People Persist in Fight for Recognition of Their Rights
Plebiscite on New Constitution and First Anniversary of Revolt Against Neo-Liberal Piñera Regime
September 9, 2020
in support of a new constitution.
One year after
the popular revolt against the government of billionaire Sebastian
Piñera and its neo-liberal wrecking broke out on October 18,
2019, the Chilean people continue to mobilize and organize to realize
the political and economic change they require. They continue to press
their major demands for a new constitution and for President
Piñera to resign because of his government's anti-social
economic measures, corruption and the brutal repression of the people.
TML Weekly salutes the Chilean people for
continuing to advance their demands in the face of massive repression
and the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, and calls on everyone to
support their just cause.
October 25 Plebiscite on
On October 25 a plebiscite will
be held on whether to have a new constitution. The vote was originally
scheduled for April, but the pandemic caused a postponement until
October 25. On November 15, 2019, the people's sustained mass actions
achieved a preliminary step in establishing the new constitution, when
the deputies in the National Congress agreed that a plebiscite for a
new constitution should be held.
country's current constitution was written in 1980 and enshrines
neo-liberal economic and reactionary political arrangements made during
the Pinochet dictatorship, despite the end of the dictatorship in 1990.
The plebiscite will ask Chileans whether they want a new
constitution and, if so, whether it should be drafted by ordinary
Chileans or a combination of citizens and legislators. If it is decided
to have a new constitution, another vote on April 11, 2021 (in
conjunction with municipal and gubernatorial elections) would elect
members to the constitutional convention responsible for drafting a new
constitution. A third vote in 2022 would decide whether to accept the
A month before the vote, a
grouping of political parties and organizations in favour of a new
constitution launched an initiative called "We Approve a Dignified
Chile" to promote a manifesto that the new constitution should enshrine
rights such as the right to vote for those over 16 years of age; the
right to free, quality public education at all levels; the creation of
a social security system with tripartite financing and universal
coverage; the right to housing; and the right to health care, among
On October 20, Marcos Barraza,
former Minister of Social Development in the government of President
Michelle Bachelet, warned that a plebiscite victory does not
necessarily mean that those who benefit from maintaining the status quo
have been defeated, and it is up to the progressive forces to properly
reflect social rights in a new constitution. He added that one of the
main strategies of those in favour of leaving the current constitution
largely intact is to present the plebiscite as a simple democratic
exercise without any real impact on people's lives.
agencies report that the latest polls show 72 per cent of the
population is in favour of a new constitution.
Protest Marks First Anniversary of Popular Revolt
October 18, tens of thousands of people rallied in Santiago's central
square, Plaza Baquedano -- renamed Dignity Square by the
people as a symbol of their striving for pro-social arrangements -- to
mark one year of protests in which millions of people have taken to the
streets. The mass action took place in defiance of the
Piñera government's ongoing repression of the people's
movement. On that day, 40,000 Carabineros -- the national police force
-- armed with water cannons and tear gas were deployed against them.
The protests, which began early in the morning, advanced the
demands of the upcoming October 25 plebiscite, and commemorated those
who have been killed, injured, tortured and abused by state security
forces over the past year.
Figures compiled by the
North American Congress on Latin America indicate that by the end of
February, 36 people had been killed in the protests, with 11,564
injured and 28,000 detained. According to Chile's National Institute of
Human Rights (INDH), 964 people have been injured by rubber bullets,
including 222 with eye injuries. The Chilean Ophthalmology Society
states this is the highest number of such injuries recorded in any
protests or conflict zones worldwide.
On October 3,
a carabinero was caught on video pushing a 16-year-old youth off the
Pio Nono Bridge in Santiago into the Mapocho River, which triggered
mass protests demanding the resignation of the Chief of the
Carabineros, General Mario Rozas. Although police originally claimed
that the youth jumped into the river of his own accord, the officer was
later charged with attempted murder.
December 10, 2019 article by Camila Osorio in the New Yorker
informs that the current constitution "was completed in 1980 and
approved in a plebiscite that was widely viewed as fraudulent.
Left-wing political parties were banned, and the armed forces were made
the 'guarantors' of the state. The fourteenth chapter provided the key:
any amendments to the constitution would pass only if approved by
three-fifths of the Congress. If the President vetoed an amendment, it
would require the votes of three-fourths of Congress to override it. If
the President were to veto just parts of a reform, Congress would need
a two-thirds majority to override that. If a reform were to pass all
these obstacles, it would still face review from a constitutional
tribunal, which had the power to reject it. [...]
"A particularly important aspect of the new
process was that it insured that large majorities would be needed to
challenge the neo-liberal economic policies that the junta was
implementing. With the help of free-market economists who had studied
under Milton Friedman, at the University of Chicago, Pinochet cut
public spending, deregulated the banks, freed interest rates, and
privatized the health, education, and pension systems."
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 40 - October 24, 2020
People Persist in Fight for Recognition of Their Rights: Plebiscite on New Constitution and First Anniversary of Revolt Against Neo-Liberal Piñera Regime - Nick Lin