After a month in the streets, Chileans continue to resist

Despite heavy police and military repression, Chileans stand firm in their demand for a new constitution through a National Constituent Assembly

November 20, 2019 by Tanya Wadhwa
Chileans have been on the streets for the past month against the government of Sebastian Piñera and the neoliberal economic model in the country.

The resistance of the Chilean people against the neoliberal model in place since the last civic-military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and intensified by the austerity and anti-people policies of the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera, completed a month on November 18.

On the one month anniversary of the popular uprising in Chile, hundreds of thousands of citizens, students, workers and members of several social movements, human rights organizations and trade unions, mobilized across the country demanding a new constitution through a National Constituent Assembly as well as the resignation of Piñera and an end to all forms of state repression.

The capital, Santiago, was the epicenter of the second set of the ‘Super Monday’ protest. It was called for by the Social Unity Board, a platform that brings together more than 200 social movements, students’ organizations and trade unions. Tens of thousands gathered at the iconic Dignity Plaza, formerly known as Plaza Italia, to manifest their rejection of Piñera’s government and to strengthen their claim for a National Constituent Assembly.

The protesters were once again violently repressed by the officials of the national police forces, the Carabineros who used extreme force against the peaceful mobilization. They used an excessive amount of tear gas, water cannons and rubber pellets against the demonstrators.

In the last one month of anti-government protests, the levels of repression against protesters have been unprecedented. The Chilean State has violated all norms established by international human rights organizations in repressing the social struggle. Thousands of cases of illegal detentions, torture, abuse, rapes, sexual attacks, violation of the right to information and dissemination, political persecution, criminalization of social protests, militarization of public spaces, among other human rights violations, have been registered in the country and have been condemned nationally and internationally.

According to the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) in Chile, between October 17 & November 18, due to heavy police repression, over 25 people have been killed, 6,362 people have been arrested, more than 2,391 have been injured and 365 have been threatened, tortured or sexually harassed. Additionally, over 200 people suffered eye injuries and vision loss to do short-range firing by Security Forces.

Over 200 people lost vision due to an eye injury throughout the month of protests.

Despite the heavy police and military repression, the Chileans are determined to continue their resistance and demand a profound transformation of the political and economic system that governs the country, whose greatest reflection is in the inequalities of access to health, education, dignified salary, ownership of natural resources, right to housing, indebtedness with private banks, miserable pension system, among others.

New constitution?

In the face of the social uprising and discontent, the Chilean government agreed to write a new constitution. On November 14, the ruling party and the opposition negotiated on terms to replace the existing constitution. In the early hours of November 15, the Chilean National Congress reached an agreement to hold a plebiscite for a new constitution in April 2020.

The Congress announced that the referendum in April 2020 would raise two questions: whether or not a new Constitution is needed and, if so, what type of body should write it, a “Mixed Constituent Convention” or a “Constituent Convention”.

The “Mixed Constituent Convention” will have a 50% representation of parliamentarians and 50% of elected members for this purpose. The “Constituent Convention” will be have a 100% representation of members elected by citizens for this work.

The Congress further informed that if the need for a new Constitution gets approved in April, the election of the members for either of the two authorities will be held in October 2020, along with the regional and municipal elections.

The draft of the new Magna Carta prepared by the elected authority will then be put to another popular referendum for its ratification, coinciding with the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2021 and it will be a mandatory voting process.

The agreement establishes that any agreement reached by the authority will require the support of 2/3 of its members for approval.

However, the mobilizing popular sectors rejected the agreement that calls for a plebiscite to be held to decide how and if the new Constitution should be created and called to continue the mobilizations on the streets.

The agreement was rejected primarily because it does not guarantee the creation of a Constituent Assembly that the social movements have been demanding and because the majority of Chileans, who have taken to the streets, were not consulted.

The Communist Party of Chile (PCC) denounced that they were not called or informed about the agreement and rejected the decision taken in a meeting of a small group of opposition parliamentarians without consulting the citizens.

Likewise, the parliamentarians of the Regionalist Party, Progressive Party, Party For Democracy, Socialist Party and the Broad Front Party, rejected negotiations that took place behind closed doors in the Senate in Santiago.

The Social Unity Board rejected the agreement for the mechanisms that it includes. In an official statement, the board said “we reject emphatically, a high quorum that perpetuates the minority veto; the discrimination against those under the age of 18 years; absence of mechanisms of plurinational participation and gender parity; and the mechanism of representation and election of officials from political parties that have been responsible for the current political and social crisis”.

The quorum of 2/3 majority, has also been questioned by the president of the PCC and deputy Guillermo Teillier del Valle. The deputy said that “if the right-wing manages to have more than a third of the constituents, they will have the right to veto, they will be able to veto many issues that are very important goals for the change that our country needs.”