Chile finalizes new draft constitution in bid to bury Pinochet’s neoliberal legacy

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After 10 months of debate in 103 plenary sessions, Chile’s constituent assembly over the weekend finalized a new draft constitution that, if approved by a majority of the country’s adults later this year, will replace the current neoliberal charter implemented by the right of General Augusto Pinochet. military dictatorship.

“This is an ecological and egalitarian constitution with social rights at its very heart,” said María Elisa Quinteros, president of the 155-member assembly. The Guardian Monday, before an official presentation of the project at a ceremony in the port city of Antofagasta.

The draft constitution drafted by delegates over the past year promises to enshrine a wide range of rights, including universal access to public health care, education and pensions, as well as safeguards and policies stronger environmental frameworks to promote gender and racial equity.

Among the 499 articles of the draft constitution are provisions that would abolish the Senate in favor of a unicameral legislature, codify reproductive rights, require the state to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, and constitutionally recognize for the first time the indigenous peoples of Chile, including through compensation. for land expropriation.

Its fate will be decided on September 4, when all Chilean adults will have to vote yes or no on the project. If supported by a majority, it will be ratified as Chile’s new constitution. Otherwise, the country’s current document – ​​so favorable to privatization that even water rights are bought and sold by investors – will remain in force.

Chile’s current constitution – forcibly imposed in 1980, seven years after the overthrow of democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende in a US-backed coup – has deepened economic exploitation and the degradation of society. ‘environment. Moreover, because Pinochet’s neoliberal policy project remains largely intact more than three decades after the end of his military junta in 1990, he has also hindered the creation of a more egalitarian and sustainable society to this day.

The long fight for a new democratic constitution received a major boost when a sustained wave of social unrest erupted in October 2019. Although a hike in public transport fares sparked the protests, Chileans insisted on the fact that they were taking to the streets in response to 30 years of post-dictatorship austerity rather than 30 pesos.

Then-president Sebastian Piñera was forced to plan a plebiscite to let citizens decide whether or not to rewrite the country’s constitution, but not before his government violently cracked down on protesters, killing 36 and blinding hundreds. others.

Nearly 80% of Chileans rejected Pinochet’s constitution in an October 2020 referendum. In another vote last May, they elected a progressive slate of 155 delegates to the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution, raising hopes that the citizen-led body would produce an emancipatory charter that would reduce inequality and protect the environment.

Quinteros said on Monday that Chile’s draft constitution had “provided answers to the demands of the 2019 protests”.

Although the constituent assembly rejected more ambitious proposals to democratize mineral rights, Thea Riofrancos, an associate professor of political science at Providence College whose research focuses on resource extraction in Latin America, argued on social media that other institutional changes proposed in the draft constitution will “profoundly transform the sector” if finally enacted. Mineral-rich Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and the second largest producer of lithium.

During his victory speech in December, Chile’s leftist President Gabriel Boric, one of the key leaders of the 2011 student movement for free, quality public higher education, told a crowd of supporters that “destroy the world is to destroy ourselves”.

“We don’t want any more sacrificed areas,” he added. “We don’t want projects that destroy our country, destroy communities.”

Article 107 of the draft charter would make Chile the second country, after Ecuador, to constitutionally recognize the rights of nature. And it’s far from the only article focused on improving biodiversity and ensuring a healthy environment for current and future generations.

Other articles call for mining exclusion zones, the protection of glaciers and Antarctica, guaranteed access to renewable energy and the free exchange of seeds.

A trio of commissions have been tasked with ironing out the remaining details before July 4, when the full constituent assembly must vote on a final draft constitution to present to citizens, teleSUR reported.

From Tuesday, the Harmonization Commission should streamline the document and improve its consistency by eliminating redundancies and rectifying contradictions. Before June 9, the preamble committee should draft an introductory text. The Transitional Rules Committee, meanwhile, is expected to develop a plan for a smooth transition from the old to a new constitution.

Although Pinochet’s market-led constitution is deeply unpopular, the Constituent Assembly must find a way to garner public support for its alternative charter over the next few months. The latest poll indicates that 46% of Chileans are currently opposed to the draft document, with only 38% in favor.

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