Chile: Now the Transition Begins

By Atilio A. Boron on October 26, 2020

Chile faced an unprecedented historic challenge last Sunday: for the first time on record, the people of Chile were consulted about whether or not they wanted a new constitution, and, if so, what kind of body should be in charge of drawing up the new Magna Carta. There were two alternatives; a “Constitutional Convention” made up of 155 people elected specifically and exclusively for this purpose, which will dissolve itself upon completing this task, or a “Mixed Convention” made up of 172 members, 50% of whom would be legislators and 50% of whom would be elected for this sole purpose.

This consultation was not a graceful concession by the Post-Pinochet political hierarchy, but rather the result of a long process of people’s struggles that reached their peak in the demonstrations that began on October 18, 2019.  These rebellions completely buried the absurd fantasy image of the “Chilean Model,” a supposedly wonderful paradigm of democratic transition and of economic success, publicized incessantly and unscrupulously by the interests in power and by the empire.  In a rapid blink of the eye, the protests destroyed the thick web of official lies, leaving apparent a country with one of the largest indexes of inequality in the world, with the most homes in debt in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, with a social security system that cheated pensioners and retired people for more than 40 years, and a country in which research has demonstrated that women born in the poor areas of Santiago de Chile have a life expectancy that is 18 years less than those born in the wealthy areas of Providencia, Vitacura, or Las Condes. “Chile is the boundary of the center of injustice,” sang Violeta Parra in the mid-1970s, in a period just prior to the unimaginable extremes which it would reach thanks to Pinochet and his system and successors.

Resistance and struggle over the years never ceased and reached a cumulative momentum that set off the social explosion of October.  From the depths of the Chilean earth, the truth erupted, a truth that the dictator and the movers of the “democratic transition” had tried to hide.  No one was more eloquent than the wife of President Sebastian Piñera, when she described that what was happening in the country as she, with anguish, described to a friend that “We are absolutely being over-run, it’s like an invasion of foreigners, of aliens.”  Her reaction is understandable, these tense faces tired of so much oppression and injustice, these bodies that heroically stood up against the criminal gunshots of the security forces had been “disappeared” for almost half a century, and for the ruling culture they were “aliens” – a threatening mass of nobodies who came to trouble the comfortable existence of the rulers of the country and its wealth.  And, after the results of the plebiscite, it looks like the “invaders” don’t want to return to the past.  They want instead to construct a new constitutional order in which they regain their rights that were violated by tricky schemes and maneuvers and the evil arts of political propaganda perversely carried out by the lackey press, with El Mercurio in the lead.

The result of the plebiscite is absolute and cannot be appealed.  After a hard birth, Chilean society renews its transition toward democracy.  The new Constitution should take apart the complicated and tricky web of privileges and authoritarian enclaves established over half a century, and in order to do this, the people will have to maintain a mass presence in the streets and plazas. Their demobilization or their folding up and becoming quiet as before the events of last October would have disastrous consequences. The drawing up of a new Constitution, a task as delicate as that of a watchmaker, will be barely the first step in the long march starting now so that Chile can again get to know democracy – brutally cut off by the coup in 1973, and reconstructed only in its external appearances in the long thirty years of right-wing governments of old and new styles.  Congratulations, Chile, all Latin America embraces you with hope and joy!

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau