Chile’s New Constitution: Key to Start Real Change

By Manuel Cabieses Donoso on October 23, 2020

If we want the plebiscite to become an historic victory for democracy, the Approval and Constitutional Convention options must receive an overwhelming majority of votes, millions of votes, a tidal wave of citizen will.

A weak or rickety victory would allow the oligarchy and its servant, the political caste, through the mechanism of the 2/3 of the votes, to abort this first step towards a true democracy after 47 years of oligarchic monarchy.

The people have had to accept this humiliating way of approaching the goal of a democratic Constitution. Practically since 1973, when the betrayal by the armed forces began the long period of state terrorism, the struggle for a Constituent Assembly has stood up as a peaceful way out of fright. The Popular Resistance -which took up arms to conquer freedom- turned politically to the demand for a Constituent Assembly to elaborate a new Constitution. A democratic path -the only possible one- that would harmonize the political and social interests of an immense majority of Chileans. History, however, was not written as we intended. The blood of our heroes and martyrs, however, was not spilled in vain. It has continued to boil over a rebellion that has extended through time and that calls for sealing the Constitutional Approval and Convention with a landslide victory in the plebiscite.

That victory is the fundamental thing at this moment. Let’s put today’s emphasis on that. Let nothing stop the working of Sunday the 25th, to produce an impressive mass of people coming out to vote. There are more than 14 million eligible voters who can chart a new destination for Chile. In the last presidential election (2017) a little more than 7 million voted, 49.02% of the total electoral roll. This time at least 8 million votes are needed to for the plebiscite to have the indisputable legitimacy it requires. It is not enough that the Approval and the Constitutional Convention get a little more than 50%. We need a victory with the force of a sea outing to be respected by the financial, civil and military bastions of conservatism.

It is not an easy task, no democratic and social justice struggle has been easy. The results of the plebiscite are historically weighed down by abstentionism -which in the municipal elections has reached 70%-; fear of the spread of the pandemic; repudiation of the political parties that appear as godfathers and administrators of the plebiscite; the campaign for the Rejection and Mixed Convention of the extreme right; and the fear felt by sectors of the small and medium-sized businesses because of the violence without a compass, that are of a suspicious origin in many cases, that has been suffered by Catholic churches, public transport services and small private businesses.

The misnamed “social explosion” – a “bang” that lasts for more than a year – reveals that Chile is experiencing a social insurrection. Since October 2019 there have been daily street protests, from stone attacks and police stations set on fire, or looting of supermarkets, pharmacies and even modest kiosks selling cigarettes and candy.

The persistence of the “outburst” is constantly stoking the cauldron of protest. But at the same time it frightens social sectors like those mobilized on October 25, 2019 that made the march of 1.2 million people in Santiago possible, including demonstrations in the communes of the “barrio alto” and in front of the Military School. It is estimated that on that day more than 6 million people marched peacefully in protest against inequality and abuse and demanding a Constituent Assembly.

We must try to revive that spirit in the Sunday plebiscite. Unfortunately, the political caste, which in March negotiated this mock Constitutional Assembly, a formidable trap that must be neutralized from within, has spent time on minor complaints. Supported by the publicity machine that the oligarchy puts at its disposal, it has relegated political work to the flawed cloister of Parliament, renouncing the role of the voices of the street that in theory correspond to political parties. Fights that show the decomposition of an “opposition” majority that is incapable even of electing the Chamber of Deputies; flashes of flares of premature presidential candidatures -14 for the moment-; constitutional accusations that do not resolve anything; disputes of hegemony within the parties, etc., have done everything possible to distract the people from their fundamental objective: to win the plebiscite on Sunday in a big way.

But none of that should disturb us. Let’s ignore all that is secondary. Today the important thing is to win the Approval and the Constitutional Convention. Let us not get involved in brawls of endangered political groups. All our energies must be directed towards a single objective: to obtain a landslide victory in the plebiscite.

On Monday, besides celebrating the victory, let’s start charging the batteries so that on April 11th we can choose the men and women who best represent the force of change in the Constitutional Convention.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano, translation North America bureau