top of page

What is going on in Chile?

By: León Valencia, for @infobae

Translation by: María Victoria Ramírez

I have talking with some Chilean friends since last Sunday, September 4, when their people said 'no' to the constitutional text drawn up in the most innovative of the Constituent Conventions that have been in the world. I wanted to understand what happened. It is not easy from afar to understand the reasons for such a high rejection of a Constitution as a result of long deliberations among conventionists who were elected in the midst of great euphoria in 2021.

The atmosphere surrounding the plebiscite that decided to change the 1980 constitution was very different from today's in Chile. Also the situation that existed in the days when the Constitutional Convention was elected. At that time, the echo of the social explosion of 2019 rumbled strongly. The country was crossed from side to side by winds of change. Youth and social movements had taken to the streets to protest. All the political parties had gone on the defensive in the face of the uncontrollable avalanche of social discontent. They wanted to change everything.

The composition of the Convention was a reflection of this disagreement and the leading role of social movements. An assembly that was distributed between 78 men and 77 women was unprecedented. Nor the great participation of young people and indigenous people and regional diversity. In my opinion, the conventionists were faithful to the grave moment of their election and to their social origin.

But the moment of effervescence had passed and the situation in Chile underwent severe changes in just three years. Already for the parliamentary elections last year, the parties regained prominence and the Congress that left has a balance between emerging forces that are betting on change and forces more inclined to the right and to the preservation of the status quo.

In the first presidential round, José Antonio Kast, representing the right, narrowly beat Gabriel Boric, and he had to modify his left speech quite a bit, moving to the center of the political spectrum to beat Kast in second round.

There is more. After the victory and the inauguration of Boric, the economic and social situation in Chile has been aggravated by rising inflation and the crisis that has set off the alarms of an unequal society, but which had had years of great prosperity in not distant times. . The polls have severely punished Boric, who moves in them by thirty or thirty-five percent.

The Constitution they drew up —infused with the spirit of the social explosion— with a modification of the institutional structure and the recognition of a variety of rights to population groups, ethnic minorities and regions, with an emblematic agenda of demands for the excluded, radicalized the opposition of the rights, frightened little-advised sectors and disconcerted social sectors with traditional beliefs.

I certainly know it is not easy to notice the changes in the mood of the people, to discover the variation in citizen opinion. In just three years, Chile experienced several political upheavals. Something like a slide where emotions, disconformities, claims, the desire to close the long historical cycle started by Augusto Pinochet and to also close a shorter cycle rose and fell: that of transition, abandoning the parties that led the transition from dictatorship to a controlled democracy, ruled by rules that had come from the hands of the dictator.

The conventionists only thought of the legitimacy that the people had granted them in a moment of exalted spirits and overwhelmed illusions. They did not read that opinion had moved, that the right was reorganizing itself, that the parties were not going to allow themselves to be thrown out of the political scene with big hats.

But the letter with defeats enters. Boric's reaction the day after the rejection of the new constitution was calm and understanding of the moment. He called to seek an agreement to make the change. A change that includes all political and social forces. A change that closes the historical cycle that Pinochet opened with his infamous dictatorship, but that at the same time collects the lessons of the transition, the main one of all: agreement, the ability to negotiate in societies that have blurred into multiple groups and tendencies, in a countless diversity of interests and forces.


bottom of page