Chileans to vote on new constitution: Socialist Chile 'reborn'?
Chile is set to vote for a new constitution that could see the country rising toward what it once was: a nation independent from the United States and serving its own interests. Will the people vote in favor of the overhaul or against it?
Chileans are heading to the polls to vote on a constitutional overhaul that could see the Latin American country shifting from its Pinochet-era constitution tailored to fit the US economic and political views and implementing reforms that could potentially see Chile granting citizens freedoms taken from them by the US-backed laws.
The people of Chile have previously voted to change the constitution drawn up in 1980 under US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. However, opinion polls suggest that the new constitution will be rejected despite countless improvements from the current one.
Pinochet was essentially propped up as a means of toppling socialist president Salvador Allende, the country's first socialist president voted into office on September 4, 1970, and sworn in two months later. It is no coincidence that the referendum on the vote is taking place on September 4, 52 years after Allende was voted into power, as it could symbolize a sort of "resurrection" of a socialist Chile.
The constitution is predicted to be rejected due to certain clauses of the proposed draft of 388 articles, though it is the culmination of years of demonstrations against the former government, which started in 2019.
The protests came to life after the former government discussed hiking faires for metros, prompting tens of thousands of students to flock to the streets to demand change. That eventually led to a change of rule following a presidential election that saw proclaimed leftist Gabriel Boric come to power.
The new constitution received widespread support, but many are suggesting that support dropped over time, since the beginning of the year, due to widespread disinformation regarding the text. A survey even showed that the amendments called for by hundreds of thousands of Chileans were only approved by 37%, while 46% disapproved of them.
Voting in Chile, however, is compulsory, and with 15 million people eligible to vote in the referendum, enough Chileans are undecided for them to tip the scale either way.
The Chilean public is largely against the country's neoliberal economic system, and it is expected that the clauses tackling this issue will be prioritized by the government in any future text if this one were to fail.
Though the polls are suggesting otherwise, public opinion seems to be swaying in favor of changing the constitution. Around half a million people turned up for the official closing of the "approve" campaign in the country's capital, Santiago, whereas around 500 people attended the "reject" gathering.
Many, however, are voicing concern that the new constitution would lead to nationwide instability and uncertainty, which would inflict a lot of damage on the economy. It is expected that this instability could stem from US pressure, as Washington has a long history of interfering in Latin American domestic issues, especially in Chile. This could also be linked to unprecedented conservatism among the Chilean public brought up under a conservative government after the US quashed any attempt at progressivism.
Those in favor of the new constitution, on the other hand, say it would lead to large-scale changes in the conservative, socially and ethnically tense Latin American state, as well as pave the way toward an egalitarian society.
The current constitution, as said before, was backed by the United States. Washington pushed for the regime change in Chile due to the interests of multinational corporations who sought to make massive profits off the back of the Chilean people. The country's political scenery was plagued with capitalistic ideals, and Pinochet helped by practically toppling Salvador Allende, the only hurdle obstructing the US' supremacy over the country, thus giving the reigns to the corporations so long as it meant he would spend more time in power.
The United States, a self-proclaimed champion of democracy and freedom, did not mind the oppression the people of Chile were suffering at the hands of Pinochet so long as it meant that more money was going into the American economy.
The people are saying the Pinochet-era constitution - which has undergone various reforms since its adoption - has given private enterprise free reign over crucial industries. It also created an uneven ground that allows for the rich to fester and get richer while also widening the wedge between the social classes, promoting more struggle for the poor class.
The fresh constitution was written by a constitutional convention comprised of 154 members split equally between men and women with 17 places dedicated to Indigenous people.
So, what exactly is in this new constitution?
The new constitution includes clauses that legalize abortion, protect the environment and natural resources, enshrine gender and ethnic equality, as well as reverse many neoliberal policies.
The new constitution clearly stipulates that everyone has the right "to make free, autonomous and informed decisions about one's own body, [including] reproduction".
Abortion was illegal in Chile under all circumstances until 2017. However, it is only permitted on rare occasions and under certain circumstances, and this change will guarantee abortion access for all Chileans.
Protection of natural resources
The new text mentioned the protection of water 32 times. Everyone has "the human right to water and sufficient, healthy, acceptable, affordable and accessible sanitation," and it is "the duty of the State to guarantee it."
Chile has been suffering from various issues related to water scarcity, undergoing a disastrous drought spanning the past decade. It is largely attributed to global warming, but major contributors also include the private mining and agriculture sectors, which have been sucking the country's natural water resources dry.
The new constitution enshrines new power and representation for the Chilean Indigenous population, which makes up some 13% of the country's populace of 19 million.
The constitution also requires all "collegiate bodies of the State" and the boards of companies owned or partially owned by the government to be comprised of at least 50% women, enshrining gender equality in a country plagued by conservatism.
A new dawn for Latin America
If the new text passes, Chile will not only be reverting to Socialism, for its passing will mark a major shift in Latin America, a continent that has long been suffering at the hands of the United States' imperialist policies.
Santiago is not alone, as Colombia recently elected its first leftist president who shifted away from the US policies of shunning Venezuela due to its Socialist ideals. If Socialist Chile reborn, Latin America's Social government would band together and form an economic powerhouse that could threaten even the US, as it would break the continent's dependence on Washington and its decision-making and see its peoples working toward bettering their own societies rather than working to feed the US economy.