Claudia Gálvez Mesina, LASC Committee Member
Last night, the streets across the length and breadth of Chile (and in some other territories worldwide) were flooded with a long-awaited celebration of its people as they achieved a historical landmark, putting an end to the main legacy of the Pinochet era: his constitution. The results of Sunday’s national Referendum about whether to adopt a new constitution were not just successful because of highest attendance to polls since the establishment of voluntary voting in 2012, but made possible entirely thanks to the Chilean awakening of October 18th, 2019, where Chileans, fed up with an unfair and abusive system, protested massively after the metro fare increased 30 pesos. “It is not about 30 pesos but 30 years of social injustice”. The initial fare evasion triggered by secondary students lead to a widespread revolt of people of all ages demanding access to free-high standard education, decent health care and pension systems, recognition of rights of indigenous communities, reforms to the country’s privatised resources such as water and copper, claims which have been brutally repressed by the Chilean police forces, the “carabineros”, resulting in more than 30 people killed, over 400 people with eye trauma, thousands injured and some of the picket line young people imprisoned up to now.
This atrocious violation of human rights, not seen in such way since Pinochet’s dictatorship and openly allowed by president Piñera’s government, did not threaten Chileans in this pursuit of a new and worthier Chile, nor the coronavirus outbreak which dampened the spark in the streets but not in their coordination of soup kitchens and grassroots assistance to families at risk. Chileans coped with the state violence, human rights violation and a pandemic never before seen in 100 years and got through, organising internally and externally (with movements such as Chile Despertó Internacional with a branch in Ireland). This Plebiscite for a new constitution reached historic results with 78.24% of people approving a new constitution while 21.76% rejected this change. The mechanism chosen for shaping the document was the Convención Constitucional, drafted by a popularly elected body.
Although the joy is still in the air, the Referendum for a new constitution was just the first step on this long ladder to justice and equality for all Chilean people. It is going to be a titanic task to be executed facing the main factual powers of an economic system nurtured outside by a never defeated oligarchy and powerful alliances. However, we must give it a shot.
Por mi y por todxs mis compañerxs*
*For me and for all my mates