Chile’s constitutional convention finally gets under way

Santiago, Jul 7 (EFE).- The constituent assembly charged with drafting a new constitution for Chile was able to convene here Wednesday after a two-day delay due to logistical problems.

“We were not able to gather Monday, but we have worked arduously to be able to begin today,” the convention chair, Elisa Loncon, said in Spanish and the indigenous Mapudungun language.

The 155 delegates were supposed to begin deliberations two days ago inside the former seat of Congress in Santiago, but they arrived to find that the space had not been reconfigured to allow social distancing amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

While steps were taken to remedy that deficiency and the lack of internet connectivity in the building, the opening ended up being postponed 48 hours.

Deputy chair Jaime Bassa apologized to the members for “the embarrassment” of the previous two days and said that Wednesday’s session would be devoted to organizational matters.

The constitutional convention arose from efforts by the government of right-wing President Sebastian Piñera to tamp down a popular uprising that erupted in October 2019.

Chile’s largest protests since the end of the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship were spurred by an increase in transit fares in Santiago, but the grievances quickly expanded to include low pay and pensions, student debt and poor health care, among other issues.

The movement, which brought 1.2 million people – more than 5 percent of Chile’s population – into the center of Santiago on Oct. 25, 2019, made adoption of a new constitution one of its signature demands.

Chilean voters opted via referendum to replace the current charter, enacted by Pinochet in 1980 with no semblance of a democratic process, and went on to fill 48 of the 155 seats in the assembly with political independents.

The assembly consists of an equal number of men and women and includes representatives of Chile’s indigenous peoples. EFE pnm/dr

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