Four years after social outbreak, Chile faces second constitutional failure

Maria M. Mur

Santiago de Chile, Oct 18 (EFE).- In 2019, Chile was plunged into the worst wave of protests since the end of the dictatorship and began a long discussion about its social model. Four years later, the debate is at a standstill and the second attempt to draft a new constitution could also fail, according to the polls.

As the fourth anniversary of the outbreak approaches, more than 4,000 police officers will be deployed, mainly in Santiago, but the authorities are hoping for a “calm” day since there have been few calls for mass marches.

Chileans are beginning to distance themselves from the social upheaval which paralyzed the country’s institutions for several months, left around thirty people dead, thousands injured, and led international organizations to accuse the security forces of violating human rights.

The anniversary comes two days before the opening of the 19th Pan American Games, the largest sporting event to be held in Chile since the 1962 World Cup, and during an official visit to China by President Gabriel Boric.

“The effects of the outbreak, which some are trying to pretend did not happen or erase from history, are long-term and I think it is too early to make a complete analysis,” Boric said Tuesday from Beijing.

Unmet social demands

A new constitution was the solution agreed upon by politicians to defuse the protests, but four years later the country is still under the 1980 Constitution drafted during the dictatorship (1973-1990).

However, as Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, of the Institute of Social Studies (IES), explains to EFE, “the political system has not been able to resolve urgent discussions, such as security, pensions or health.”

“The sum of the outbreak and the pandemic, along with this political inefficiency, has left us in a state of immobility,” he adds.

Octavio Avendaño, from the University of Chile, also believes that the social demands have not been successful.

Avendaño points out that there was a “false understanding ” of the protests, thinking that the problem could be solved “with a change in the constitution and a leftist government.”

“The outbreak was a much more complex phenomenon. We realized that the demand for constitutional change came from the elites, including the left, and not from the street,” he told EFE.

Pendulum Voting

Since 2019, Chile has held seven elections in which the electorate has behaved like a pendulum, swinging first to the left and then to the right.

Boric, the most leftist president since Salvador Allende, defeated the far-right Jose Antonio Kast in December 2021.

However, almost two years later he has been unable to implement most of his reforms, such as tax and pensions, because he does not have a majority in parliament.

The left also won the majority of seats in the convention that drafted the first proposal for a new Magna Carta.

However, it suffered a resounding defeat in the plebiscite in September 2022, when 62% of Chileans rejected an avant-garde text on gender equality, environmental issues, and indigenous peoples rights.

In the subsequent constituent elections, the far right and the traditional right swept the scene and are currently leading this second attempt to draft a new fundamental charter.

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