By Alberto Valdes Gomez
Santiago, Jun 7 (EFE).- Little did daycare worker Giovanna Grandon know in October 2019 when she donned her son’s old costume of a Pokemon character to join an anti-government protest in Santiago that it was the start of a journey leading to her election as a delegate to Chile’s upcoming constitutional convention.
The 46-year-old known as “Aunt Pikachu” was one of 27 candidates from the People’s List to win spots in the 155-seat constituent assembly due to begin work at the end of this month.
With just a fraction of the resources of traditional political parties, the People’s List exceeded the predictions of pollsters and will be the largest independent bloc in the assembly.
The People’s List delegates range from blue-collar workers and owners of small businesses to lawyers and scientists and though most of them are making their first foray into organized politics, they all have experience as activists in their communities.
“People told me to run for the constituent (assembly), but I don’t know anything about laws, I don’t have university studies. I gave those to my son. At the time when I could afford it, I decided it would be for him. Even so, this constitution needs to be written by all of us,” Grandon said in an interview with Efe.
Chile’s current charter was created and enacted during the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship with no semblance of a democratic process.
The assembly that convenes later this month will consist of an equal number of men and women and include representatives of Chile’s indigenous peoples.
Roughly 60 percent of delegates are not affiliated with any political party and the convention will have a pronounced tilt in favor of progressives, as the list put forward by the ruling right-wing coalition and its allies garnered only 37 seats, far short of the one-third required to block proposals.
All of that adds up to conditions that are “quite favorable” for genuine reform, People’s List delegate Elisa Giustinianovich told Efe.
“It is we mobilized populations who are opening this process. Organizations that have worked for years on the ground, covering everything the state doesn’t cover, considering that a subsidiary state covers virtually nothing,” the 36-year-old chemical engineer representing the Magallanes-Antarctic district said.
That process of compensating for the absence of public services began shortly after the return of democracy in response to the “privatization of all spheres of life” locked-in by Pinochet’s constitution, she said.
The uprising against economic inequality that erupted in October 2019 led to a “rapid politicization of the population” and to a coming together of local and regional grassroots groups, Giustinianovich said.
From the other end of the country, Daniel Bravo, 39, a People’s List delegate representing the port city of Coquimbo, said he hopes to bring a “northern perspective” to the constitutional debate.
“Having been born, studied and worked almost my entire life in the region, I have been able to know the local reality as a citizen, attorney and university professor, to draft a new constitution that adequately reflects the demands of the citizenry,” he told Efe.
Grandon, criticized by some people for her lack of credentials, contends that Chile’s well-educated politicians are out of touch.
“The political and economic elite don’t know the reality of when you have 30,000 Chilean pesos ($41.71) and an entire week to live and feed four children,” she says. “You fight for your people, because it doesn’t have to be this way.” EFE avg/dr