Chile, The Deep Meaning And Real Limits Of A New Constitution

Forging a new constitution to replace the one from the Pinochet era is necessary for Chile to move forward. But it alone cannot solve tough socio-economic problems plaguing the nation.

People gathering to celebrate the victory of the referendum in Santiago
Rossana Castiglioni


SANTIAGO — Chile is not about to reform its constitution, but draft a new one — from scratch. The referendum held on Oct. 25 sought to define the mechanism for this, namely a constituent assembly of 155 members, to be elected by direct voting on April 11, 2021.

The constituent assembly or "convention," will be equally divided between men and women, and envisages a membership quota for Chile's indigenous communities. It will draft a constitutional text over nine months, which may be prolonged for another three months.

This news is extraordinary for the context from which it emerged. In October 2019, Chile was facing a wave of mass protests, mostly peaceful though at times violent, which lasted more than two months. In the midst of this social explosion, which President Sebastián Piñera evidently could not appease, the country's main political forces agreed on an Accord for Social Peace that called for a constitutional plebiscite. A new constitution thus became a political strategy for ending a social confrontation that might have led to ugly places.

We still have to see if the new charter can resolve the country's crisis of legitimacy.

But now that it is going forward, we may wonder whether a new constitution was actually a central demand of our mobilized citizens? Undoubtedly, not. The men and women who took to the streets did not focus on any particular leader, group or political reform.

On the contrary, the demands were quite practical: better healthcare, decent wages, quality education, the end of private pension plans and reducing "structural" inequalities based on class, gender or ethnicity.

Still, we have come to realize that for both Chilean citizens and politicians, the 1980 constitution could no longer stand. Symbolically, the current constitution was drafted under a dictatorship and without civil participation. For many, that was its original sin. As the country faces a deep-seated crisis of legitimacy — expressed in scant levels of party affiliation, low trust in institutions and declining political participation — a new democratic constitution forged through debate seems both timely and necessary.

Chile is about to draft a new constitution from scratch — Photo: Felipe Vargas Figueroa/NurPhoto/ZUMA

It remains to be seen of course whether the new charter can duly resolve the country's crisis of legitimacy. Such moments certainly provide opportunities for reflecting on the kind of country the public actually wants to build, and adopting changes that might otherwise be difficult to realize.

We also know that when people perceive decision-making processes as legitimate, they are more inclined to accept their results, even if they are not the ones they wanted. This alone is a good reason to be hopeful with the new constitution. Once the assembly drafts the text, it must be approved by two-thirds of members and then ratified by voters. If the Convention cannot in the time given it reach an agreement, then the current constitution, approved in 1980, will remain in force.

Yet even if it passes, a constitution alone can't resolve pressing issues like access to medicine, socio-economic inequality, gender discrimination, corporate abuses or employment levels. Nor is the current context helpful: the coronavirus has hit Chile hard, with more than 500,000 cases and jobless numbers at around 13% of the workforce and the economy expected to shrink 6.3%, according to World Bank figures. Polls show that generalized discontent still prevails.

We now must see if the political class is up to the challenges of this unique moment: if people's expectations are not properly managed and the country fails to come together around a shared project, it will be difficult to be optimistic about our future. New constitution or old.

*Castiglioni is head of the Social Sciences and History department at Chile's Diego Portales University.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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