Pros hope to beat antis in Chile constitution vote

Chileans decide on proposed overhaul of 42-year-old charter

SANTIAGO, Chile (AFP) — Chileans head to the polls on Sunday to choose whether to adopt a new constitution that aims to shift its market-driven society into one that is more welfare-based, while enacting broad institutional reforms.

Although Chileans previously voted in droves for a rewrite of the current constitution — adopted in 1980 during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship — opinion polls suggest the new text will be rejected.

Those in favor are still holding out hope, not least because of what they see on the streets.

On Thursday night, an estimated 500,000 people turned out for the official closing of the “approve” campaign in Santiago, whereas no more than 500 people did so for the “reject” gathering.

“People will go out to vote en masse and the polls will be wrong once again,” Juan Carlos Latorre, a legislator in the ruling coalition of leftist President Gabriel Boric, who supports the new text, said.

Social upheaval that began in 2019 as tens of thousands of people demanded a more equitable society provided the impulse to overhaul the constitution, but several clauses of the 388-article proposed draft have proved controversial.

Higher class citizens

Chief among their concerns is the prominence given to the country’s indigenous peoples, who make up close to 13 percent of the 19 million population.

The new text was drawn up by a constitutional convention made up of 154 members — mostly with no political affiliation — split equally between men and women and with 17 places reserved for Indigenous people.

The resulting proposal recognizes 11 indigenous peoples and offers them greater autonomy, particularly on judicial issues.

It is the most controversial clause, with some critics accusing the authors of trying to turn the traditionally marginalized indigenous people into a higher class of citizens.

Proposals to legalize abortion and protect the environment as well as natural resources like water, which some say is exploited by private mining companies, have also garnered much attention.

The new constitution would also overhaul Chile’s government, replacing the Senate with a less powerful “chamber of regions,” and requiring women to hold at least half of positions in public institutions.

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