On Monday, thousands of Chileans in major cities across the country gathered once more to protest inequality and injustice in their government. Protesters fight for a new constitution that will represent the interests of everyone in Chile.
The current Chilean constitution was imposed in 1980 by dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The laws outlined in this document provide the legal basis for privatized pensions, health, and education.
These same laws are what allow 1% of Chile’s population to earn 33% of its wealth.
“The first demand is to change the constitution: we are the only country in Latin America that has the same constitution it had under a dictatorship,” said protester and filmmaker Antonia del Almendro. “We are seeing that they still violate human rights like they did under the dictatorship.”
On Friday, November 15, lawmakers conceded and established that a new constitution is in the works via the “Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution.” Under the terms of the agreement, Chileans will vote on a referendum asking them if they: 1. Want a new constitution; and 2. If voters want a citizens-only constitutional convention or a “mixed” constitutional convention, including members of the National Congress.
Although controversial with protesters and government officials alike, the referendum will be the first time in Chile’s history that all its citizens are given a voice and a vote.
The protests in Chile started almost a month ago when secondary students rallied against a 3% metro fare increase in capital city Santiago. The following domino-effect of protests was unexpected, though not unprecedented or unwarranted.
As of November 19, 22 people have died in the protests and 2,000 people have been injured since October. Police brutality and human rights violations are in part to blame for the viciousness of the protests.
Chilean president Sebastián Piñera condemned the actions of police that used excessive force against protesters. There are currently over 1,000 documented cases of alleged abuses by police and military personnel being investigated by public prosecutors. The UN and Amnesty International also sent in teams to investigate alleged human rights abuses.
Piñera had previously declared that the authorities were “at war” with protesters, and enforced a military-enforced curfew in Santiago.
“During the protests, the government has killed people, women have been raped, men have been raped. Many have lost eyes while they protested peacefully,” said art history student and protester María Borgoño. “Human rights have not been truly respected since the dictatorship. We are subjected by the rich – and now its time for that to end.”
Although the results are yet to be determined, the protests in Chile show that direct action can breed direct results. A new constitution will ideally provide all Chileans with a voice and a future.
Image by Guido Coppa or Unsplash.com.