Mapuche leader Elisa Loncon, one of the 17 deputies elected by the quota of indigenous peoples, was chosen this Sunday (4) as president of the new Constituent Assembly of Chile.
From now on, it will be up to him to organize the progress of the drafting of the articles of the new Charter of the country and to articulate the dialogue between the different benches that make up the body. Of the 155 members of the Casa, Loncon received 96 votes.
After being elected, she thanked in Mapudungun, the language of the indigenous Mapuche people, and in Spanish. In her speech, she said Chile must become a multicultural country and defended the release of young people who are still imprisoned today due to the anti-government protests that began in 2019.
It was precisely these protests that triggered the process that culminated in the convening of the new Constituent Assembly, which held its first session on Sunday.
Loncon, 58, had a poor childhood in Araucania, a region in the south of the country. As a child, in addition to going to school, she also sold fruit, cheese and eggs at the market in Traiguén, the community where she grew up.
The current President of the Constituent Assembly learned to read with the help of her father, who bought second-hand books so that her daughter could strengthen her studies at home.
Today, Loncon is professor of English at the Universidad de la Frontera and Mapudungun at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago. He completed his postgraduate studies at the International Institute for Labor Studies in La Haya and his doctorate at the University of Leiden (both in the Netherlands).
Loncon claims to be a woman of the left, although she has never actively participated in any political party – she claims to be inspired by the Mapuche tradition of voting on issues in assemblies.
The indigenous Chileans represent 9% of the population. Of these, 84% are Mapuche – the rest are divided into 10 other nations.
His family has a tradition of getting involved in Mapuche struggles. His great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather fought the military occupation of Araucania in 1883 and defended Temuco, the region’s capital.
Part of the Mapuche population even advocates separating the region of Chile and Argentina – part of the indigenous lands are in the neighboring country – in order to create a new independent country.
Loncon, however, belongs to a more moderate wing, which only advocates that Chile recognize the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of the region.
The first session of the Constituent Assembly took place outside the building of the former National Congress. At around noon, while a break was taken, there was an incident outside the building after clashes between protesters and riflemen and an unelected former Assembly candidate suffered eye injuries.
The members of the new Assembly will meet for up to one year – nine months, extendable for three more – to draft a new Constitution for the country, replacing the one in force since 1981, written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990 ).
The vote that elected voters in May represented a defeat for the right and for the current center-right alliance by which President Sebastián Piñera was elected. The government sector won only 37 of 155 seats (24%), while the center-left won 53 seats (34%), and the independents, 65 (42%). Approval of each law in the New Charter will require the approval of two-thirds of the House.
In this start of the process, the behavior of independent voters draws attention, a big surprise in the vote when they beat the traditional Chilean subtitles since the country’s re-democratization.