Progress and controversies in a month of Constitutional Assembly in Chile – Sylvia Colombo

The Constitutional Assembly of Chile took office a month ago and has collected advances, conflicts with the government and internal divisions. Lawmakers have a set deadline for drafting and presenting the new Charter – nine months, extendable for three more. After that, the text will be voted on in a binding referendum. Only then will the country be able, or not, to say goodbye to the current Constitution, promulgated under the Pinochet dictatorship.

Excited at first, the Chileans now display a certain consternation at the constitutional process. Support for the work of the National Assembly has declined by four percentage points since the agency started operating, according to an Activa survey. In addition, 40% of Chileans say they are convinced that the work is progressing on the right track, 26% partially trust it and 34% do not trust it at all.

The Cadem Institute also recorded a fall. From 63% confidence in early July, just after the installation of the Constituent Assembly, to 51%, thirty days later.

The attrition makes sense, as the needs expressed in the protests that have taken place since October 2019 have required a rapid response to pressing issues, such as access to health, education and better pensions, in addition of a country with more opportunities for young people and deconstruction. pillars of Chilean neoliberalism. It was obvious that the desired transformation would not happen quickly. What is more likely, indeed, is that the country’s transformation will not satisfy everyone and that not all the banners of change will come under the control of the two-thirds majority of lawmakers – a condition for a article be approved. In addition, the process is long and many are unwilling or unable to wait, as the coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse for the most vulnerable.

Composed of 155 legislators and a majority of independents, the body had to start from scratch. Thus, the first steps forward this month were the establishment of rules for the sessions and the formation of committees to deal with each issue. There were 13 sessions with all lawmakers present and over 115 votes. Lawmakers have complained about the conditions of the Pereira Palace, designated by the government as the site of the works. Several sessions have been delayed or canceled due to the faulty internet and the lack of sanitary conditions for the operation of the various rooms in which the representatives work, to avoid congestion.

The first controversy was installed by Elisa Loncon, the university professor and linguist of Mapuche origin who was elected president of the body. Loncon calls for the release of protesters imprisoned since the protests began, as well as indigenous Mapuche people who have been convicted of crimes during the struggle for their land, a conflict that has raged in the south of the country for years.

Loncon’s attitude has been criticized by the right wing, which believes it has no authority over matters relating to the policy of the current government. Some lawmakers from the right-wing alliance Vamos por Chile have asked the Assembly’s ethics committee to ask Loncon to withdraw his remarks and be warned for expressing his opinion on the decisions of the executive and the judiciary. Chileans.

The second controversy concerned the choice of a former naval commander as a member of the Human Rights Commission. Lawmaker Jorge Arancibia was at the forefront between 1997 and 2001, and in the past, between 1980 and 1982, he worked closely with Pinochet. His name causes division in the assembly because he has a very strong opinion on the former repressors of the dictatorship, who are serving prisons in the special prison of Punta Peuco. Arancibia advocates that their sanctions be amnestied or minimized. His appointment to the committee was made by right-wing AC lawmakers and is not abnormal. However, this disturbed human rights groups and the left.

Another obstacle faced by those drafting the new Charter is not to let their decisions be politicized or used as campaign material, since the country is already living in a climate of presidential succession. Piñera’s replacement will be chosen in November this year. The most likely candidates belong to a new generation of politicians: leftist Gabriel Boric, right-hander Sebastián Sichel and centrist Yasna Provoste.

The first poll with these names, by Cadem, gives equality in leadership, between Boric and Sichel, with 24% each, followed by Provoste, with 13%. Thirteen other names compete for smaller acronyms.

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