Chile gives Gabriel Boric a draft constitution. Now it stands for a vote.

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SANTIAGO, Chile — In 2019, when hundreds of thousands of Chileans took to the streets in protest, a young tattooed politician helped negotiate a deal to end the unrest. The pact called for a new constitution to appease the protesters begging for a fresh start — and a voice for those long largely excluded from the politics of this South American nation: women, the indigenous people, the LGBT community.

utilities that young politician, a 36-year-old shaggy former student activist named Gabriel Boric, is the president of Chile. And this week he received a document that could become Chile’s new constitution, a 388-article charter that proposes a progressive, feminist future for the South American nation.

“Today we are entering a new phase,” Boric said Monday at Chile’s former Congress building in Santiago, the 19th-century palace that hosted the constitutional convention last year. “Again, it’s the people who have the final say over their fate.”

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Chileans will vote on the document on September 4, which would define many of the priorities of the social movements led by the younger generations: gender equality, environmental protection, indigenous rights and guaranteed access to education. The constitution is one of the first in the world to be drafted in the context of a climate crisis and written by a convention with gender equality. It recognizes the sense of animals and their ‘right to live a life free from abuse’.

It’s a wakeful constitution powered by left-wing millennials and built for a modern nation led by one. The question is whether Chileans are ready.

“What Chile decided… was to be part of the new demands of a specific generation,” said Sergio Toro, a political scientist to the Chilean university mayor. Their success, he said, depends on whether they can achieve this new social pact. “If they succeed, it means the start of another country.”

The experiment could serve as a case study in writing a progressive constitution in the 21st century — and the challenges of getting a divided country to agree to it.

After the 2019 protests, nearly 80 percent of Chileans voted in 2020 to draft a new constitution to replace the Milton Friedman-influenced charter from the country’s Augusto Pinochet-era. But it now seems increasingly unlikely that Chileans will approve – polls show the vote to reject it has a clear lead.

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At one point, the first democratically drafted constitution in Chilean history contained 499 articles, which would have made it one of the longest such documents in the world. It was reduced to 388, plus 57 to aid in the country’s transition to the new charter.

It is a clear departure from the current charter, which did not mention the indigenous peoples of Chile.

The document would enshrine Chile as plurinational – with many different peoples — and increase the possibility of autonomy for indigenous areas. One section would guarantee restitution for historically indigenous lands at a “fair price.” Another would make government responsible for preventing, adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. Elsewhere, the document would guarantee: protecting biodiversity, enshrining the right to nature and paving the way for the replacement of the country’s highly unpopular private water rights system.

“This was an unprecedented process, as we were able to consider all the evidence on climate change when drafting the new constitution,” said Cristina Dorador, 42, a microbiologist from Antofagasta. “I hope all of this can serve as an example for other countries.”

The charter would allow the government responsible for providing free higher education, health care and many other services. It would guarantee the right to housing and to leisure. It would require: that at least half of all members of government and congress, and employees of public and public-private companies, are women. It would also recognize the government’s responsibility to eradicate gender violence.

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The first article defines Chile as inclusive and gender equal.

“Feminism features in the constitution as one of the central pillars of the redistribution of power,” explains Constanza Schönhaut, 33, a deputy from Santiago.

It would shake up Chile’s political system, abolish the Senate in favor of a “chamber of regions” — an upper house made up of elected deputies from each of Chile’s regions — and lower the barrier for independent candidates to run for office. chosen positions.

“This proposal completely deviates in form and content from the 1980 constitution,” said Kenneth Bunker, director of Tresquintos, a political analysis website. “If that was drafted in one chamber by four generals, then this new proposal has been written with complete plurality.”

The 155-member Constitutional Assembly consisted mainly of independent and left-wing members. Seventeen seats were reserved for the country’s 10 indigenous communities.

The composition of the assembly has been the subject of criticism.

“The proposal is radical because it represents only one sector of the left, which is clearly not what our country wants,” said Arturo Zúñiga, a conservative convention delegate who waved the red-white-blue national flag. during Monday’s ceremony. “In my opinion, the way forward is to find a new method of writing a constitution that unites our country.”

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The turbulent negotiations were punctuated by controversies that aided a campaign to discredit the convention.

Representative Rodrigo Rojas Vade, a popular figure at the 2019 marches, was elected to the convention on promises of free, quality healthcare – and for his experiences with a rare form of leukemia. It turned out that his diagnosis was fake and he resigned.

The spread of misinformation and selective reading of the text have led to fights. A conservative senator, Felipe Kast, the cousin of José Antonio Kast, who defeated Boric in December, erroneously tweeted that the proposal would allow abortions at any time during pregnancy.

The text would guarantee the right to make free, autonomous and informed decisions about one’s own body, reproduction and contraception; as well as the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. But it specifies that abortion would be governed by a separate law.

If voters reject the document, the 1980 constitution will remain in effect and the country would likely have to put together an entirely new constitutional convention to restart the drafting process, said Tania Busch Venthur, a law professor who teaches constitutional law at the Andrés. Bello University in Chile. †

“Chile is a country where people are not good at talking about things directly,” she said. “Maybe this is a process where we first started talking honestly and seeing that our differences were deeper than we thought.”

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