Chile’s Triumph of Democracy

¡Apruebo! I vote Yes! 7.5 million people turned out to voice their desire for a Chilean constitution based on democracy this past Sunday. 51% voted, despite the hurdle of the corona virus. The present Magna Carta of Chile was written and ratified by Dictator Pinochet in 1980. At the groundbreaking plebiscite on 25 October, 78% of voters approved the process for a new constitution! That was question #1. The second question was who would attend the constitutional congress; a “mixed” congress half of them senators and half regular citizens or a “pure” congress only of elected citizens. The Chileans chose the all elected citizens option.

I read a conservative Chilean paper that insinuated that the people didn’t understand what a mixed congress meant. Well, it seems clear that general populace did, however they didn’t want the present legislature with strong ties to the former dictatorship and role in the pervasive economic inequality to make decisions for them. A liberal Chilean newspaper posited that the choice was a referendum against the Piñera government. The Latin American press is talking about the Chilean President’s disapproval rating, a cypher close to the 78% of the referendum.

This new progression toward representative democracy is a direct result of the protests in October 2019. Changing the constitution was a main demand of Chilean protestors in the unrest one year ago. (See this article I wrote last October.) Chileans who spoke up in the Chile has Awoken (Chile Despertó) movement pushed for articles about education and health care to be added to a new Constitution.

The government had postponed the plebiscite from April to October, due to Covid-19. When the pandemic worsened over time, people began to worry that the event would be postponed again, or indefinitely. Happily, the administration planned to go forward with the date. US take note, Chile organized amazing outdoor voting locations. (It is summer there.) People stood in line, socially distanced, wearing masks. The lines went down the block. Chileans were patient and determined to vote. In public service announcements prior to the plebiscite, voters were asked to wear a mask and bring their own blue pen to mark their ballot.

Chilean National Plebiscite 2020, Santiago Photo: Yastay

Older adults had waited decades for this chance to effect change. Think of the years without complete democracy in Chile. We could say from1973-1990. However, after Pinochet’s Constitution in 1980, how could there be true democratic representation in the legislature? Pinochet appointed himself Senator for life. Worse, the dictator’s constitution has held Chile back until the present day. Forty years after he penned its pages, the undemocratic constitution stands, with 53 revisions. That was until Sunday, when the Chileans decided to stop putting correction fluid on the flawed document and start fresh. 25 October may become a Chilean national holiday, El Día de la Democracia (Democracy Day).

This exciting new chapter will begin next April 2021, when 155 citizen representatives will be elected. It is momentous that the Chilean Constitutional Congress will be the first in history to have gender parity, half the representatives will be men and half women. I hope citizens from each region and many different walks of life seek to represent Chile in the Constitutional Congress. They will have nine months with a possible three month extension to create the text of the constitution. Once 103 of the 155 members agree on the document, then it goes to a national vote in 2022.

This exciting Chilean news has brought me such joy. Sunday night when I found out the Apruebo/I Approve won, I wept I was so moved. Our friends and Chileans have a chance to live in peace, prosperity and celebrate life. This is the best news all year.

¡Felicidades al pueblo chileno! Congratulations to the people of Chile! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Chilean Flag Photo: Rebecca Cuningham
Rebecca Cuningham

20 thoughts on “Chile’s Triumph of Democracy

  1. It is so heartening and encouraging to see people all over the world rise up to refute unjust governments. In Belarus, Lebanon, Nigeria; the BLM protests in the US; Chileans turning out in such numbers to vote for a new constitution — it all give me hope in the inherent goodness of people and that they can make their voices heard to demand fair governance.

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    1. Very well said. The Chilean people’s accomplishment reminds me of a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: “When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

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    1. Seems that democracy mirrors our human relationships in that it is always evolving and changing. Sorry the UK is going through a period of compromised liberties. In the end I hope your government and that we have here is more like Chile’s new direction.

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  2. Wow, I have never heard of this news from Chile…goes to show just how out-of-tune the US is in international affairs. All the same, it sounds like an exciting break-through for the country, and we shall definitely see how everything pans out come next April! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comments. The news is slow to trickle in from Latin America, seems like it comes by ship rather than over the internet 😉 Crossing my fingers for excellent candidates stepping up in April. Here in the US, we might be too caught up in our our democratic exercise to notice another country’s at present…

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