I was shocked to hear Elisa Loncón’s stepping down as president of Chile’s Constitutional Congress. Six months ago, she made history as the Mapuche woman who won that leadership role. I was concerned she might be ill or that her university work pulled her away.
After reading several articles to determine the impetus for the change, I discovered the designers of the Constitutional Congress set short term limits, so no one person had an excess of power. Her term has expired, and this week the members are voting for the constitutional body’s next president and vice president. She will remain a representative.
Loncón led well and the congress is progressing in its challenge of both forming a more just and democratic constitution for Chile and disposing of the rules enacted by dictator Pinochet. Loncón’s last day was January 4th, 2022. The congress spent a marathon 18 hours in 8 voting sessions to determine the next president, to no avail. No one earned the 78 votes necessary to win her post until today after a recess.
As I write, I am watching the delegates walk up to the silver urn and cast their ballot for the new vice president of the Constitutional Congress on the online television channel dedicated to their meetings. I’ve missed the live final ninth round of the vote for the new principal leader, Presidenta María Elisa Quinteros who won 78 votes this afternoon. She is trained as a dentist and works as a public health professor and researcher in Talca. Quinteros believes in the importance of using scientific findings as the basis for public policy. She has served on the Ethics Committee and the Human Rights Committee in her work thus far as a constitutional congress representative.
As I watch, the official is reading the VP votes aloud, saying who voted for whom. One candidate just passed the 78 vote mark, and the room of representatives gave a cheer. Final numbers, Felipe Mena was second (35 votes) and Gaspar Domínguez won in a landslide (112 of 152 votes). (Elisa Loncón voted for Quinteros and Dominguez by the way.) New VP Gaspar Dominguez is a doctor in rural Chile, in the lake district. He believes that health care access is a fundamental right. His committee work as a representative has focused on the Decentralization, Equality and Land Rights Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
The next phase of drafting the new constitution is central to its success. I wish the congress good cooperation and communication in the next three months as they synthesize their work and present their expression of democracy to the Chilean people for their approval.
¡Viva Chile! A tribute to self-determination around the world! ¡Olé! –Rebecca