This Monday (4) marks one year since, in a plebiscite, the Chilean people rejected a proposed Constitution made by a body elected by popular vote. The constituent process was a response to the massive mobilizations that took over the country for months between 2019 and 2020 and which were triggered by the fight against the increase in transport fares.
The one-year anniversary of the resounding victory (61.8%) of the “no” vote in the constitutional plebiscite, celebrated by the Chilean right, takes place on the 50th anniversary of the military coup instituted by Augusto Pinochet. Now, Chile’s new Magna Carta proposal that should replace the current one — in force since the dictatorship — is being prepared by a council of 51 parliamentarians. Of these, 33 are from right-wing parties. Afterwards, the text will be submitted again to a popular vote.
Actress and playwright Machula Pinto participated in the 2019 demonstrations, called estallido social (social explosion or revolt, in Portuguese) in Chile. She was then elected representative of one of the districts in the metropolitan region of Santiago in the commission that prepared the proposed Constitution rejected by the plebiscite.
“Unfortunately what happened happened. But it remains a pending issue in Chile. For 50 years, our country has had no idea of what a guaranteed universal social right is. He doesn’t have the experience, he doesn’t feel in his own body what could be a right”, said Machula during the Regional Conference Dilemas da Humanidade, which continues until this Monday in the commune of Recoleta, in Santiago.
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The event, organized by Alba Movimentos and the International People’s Assembly (AIP), brings together 230 activists and intellectuals from popular movements, unions and political parties from 23 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The conference is a preparatory stage for the global edition of Humanity’s Dilemmas, scheduled for October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In conversation with Brasil de Fato, in the Chilean capital, Machula made his assessment of what culminated, in his words, in the “failure of this constituent proposal that defended good living” and shared his expectations regarding what will come. Read the full interview:
Brasil de Fato: How did you become a delegate of the proposed Chilean Constitution that ended up not being chosen in the plebiscite?
Machula Pinto: The theatrical work of the collective I am part of emerges from dialogue with territories, social organizations, etc. So, throughout my life I have been working on these themes linked to social transformation. I was part of the Assembly for a Social Pact, which was a social and political organization at the time of the outbreak. We were people from different places, people not organized into parties, movements, mainly. But also people from political parties. And we try to establish a different political conversation.
And even though it was our flag to have a constituent assembly, implement a constitutional change and call a plebiscite, however, the constituted power takes this and does it in its own way. A bit to suffocate, I think, what was happening. There was a lot of debate about whether to participate or not.
So these two factors greatly influenced my decision to be part of the process. On the other hand, I felt that culture, which is never there, had to be (present).
But the process was managed by the elites. This supposed ‘peace agreement’ was thought of behind closed walls and without the movements. So they defined, for example, that we would have one year as preparation time. The truth is that it was very complex to write a new Constitution, the way we wanted, in one year. It was a chronicle of death announced.
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We lived in this Congress for six months, without contact with the territories. We could not remain in dialogue with the real population of our country, from which many of us came. Many of us did not come from political parties, but from activism and experience in our territories.
In the first commissions there was some popular participation, we proposed that there be a series of plebiscites to consult society on various issues and, thus, also inform everyone about the constituent process. None of this was allowed, due to time.
And what is the situation like now, a year after the plebiscite?
I believe we have very big challenges. Because in the end, the feeling I have — and which has to do with the criticisms of this representative democracy — is that, in the end, we were not representatives. There was also a mistaken assessment on our part regarding the ideas, emotions, and proposals we put forward. Because when the moment came, they were not supported by our own foundations.
So I wonder about this idea we had of Chile with self-convened assemblies, the idea during the social outburst that the people actually had a political project. It wasn’t like that. There was a world unknown to all of us, which was the world that, in the end, voted “no” in the plebiscite. And this world is also a popular world.
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It’s not that it was fascists or just the rich who voted “no”. We saw, yes, how the big land owners in this country manipulated and influenced this result. But we cannot make fools of ourselves with a context that is real in this country. We have to observe this reality very bravely and then think about what proposals we have for the real Chile and not just for this other Chile — which also exists, but is not the only one.
So we are in a complex dilemma. We have to think about how we are dialoguing. We have a real and interesting problem, which requires a lot of listening, a lot of sensitivity, a lot of courage and a lot of coordination between us.
Are you who participated in the constituent process still meeting?
No. The blow was so brutal that, overall, we were traumatized. Furthermore, they persecuted us a lot. Not because we are representatives, but to attack the process. For example, lies were constantly appearing in the newspapers that so-and-so was hired, that “they paid millions to Cyclan”, that “foundations are behind”. In short, all the hegemonic vehicles did everything they could to discredit him. We live in difficult times.
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What can we expect from this new Constitution, which is being thought of within Congress, only by parliamentarians and mostly on the right?
I hope that this new Constitution proposal that will be made will also be rejected. It is being prepared by the right. Yesterday (Saturday (2)) I was shown one of the proposals focused on culture. It said something like “every citizen must have the right to access culture and creation, always when consistent with Chilean traditions, public order, good customs and national security”. If it is approved, it will be years with this Constitution.
This neoliberal standardization that is in the 1980 Constitution is, in some ways, more subtle. In other words, it leaves some gaps. The one being drafted, if approved, will be ruthless. Imagine this norm that I exemplified in culture. It would institutionalize censorship. National security, public order, good customs and Chilean traditions? This is lethal.
I hope that we will at least be able to effectively get this proposal rejected as well. With more time, perhaps we can move forward in this debate. The fact is that the constitutional process remains open.
Editing: Geisa Marques