A new Constitution, based on the work of the Constituent Assembly elected in May 2021, was submitted to a national referendum open to all Chileans voters. As soon as the results were announced, Chilean President Gabriel Boric stated his intention to relaunch the constitutional process begun following a plebiscite with an 80% majority in October 2020.

The CSQ was on hand during this historic event as a tangible expression of Québec union organizations’ solidarity with the Chilean people. It joined delegations from several other countries including Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, France, the United States, Colombia and Spain.

For a fairer Chile

On September 1, a few days before the referendum, a great gathering in support of Apruebo (I approve) saw some 500,000 people gather in Santiago. Personal accounts were shared, recounting key events leading to the referendum: Gabriel Boric’s election as president, the referendum to change the Constitution supported by 80% of Chilean voters as well as the election of a joint constituent assembly

that provides representation for Indigenous peoples. This assembly submitted a draft Constitution which would lead to a more dignified, united, environmental, community-minded, joint, fairer and plurinational Chile.

The road to a more democratic and fairer Chile has been strewn with obstacles throughout its history, including armed conflicts as was the case in the September 11 Coup in 1973, as well as lies and disinformation, as we have seen in recent months. Through the right wing’s media manipulation, powerful oligarchs and the sectors now serving the interests of the wealthiest 1% in Chile have succeeded in upholding, for the time being, the Constitution imposed during the dictatorship.

As democrats, and despite it all, progressive forces in Chile have bowed to the decision of the majority.

Misleading campaign

Democrats are now faced with the task of keeping an open dialogue with citizens who chose to reject the proposed Constitution. Some among them voted without even reading the draft while others fell prey to the right-wing media campaign, based on lies and intimidation.

The right-wing propaganda campaign used several sections of the proposed constitution to stoke public fears. It used the section stating that dignified housing would be provided to all Chileans to emphasize the fact that the right to private housing was not mentioned. This situation led to many citizens fearing they would lose their own house.

The right also used a section on animal rights to claim that farmers would no longer be able to ride a horse. It also kept repeating that the recognition of Indigenous peoples could lead to the partition of the Chilean territory. In a country where the right to abortion is only recognized in the event of a rape or when the life of the mother or fetus is at risk, right-wing supporters have condemned the recognition of this right.

Given that Chilean media is controlled by the right and that right-wing parties had substantial amounts of money allocated to publicity, they were successful in convincing most of the population to vote Rechazo (I reject).

Juan-José Fernandez, président de la Fédération des syndicats de l’action collective (FSAC-CSQ), Luc Allaire, conseiller responsable des relations internationales à la CSQ et président de la Fondation Salvador-Allende de Montréal, et Anne Dionne, vice-présidente de la CSQ, étaient présents au Chili lors du référendum. Ces personnes posent en compagnie de Isabel Allende, la fille de l’ex-président Salvador Allende (3e à partir de la gauche).

Looking forward

The objective of progressive forces is now to resume the constitutional process adopted during the plebiscite put forward on October 25, 2020. As 80% of Chilean voters supported drafting a new Constitution, the process to replace the dictatorship’s Constitution once and for all must go forward.

The hope awakened by the Constituent Assembly for a more dignified, united, environmental, community-minded, joint, fairer and plurinational Chile cannot be extinguished, regardless of the instrumentalization of lies or any distortion of truth.

Progressive Chileans share the conviction that they are on the right side of history and that Chile, in the near future, will build a different society, where neoliberalism—the reason why it is currently one of our planet’s most inequitable societies—will no longer be as influential.