Negotiations begin in Congress for the new Constitution in Chile

The new ministers of the Government of Chile, of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Ana Lya Uriarte, of Social Development and Family, Giorgio Jackson, of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, of Energy, Diego Pardow, and of Health, Ximena Aguilera, in La Coin, Santiago.
The new ministers of the Government of Chile, of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Ana Lya Uriarte, of Social Development and Family, Giorgio Jackson, of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, of Energy, Diego Pardow, and of Health, Ximena Aguilera, in La Coin, Santiago.Alberto Valdes (EFE)

Three days after the electoral debacle of the Chilean ruling party in the plebiscite for a new Constitution, where the rejection was imposed with 61.8%, the Congress in Valparaíso this afternoon was the venue for the first official talks to give continuity to the process constituent. It is part of the political consensus: although the citizenry rejected the proposal made by the constitutional convention, Chile does not want to keep the current Magna Carta and this was expressed by 78% of the people in the entry plebiscite, in October 2020. The president Gabriel Boric determined that it will be in Parliament where the negotiations will take place, in part because the Executive cannot continue to focus on the constituent process, but on the urgencies of the daily life of his compatriots. For La Moneda, however, the brand new socialist minister Ana Lya Uriarte – who took office this Tuesday in replacement of Giorgio Jackson in the general secretary of the Presidency – accompanied the presidents of the two chambers in the meeting with all the parties with parliamentary representation . The central objective: to start designing the new itinerary.

“The objective of this coordination has been to resolve the constituent itinerary, not to address other issues that are part of the national political debate,” explained the president of the Senate, the socialist Álvaro Elizalde, who announced that the talks will continue on Monday at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Congress headquarters in the capital. Elizalde stressed that it is not about negotiations to write a new Constitution, but “to establish the most suitable procedure, to prepare a text that is accepted and supported by the great majority of Chilean men and women,” added the leader of the Senate.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies, meanwhile, the center-leftist Raúl Soto, from the PPD, assured that there is a consensus to “advance together, slowly, but surely” and stressed that parliamentarians from the Republican Party, from the hard wing of the right, even the Communist Party. “This is a historic milestone, not only for the National Congress, but for the country,” added Soto.

It is the third attempt for a new Constitution. In the second government of Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018), a citizen constituent process was carried out that allowed the drafting of a bill to change the current Fundamental Charter. But as it was presented in the last hours of the mandate, there was no continuity. Her successor, Sebastián Piñera, underestimated the demand for a new Constitution and then, only recently after the social outbreak of 2019, was the process resumed to provide an institutional solution to that complex political moment. The convention and its proposal – which was rejected last Sunday – was the second attempt. What is being undertaken now, therefore, is Chile’s third opportunity to change the law of laws and, according to some analysts, the last. It is the pressure with which Congress and the Executive itself works, while some part of the citizenry begins to press.

Since the same Sunday there have been street disorders. This Wednesday, again, students from public establishments in the capital have taken to the streets with violent protests and have caused major interruptions in the metro network throughout the day, with groups of young people jumping turnstiles without paying the ticket. The Government, in an obvious turn after the change of Cabinet on Tuesday, announced six lawsuits for disorder and violence in the demonstrations called this Tuesday by secondary. The undersecretary of the Interior, the socialist Manuel Monsalve, reported that 45 people were arrested for these incidents in the Alameda, the main avenue in Santiago. Monsalve assured that the Government will study if complaints are filed due to the protests this Wednesday.

The issue of public safety has become a priority for La Moneda de Boric after the plebiscite. One of the analyzes carried out suggests that the public punished the government that was openly about to approve the text. The demands for the control of crime and the economic situation have been installed with force among the citizens and, precisely in this line, the new authorities of the Executive have made their debut. “Chilean men and women expect the government to put the priorities where they have them. They hope that these changes will serve to improve the way we serve their needs. They hope we can get there sooner, the better. They expect us to take charge of their demand for security and dialogue (…) Move our capacity to reach agreements with all sectors (…) In the case of the Ministry of the Interior, where we know that there is an enormous challenge of political coordination and of attending to the demand for peace and security, we are going to put all our energy into responding to Chilean men and women who expect improvements in their daily lives,” the new Interior Minister, Carolina Tohá, said on Tuesday shortly after taking office.

So far there is only agreement that the process for a new Constitution will continue. It remains to be decided whether there will be an entry plebiscite —which does not seem likely—, whether a committee of experts will be convened first to facilitate the work of a possible convention, the work deadlines of a new body, the composition, among other issues. Given that 2024 is the municipal election and in 2025 the parliamentary and presidential elections, it is logical that the constituent issue can be resolved in 2023. These days the initiative that a new exit plebiscite be held on September 4, next year so that when the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état is completed —on September 11, 2023—, the Constitution of Augusto Pinochet has already been superseded.

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