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The first six months of Chile’s unprecedented constituent convention

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Here are the milestones of the world’s first parity constituent body, which has the task of finishing drafting in another six months the new rules of the game so that Chile can finally bury the current Magna Carta, inherited from the dictatorship (1973-1990) and questioned in the 2019 protests for its neoliberal tendency.

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HILLY INSTALLATION

On July 4, 2020, the 155 citizens elected at the polls to integrate the convention showed up at the old National Congress in Santiago to take office in a historic but austere act due to the restrictions of the pandemic and with all television channels broadcasting live.

When the secretary-rapporteur of the Tribunal Calificador de Elecciones (Tricel), Carmen Gloria Valladares, was about to begin the ceremony, several constituents took to the streets to denounce police repression against relatives of those detained in the social outbreak who were demonstrating outside the building.

In the rules of procedure, it was established that the articles of the new text must be approved by a two-thirds majority (104 seats), which implies large consensuses (Photo internet reproduction)

These were moments of high tension, and Valladares was forced to suspend the session for more than an hour. Showing great temperance, the official was able to channel the act, and the convention members -most of them independents of progressive tendency- were sworn in or promised their positions.

But the controversy did not end there: the next day, the constituents could not begin to meet because the Government had not adequately equipped the former Congress, which cost Francisco Encina, the official in charge of ensuring the smooth running of the convention, his job, and sparked a series of criticisms for alleged “boycott”.

LONCÓN MAKES HISTORY

Loncón, a doctor in Humanities and a Mapuche activist -the majority indigenous ethnic group in Chile- was elected president by a majority in the second round. Her speech on July 4 will go down in Chilean history.

“I want to thank all the people of Chile for voting for a Mapuche person and a woman to change the history of this country,” she said in Mapudungun language and dressed in typical costume.

Included by Time magazine in its list of most influential personalities in 2021, the linguist will foreseeably be replaced this Tuesday by another woman: “This country requires a politician with tenderness”, she said the day before.

A CONSTITUENT WITHOUT CANCER

The confession last September 4 of the constituent Rodrigo Rojas Vade, who admitted having faked having cancer, was probably the most critical moment of the convention.

“I will defend myself in court because I am not a criminal, I am someone who made a mistake”, indicated the still constituent, who is popularly known as “Pelao Vade” and became famous for protesting in 2019 with eye-catching posters against the high costs of chemotherapy treatments.

“Pelao Vade”, who is under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office for alleged fraud, resigned one of the seven vice-presidencies of the convention and, although he cannot resign from his seat, he has since been absent from the constituent debate.

TWO YEARS AFTER 18-0

After three months of drafting its own rules of procedure – a task completed in record time – the convention decided to start the substantive debate on the constitutional norms last October 18, two years after the social outbreak.

“We are an original, territorial, participative and diverse constituent power, which emerges thanks to different processes of accumulation of unrest”, indicated then the vice-president, Jaime Bassa, who will also be replaced during the day.

The constituent process was the solution agreed by most political forces to solve the 2019 crisis, the most serious since the return to democracy, with thirty deaths, thousands of wounded, and accusations against the security forces for human rights violations.

In the rules of procedure, it was established that the articles of the new text must be approved by a two-thirds majority (104 seats), which implies large consensuses.

BORIC’S SUPPORT

Two days after his resounding victory in the December 19 ballot against the far-right José Antonio Kast, the president-elect, Gabriel Boric, visited the convention in an apparent gesture of support for the constituent process. The outgoing president, the conservative Sebastián Piñera, has not done so far.

“I do not expect a partisan convention at the service of our government,” said the former student leader, who is the youngest and most voted president-elect in Chilean history.

Calling a referendum on the new regulations and implementing them, if approved, will be some of the significant challenges of his term of office, which will begin in March 2022.

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