Just one week ago, people went to the polls in Chile for the historic constitutional referendum, where the social forces supporting the idea of a new constitution were swept away. The negative vote exceeded 61%, while the draft constitution go just a little more than 38%. Many may think such a result speaks for itself, but it goes deeper than that. Understanding what happened in Chile is not only an exercise for politicians and analysts, but an obligation for progressive movements throughout the region. Just the day before the vote, we analyzed the situation and concluded the new Constitution could pass. We based our analysis on two studies elaborated by two recognized teams, which contradicted all the opinion polls spread by Chile’s mainstream media.
Sept. 1 was the last day to campaign for the Constitutional referendum to be held on Sept. 4 in Chile. In this vote, Chileans will decide whether to approve the country’s new Constitution, closing over a decade of social struggles, whose final stage began with 2019 people’s massive protests in the subways and streets. The first step of this constitutional process was the entry (first) referendum, in which 78.28% of voters decided it was necessary to overrule the Pinochet Constitution from 1980. In only 72 hours, this process will end, but tension and uncertainty grow as time goes by. Many opinion polls point out that the Constitution won’t be passed. It has been something repeated to exhaustion. This prediction never withstood any analysis of the Chilean political context.
The first step toward a new constitution in Chile is now complete. The draft of the new Magna Carta was officially delivered on May 16, paving the way for major changes in Chilean society, particularly in the areas of social rights, gender parity in political participation, and constitutional recognition of native peoples. In terms of social rights, the new constitution recognizes demands that have been a banner for popular struggles since Augusto Pinochet’s neoliberal counterrevolution in the 1970s. It guarantees access to health, housing, education, decent pensions, nonsexist education, and the right to abortion, all grouped under the concept of a “social and democratic state” that recognizes itself as plurinational, intercultural, and ecological.
In late July, a large sinkhole appeared near the town of Tierra Amarilla in Chile’s Copiapó province in the Atacama salt flat. The crater, which has a diameter of more than 100 feet, emerged in one of Chile’s most lucrative regions for copper and lithium extraction. The nearby Candelaria mining complex—80 percent of the property is owned by Canada’s Lundin Mining Corporation and 20 percent is owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd. and Sumitomo Corporation—had to halt its operations in the area. On August 1, Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) tweeted that it had assembled a team to investigate the sinkhole that appeared less than 2,000 feet away from human habitation.
Chileans will vote in September on whether to approve a new constitution that promises to address inequality and lack of democracy (Reuters, 7/4/22). It would replace the present constitution imposed by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who came into power through a US-backed coup in 1973. The nation’s newly elected left-wing leadership is calling for a “yes” vote, although in the much-divided country, the constitution faces steep opposition from the right. US and Western editorialists are also pushing for a no vote. Opposition to the constitution’s economic changes should be expected; of course conservative and corporate centrist outlets will be against a proposed constitution that would make way for economic regulation and nationalization.
Following the election of a progressive government in Chile earlier this year, the country has been debating a new constitution written under revolutionary conditions: by a convention with gender equality, representation of Indigenous peoples, and with many members from environmental justice movements. As the draft is finalized ahead of a referendum in September, social media across the country has been awash with ‘explainer’ posts and videos in favor of the new texts — and debunking misinformation telling people that their pensions will be expropriated, for example. Most of the pro-constitution posts boil down to a single line: no one is going to take your home away from you. The presence of such worries among the population can tell us a lot about political and economic change: When the time comes to transform revolutionary aspirations into legal infrastructure, we are touched at our core fears: what do we, the people of Chile, have to lose in this process of transformation?
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. The United States has perfected the art of regime change operations. The US is the largest empire in world history with more than 1,000 military bases and troops operating throughout the world. In addition to military force, the US uses the soft power of regime change, often through 'Color Revolutions.' The US has been building its empire since the Civil War era, but it has been in the post-World War II-time period that it has perfected regime change operations.US military presence around the world Have the people of the United States been the victims of regime change operations at home? Have the wealthiest and the security state created a government that serves them, rather than the people? To answer these questions, we begin by examining how regime change works and then look at whether those ingredients are being used domestically.
The Starbucks union was founded in Chile in 2009, at the same time as big student mobilizations. These mobilizations were part of the seed that made it possible to form a union at Starbucks and in an area like fast food, which is very difficult to organize. The corporate culture of Starbucks is profoundly anti-union. Howard Schultz, who was the CEO of the company [he returned to that role in April —Eds.], is a megalomaniac who cannot bear to see his workers organizing and deciding for themselves what is right. Starbucks is one of the companies in Chile with the most fines for anti-union practices. All of that was conceived in Seattle, not in Chile. It was devised in the headquarters, where they are devising the tough campaign that you are experiencing now.
Fed up with mandatory in-person school attendance policies that fail to keep them safe, students are marching out of classrooms and into the streets. Last week, hundreds of students from over 30 public high schools in New York City walked out of class to protest the unsafe conditions in city schools. Despite the latest Covid-19 wave, during which over 38,000 students and teachers tested positive COVID, school officials have insisted on in-person classes. That same week, students from a group called the Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance (Chi-Rads), formed days prior, led a walkout followed by a protest at Chicago Public Schools headquarters. Their demands included masks, tests, laptops for remote learning, and a voice at the negotiating table for COVID safety plans.
Newly elected Chilean president Gabriel Boric’s victory speech was interrupted by a chant that went through the crowd: “We’re not all here.” This has become a slogan for many of the last vestiges of the 2019 Chilean uprising, a reference to the protesters who currently sit in cells, either awaiting trial or serving sentences for protesting the government. These political prisoners must be freed. What is left of the movement understands that, and they are demanding that Boric take action to free them — something he appears very hesitant to do.
This brings us to a central political issue: what has the October 2019 Rebellion and all its impressively positive consequences posed for the Chilean working class? What is posed in Chile is the struggle not (yet) for power but for the masses that for decades were conned into accepting (however grudgingly) neoliberalism as a fact of life, until the 2019 rebellion that was the first mass mobilization not only to oppose but also to get rid of neoliberalism. The Rebellion extracted extraordinary concessions from the ruling class: a referendum for a Constitutional Convention entrusted legally with the task to draft an anti-neoliberal constitution to replace the 1980 one promulgated under Pinochet’s rule.
The president-elect of Chile, Gabriel Boric, thanked the people this Sunday, December 19, for their support in the second round of the presidential elections, in which he defeated the extreme right-wing Pinochet-admirer José Antonio Kast, becoming the new president of Chile for the 2022-2026 term.
José Antonio Kast of the far-right Christian Social Front and Gabriel Boric of the left-wing Approve Dignity coalition won the first round of the presidential elections held in Chile on November 21. They will now face off in the run-off on December 19. According to the results released by the Chile’s Electoral Service (SERVEL), with 100% of the votes counted, Kast obtained 27.91% of the votes, while Boric closely followed him with 25.83% of the votes.
“It feels like we are at the end of an era,” Bárbara Sepúlveda tells me on October 12, 2021. Sepúlveda is a member of Chile’s Constitutional Convention and of the Communist Party of Chile. The era to which Sepúlveda refers is that of General Augusto Pinochet, who led the US-backed coup in 1973 that overthrew the popularly elected government of president Salvador Allende. During the Pinochet era, the military acted with impunity, and the left was assassinated and sent into exile—while big business (both Chilean and foreign) received all the blessings of the dictatorship. That’s the era that has slowly been sputtering to a halt since Pinochet’s removal in 1990 and since the Chilean people voted to throw out the dictatorship’s constitution of 1980 and write a new one.