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The Far Right Has Hijacked Chile’s New Constitutional Process

Above Photo: Demonstrators gather in Santiago, on October 25, 2019, a week after protests started. Demonstrations against a hike in metro ticket prices in Chile’s capital exploded into violence on October 18, unleashing widening protests over living costs and social inequality. Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images.

Women And LGBTQ Activists Are Fighting Back.

Chile’s 2019 Social Explosion demanded a new constitution to replace the current Pinochet-era document. But the right has now gained control of the process.

In 2019 the nation of Chile was shaken by a mass protest movement that has come to be known as the Social Explosion. A central demand of the Social Explosion was the abolition of the current constitution drafted in 1980 under US-backed fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet. In 2020, Chileans overwhelmingly voted for a new constitutional process in a referendum. However, just two years later, a plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected a new proposed constitution. Since then, the far right has hijacked the process by stacking the constituents to create another constitutional draft with their own representatives. The Real News reports from Chile, speaking directly with women and LGBTQ activists at the frontlines of this struggle, who explain how the new constitution has gone from being a vehicle to expand gender equality to a grave threat against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.


Marlena Weinberg (narrator): As the far right makes gains in Chile, LGBTQ people and women are ready to defend social rights and equality.

LGBTQ Rights Activist (one): Fascism is advancing in this country and the government does nothing.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: We can say that we’re facing dangers. Fundamentalist discourse is growing stronger.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: The far right is pushing hate speech towards migrants and dissenters, as well as hate speech towards women.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: Precariousness is at crisis levels that can’t go on, the housing crisis can’t go on, the education and health crises can’t go on.

Beatriz Bataszew, Political Prisoner under Pinochet: The feminist struggle cannot advance without structural change to the economic system.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): On 7 May 2023, voters elected a majority of conservative and far-right representatives to draft a new constitution.

LGBTQ Rights Activist (one): Shit, the constituent process is nothing that we have chosen. We didn’t choose these assholes, they fixed it this way.

LGBTQ Rights Activist (two): It’s vital for us to be here, to fight for a constitution that includes us, that takes into account our rights and decisions.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: For me, the new constituent process is not valid, as this has not been a democratic process.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): The scale of the right’s victory shocked many people, coming in the wake of immense protests launched in October 2019 against economic inequality and state repression.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: There was an increase in metro fares and high school students led the mobilizations against it.

Beatriz Bataszew, Political Prisoner under Pinochet: Everything that was once considered a right is now a commodity.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: The revolt in 2019 was the accumulation of widespread public discontent.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): Chile’s Social Explosion confronted the enduring legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship that ruled from 1973 until 1990.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: People said “enough”, they were tired of it.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): The movement demanded a new constitution to replace the dictatorship’s 1980 document that is still in place today.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: Millions of us took to the streets to say “enough”, this can’t go on. It was something beautiful and hopeful.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: Two million of us were on the streets, then came the pandemic and they shut us indoors.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: When the political parties got involved in this “agreement for peace”, we began to get suspicious.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): But last September, a progressive draft that guaranteed women’s rights, indigenous representation and environmental protection suffered a landslide referendum defeat.

Conservative Supporter: No more communism, Chile is free!

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: The idea of parity was important. The idea of generating a life free from male violence.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: “Fake news” constantly surrounded the convention.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: The powerful fear social movements so they try to dismantle them.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: Also, the discussion was always very far removed from the people.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): Worse was to come. In early May, the far-right Republican Party, led by José Antonio Kast, took the highest number of votes in drafting a new constitutional proposal.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: The Republicans appeared, followers of Pinochet.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): A fervent Pinochet admirer, Kast was runner up to current president Gabriel Boric in the 2021 election.

José Antonio Kast, Republican Party Leader: You are the Fake News, Mr. Boric!

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): The resulting constitution could be even further to the right than Pinochet’s version.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: I hope that we’ll never again

have a right-wing government, but if we get a constitution more pinochetista than the one that already exists, we’ll lose what little progress we’ve made.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): The 2019 protest movement centered women’s rights with demands for an end to patriarchy, inequality and anti-abortion laws.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: Sexual and reproductive rights have faced a long struggle for recognition in Chile. We had the right to abortion from 1931 to 1989, almost 60 years. It was one of the laws the dictatorship left behind.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): Chile has strict laws prohibiting abortion, as well as high levels of gender-based violence and discrimination.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: In any aspect of work, we endure

the most precarious conditions. Women always have a lower salary.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: It’s about the rights of sex workers and recognizing the social names of people who don’t identify by their birth name, and the same with pronouns.

LGBTQ Rights Activist (three): We’re asking to be recognized for who we are and addressing certain laws that need to change.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): Many people are asking how a constitutional process that promised so much has come to be controlled by the right.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: We are in a time of threat towards sexual and reproductive rights and towards organizations and women who take part in these struggles because they become the focus of hatred.

Lorena Astudillo, Lawyer & Women’s Rights Campaigner: Women are being denounced

for having abortions. They’re saying that comprehensive sex education for children cannot exist. They’re resuscitating figures like the genocidal dictator Pinochet.

Beatriz Bataszew, Political Prisoner under Pinochet: Unfortunately, the Social Explosion did not produce major changes. But it did confirm the realization that the state will violate human rights when the people mobilize.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): This 11 September, Chile will mark 50 years since the US-backed military coup against Salvador Allende’s socialist government that installed the brutal Pinochet regime. For these women, the artform of arpillera, which recreates political history from fabric, is a way to commemorate people’s struggle in Chile.

Woman in Arpillera Workshop (one): The working class in this country has been massacred by the army, the cops.

Woman in Arpillera Workshop (two): It’s our evolution as a people, as a country, and fundamentally as women to advance our rights. And that’s precisely what the Social Explosion was.

Woman in Arpillera Workshop (three): They captured people, which was something I went through. They threw me in a car until they realized I’d done nothing. It was just a protest.

Woman in Arpillera Workshop (four): This is the bombardment of La Moneda on 11 September 1973. That’s what we’re trying to show. This is a picture of him [Allende], of what happened.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): Having fought so hard to topple the dictator’s legacy, Chileans are now facing up to the strong possibility that his followers will determine the country’s path.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: One of the main things the dictatorship took from us was our clamor, our power to take to the streets, raise our voice, our only option.

José Antonio Kast, Republican Party Leader: We represent the only way to end the terrorism that we face. There is no other.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): But could the advance of the far right give rise to a new wave of resistance against neoliberalism?

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: For us, it’s very important to recover our previous student participation and regain the consciousness that we had in 2019.

Beatriz Bataszew, Political Prisoner under Pinochet: We can build at the margins of the state and build community outside of the capitalist fish tank.

Marlena Weinberg (narrator): As Chile faces an uncertain future, one thing seems clear: many people will continue fighting to build a fairer and more equal society.

LGBTQ Rights Activist (one): You don’t argue with fascism, you destroy it.

Antonia Rolland, Student Activist: It’s really important that we rise up again.

Beatriz Bataszew, Political Prisoner under Pinochet: Our path is to consider other global experiences such as Chiapas and the women in Kurdistan.

Pamela Valenzuela, 8M Feminist Coordinator Committee: We need to examine the economy and how inequality is distributed, and towards all areas of public policies, how the state is managed and how to build a society that is… feminist.

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