GP Insights # 190, 23 November 2019
Earlier this month, protestors in Chile demanded the framing of a new constitution that would eventually pave the way for a democratic setup. The Chileans won a crucial vote in favour of a new constitution, in the previous week. An overwhelming eighty per cent of the population favours a new constitution, while a meagre fifteen per cent approve the leadership. This made President Sebastian Pinera agree to the demands of the people.
What is the background?
Protests in Chile began when school students and youth opposed a hike in subway fares in Santiago. It gradually gathered momentum, leading to the closure of several subway stations. Though the cause for the dissent was a fare hike, issues like health, wage, employment, pensions soon became a part of the more significant cause. This occurred although Chile is one of the wealthiest countries in the South American continent. Inequality was hurting the wellbeing of the citizens in this case. As a response to the protests, the government declared an emergency and deployed armed forces on the streets of Chile.
When the situation seemed out of control, the government introduced reforms concerning the demands. The protesters rejected these reforms, and their demands grew further. Pinera agreed for constitutional reform and finally ceded to the demand of framing an entirely new constitution. The ruling party along with the opposition presented “Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution”, which puts forth the necessary steps to be involved in the process of writing a new constitution and the nature of participation of citizens in the process.
What does it mean?
The current constitution was framed during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship that lasted between 1973 and 1990. While there have been some reforms in the constitution over the years, it does not help establish a form of government that adheres to the true principles of democracy. If the proposed new constitution takes into consideration people’s interests, the culmination of the process would be a democracy.
Latin America is witnessing a wave of protests in Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Haiti, and Ecuador. The domino effect has played in a manner where Latin American protests are being compared with that of the Arab Spring. However, it must be noted that the two regions are entirely different, and the causes for protests are also quite different. While the Arab region demanded democracy itself, Latin America is demanding a better form of democracy. It is yet to be known if visible changes will occur in these countries, or will it face a slow death.