A robust bill of rights was not enough to convince the country that the new Charter, which eliminated the Senate, heavily modified the judicial branch, granted nature its own rights and declared Chile to be a plurinational State, was better than the Constitution drafted under Gen. Pinochet's brutal regime.
Chileans have rejected the proposal of a progressive and ecological new Constitution in a historic referendum held Sunday.
The new Charter would have come into force in 10 days and it would have replaced the current document imposed under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime (1973 – 1990).
Pinochet and the Armed Forces bombarded La Moneda on 11 September 1973 after the CIA and the Richard Nixon White House led a destabilization campaign against president Salvador Allende, America’s first democratically elected marxist leader.
On 11 September 1980, the dictatorship held a referendum with no electoral roll to install its own Charter, replacing the 1925 text.
In another referendum, on 5 October 1988, the country voted Pinochet out of power and Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, was inaugurated on 11 March 1990.
But the Pinochet Constitution and the capitalist values it enshrined lingered on and the market-friendly and subsidiary policies championed by Pinochet and a group of students from the University of Chicago shaped Chile, so private companies and businesses dominated education, healthcare, pensions, housing, water and other crucial areas of life.
The October 2019 social revolt rocked the very foundations of the Chilean political system and, as a solution to the crisis, the traditional political parties decided to hold a referendum on the Constitution.
Due to a pandemic-related delay, Chileans went to the polls in October 2020 and voted overwhelmingly in favour of drafting a new Charter, without traditional politicians.
A Constitutional Convention of 155 members was elected in May 2021. 68% of them had some, little or no relation with political parties, and their work began on 4 July.
The left-leaning body delivered its proposal exactly a year later, on 4 July 2022.
The new Constitution defined the Chilean State as plurinational, regional and ecological, it vowed to protect Human Rights, prosecute Human Rights violations and it granted nature its own rights.
Besides, the new Charter specifically established that Chile had to move forward when it came to gender equality, the respect of sexual minorities, solving the gender pay gap, protecting all types of family and eradicating discrimination.
It also guaranteed multilingualism, including sign language, entrepreneurship, freedom of expression, of worship, the right to abortion and to die with dignity.
The new Charter also guaranteed the human right to water, considered animals sentient beings and declared that corruption is against the common good.
In fact, the text forbade those found guilty of crimes against humanity, sexual abuse, domestic violence, fraud, money laundering, bribery and embezzlement to run for office.
“We, the people of Chile, made up of different nations, freely grant ourselves this Constitution agreed in a democratic and participative process, with gender parity,” the preamble said.
Many blame the result on the Constitutional Convention itself.
On the day of its installation, leftist delegates sparked outrage as they booed the national anthem and delayed the beginning of the ceremony in protest of police repression in the streets.
Among many other controversies, perhaps the hardest blow came from Rodrigo Rojas Vade, who faked a cancer diagnosis, made money lying to people about it and gained a seat in the Convention thanks to his fervent campaign for a new and improved national health service.
The Convention also voted to eliminate the Senate and it heavily modified the judicial branch, allowing First Nations the possibility to solve some issues in line with their own beliefs and traditions.