A divided country, Chile recently rejected a proposed left-leaning constitution that held the potential for a historical shift. Written entirely from scratch, the constitution could have become the most progressive constitution across Latin America. The draft constitution addressed a series of topics such as the end of the senate, health care, climate change, and the rights of the indigenous community.
Possibly the most controversial change was calling for the end of the upper chamber of the legislature, which would have been replaced by a “Chamber of Regions,” representing all of Chile’s regions. The entirety of the Senate would have also transitioned into holding gender quotas, similar to the gender parity they instilled in the assembly that drafted the constitution.
Article 44 of the draft called for a reformed national health care system, reaffirming health care as a basic human right. Going even further, article 66 authorizes female contraceptives and reproductive rights. This reform in particular received controversial feedback. Jorge Carabantes, a Chilean doctor, led a group supporting the reform, saying it would “lead to a substantial improvement in quality from the current system.” However, others argued against it entirely, claiming that there was little to no clarification in the process or where the resources would come from.
Across the third chapter, the constitutional draft declared a climate and ecological emergency. Specific topics addressed included biodiversity, animal protection, natural resources, and the urgency to protect glaciers and marine ecosystems. Assembly member Gloria Alvarado argued for this part of the constitution, expressing the need for “not only an ecological constitution but also socio-ecological [one] because we are part of nature.”
The draft constitution also recognized the existence of Chile’s Indigenous community and protects their identity, culture, and territories, including nature. It would have given them the right to demand the Chilean government’s repatriation of objects abroad. Loncon, belonging to the Mapuche Indigenous community and elected as the first president of Chile’s constitutional assembly. “Never before have the indigenous communities of Chile been invited to help draft a new constitution,” said Loncon, who sold vegetables at a local market to support her family and went on to become a linguist and professor at the University of Santiago, having obtained two doctorate degrees. “For the first time in our history, Chileans from all walks of life and from all political factions are participating in a democratic dialogue,” she added.
While the constitution required the majority of the public’s approval to go into effect, on September 4, 2022, nearly 62% of Chileans voted against it. Despite this fate and the wealth of disapproval against it, it remains one of the world’s most progressive constitutions ever drafted. Chile now serves as an influential example for other neighboring Latin American countries.
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