Constitutional Process NATIONAL Social Crisis

Apruebo Campaign: “Enough of Partial Reforms”

SANTIAGO  — Oct. 25 is set to be a historic date for Chile: in a referendum, voters will decide if they want to write a new constitution or maintain the current one. Camilo Sánchez is part of a group that is campaigning for Apruebo, to approve a new constitution. The youth platform aims to inspire many young people to join its cause.

Oct. 25 could be a new beginning for Chile. The country will decide in a referendum if the constitution (written in the 1980s under Pinochet’s dictatorship) should be rewritten or if it should stay as it is. Many organizations have gathered to campaign for “Apruebo” (approve) and “Rechazo” (reject), the two options for voters.

In October last year, Chile experienced an outburst of protests. People took to the streets to demand, among other things, a better healthcare system, higher pensions, less inequality and the writing of a new constitution. After months of protests, and with tensions growing, the government chose to leave it to the people to decide if there should be a new constitution. The issue will be decided in a referendum.

One of the left-wing groups that is campaigning for Apruebo, meaning they approve of rewriting the constitution, is “Chile Digno” (Worthy Chile). Camilo Sánchez, president of Juventudes Comunistas de Chile (Chilean Communist Youth), which is part of Chile Digno, spoke with Chile Today about the group’s motivations for the campaign and the reasons they want a new constitution.

Within Chile Digno, young people articulated a platform called Chile Digno, Si No Pa’ Qué? (Worthy Chile, If Not, What For?). Sánchez explained that it aims to gather political youth and youth social leaders to campaign for Apruebo in the referendum.

“Being young activists of political parties, we have a role not only to campaign but to provide a space for all young women and men who intend to fight against this constitution,” says Sánchez when asked about the reason left-wing youth decided to campaign for Apruebo. He described their platform as “an anti-neoliberal command with clear democratic perspectives.”

Chile Digno’s youth platform consists of Chilean Communist Youth, Progressive Youth, Social Green Regionalist Youth, Christian Left Youth, Young Humanists, Miguel Enríquez Rebel Youth and the Libertarian Students Front.

Battle over the Broadcasts

Why Create A New Constitution?

Sánchez thinks basic rights are being threatened and that the economic and health crises the country is facing have only increased the extent to which those rights are being violated. “The state needs to have the capacity and very strict controls to guarantee the social rights it has to protect.”

When asked about the origin of the constitution – it was written under Pinochet’s dictatorship and with no democratic guarantees – Sánchez said that was another reason to vote for Apruebo. “This constitution, that still weighs on our shoulders, was designed [with] no opposition and it ensured through force what could not have been ensured through democratic means.”

People campaigning for Apruebo also dislike the high quorums the constitution requires for Congress to approve laws. “If the constitution has remained as it is until now, it is because there are real locks inside it that prevent it from changing,” Sánchez said, referring to these quorums established under Pinochet’s dictatorship, that have prevented the approval of countless laws over the years.

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Uncertainty In The Future If The Apruebo Option Wins?

Many politicians and public figures that stand for Rechazo, rejecting the creation of a new constitution, say that the Apruebo option will bring about more uncertainty for Chileans in the coming years, and, given the circumstances of the social, economic and health crises, it could be a dangerous path.

“I would say to all the people living in Chile, whether they are Chileans or migrants, that what generates the most uncertainty for our people is the result of a constitution that does not guarantee that their lives will be respected,” expressed Sánchez.

The way he sees it, those who claim there are no conditions to write a new constitution are only seeking to perpetuate the interests they have defended for many years. “Certainty for so many people going through a hard time can only be answered with structural measures. Enough of partial reforms that only make a big problem bigger.”

Apart from voting Apruebo or Rechazo, voters also have to decide, if Apruebo wins, whether they want to rewrite the constitution through a mixed convention (consisting of an equal number of members of Congress and others elected by voters) or a constitutional convention (entirely consisting of members elected by the public for this particular purpose).

“The fundamental thing about this is that neither of the mechanisms (mixed convention or constitutional convention) should be able to guide the debate or the terms for the debate,” said Sánchez. The Chile Digno platform thinks that, of the two options, the one that best guarantees the participation of the people is the constitutional convention.

Also read:

A New Constitution in Chile: What If It’s a Brexit?

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