SANTIAGO – Apr. 26 is set to be a historic date for Chile: in a referendum, the country will decide whether to create a new constitution or maintain the current one. To explore Chileans’ priorities, Chile Today will be interviewing one voter every week. In our second Chile Tomorrow: Florencia Atria, a student in Year 12 who has taken an active role in the protests.
My name is Florencia Atria. I am currently a student in Year 12 at school in Santiago. I support the protests because I believe it is our duty to speak out against the injustices of society and fight to change them. I have written about the issue for my school magazine.
The protests are a direct consequence of the government ignoring the demands of the people for the past 30 years. It was not 30 pesos that sparked the protests, but the 30 years of blatant disregard for the welfare of the people.
Since the end of the Pinochet regime, the government has criminalized all types of demonstrations, punishing the protesters for speaking out and exercising their democratic right to have a voice. I have personally taken an active role in the protests as I believe that these demonstrations show the government the anger of the people and the need for change. The protests are the front line for constitutional change in our country, and it will be important to continue demonstrating as the vote approaches in April in order to disband the false propaganda that some parties of the campaign will inevitably be spreading.
In the plebiscite vote on April 26, I will be voting in favor of a new constitution. Our current constitution is not democratic. It was written during the dictatorship and the people of Chile had very little input. Furthermore, it was written in a way to deliberately prevent social change at the fall of the dictatorship. The use of a quorum and constitutional amendments will not produce the necessary changes to the constitution that the people demand; education, public health, pensions, etc.
The most important reason for holding this vote, and the subsequent convention to rewrite the constitution, is the fact that the people of Chile will have a say in the writing of their own governing laws. The government stands to represent the people, and ultimate constitutional power lies with the people. Therefore, it is necessary that the constitution is written by a constitutional convention with the input of the people so that we can believe that our voices have been listened to and that our hands have helped to shape the law.
Katie is a student from Exeter University where she is studying English Literature and Spanish. This year she is interning with Chile Today as part of her year abroad in Latin America. She believes in the importance of a global newsroom which spreads the news of the world to every corner and gives voice to the people.