Chile’s elite is back

To ordinary Chileans, it’s obvious who’s running the country. Politicians largely follow elite ideology, variations to the left or right notwithstanding. They lost control briefly in the 2019 uprising, however, but the new constitutional agreement makes clear that it’s back to business as usual. 

Congress did it and dispatched in record time a constitutional reform almost identical to the text it received.

Lawmakers ignored practically every change suggested by those who were excluded from the deal on which the reform is based – except a change to the date of the elections of some of the assembly members, which originally coincided with Mother’s Day. The negotiators hadn’t noticed the overlap; it’s apparently too banal for them.

Also in record time, political parties appointed the experts of the two structures that will set the limits for the popularly elected convention members, including one or two indigenous representatives, who will work on a pre-written text within strict confines.

Who’s the expert?

According to our political class, an expert is a lawyer from Santiago, academic, former government official and/or close to some think tank, like neoliberal Libertad y Desarrollo or Fundación Jaime Guzmán, which honors the main author of the current constitution, written for the Pinochet dictatorship. An expert in the eyes of hour political leaders is also close to a party, any party, really. Independents, regional or civil society leaders, and certainly indigenous people clearly do not count.

This view also influenced the appointments to the non-elected drafting body. Of the 38 positions, 21 are lawyers and academics linked to the three major universities, plus a former minister serving under Michelle Bachelet. But the big winner is former president Sebastián Piñera, who could install four allies. Piñerismo, down and out during the uprising, is back with a vengeance.

The big losers were the movements that did the dirty work for the right that never wanted a new Constitution, and which won big-time in September’s plebiscite. The Amarillos group and the recently formed Demócratas, both made up of disgruntled Christian Democrats and members of the ancient center-left Concertación coalition, didn’t get any representatives, even though Amarillos did for some reason work on the base agreement, despite having virtually no public support.

Where’s Chile’s neo-right coming from?

No change, please

In the admissibility committee, which ensures that the elected members remain within limits set by Congress, things were no different. Its 14 members are lawyers, appointed in equal parts by the ruling and opposition coalitions. Three members are linked to Fundación Jaime Guzmán to ensure social power relations are not redefined.

Is this amnesia? Less than three years ago, the popularly-elected Constitutional Convention was made up of a majority of independents, punishing political parties. But the second run will be handled mostly by the despised political parties. Congress’ approval ratings just hit rock bottom and yet the pendulum has swung back to the elite. This is the cyclical history of Chilean politics.

Later, repeating their ‘analysis’ of the 2019 social uprising, they’ll say “we did not see it coming.”

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