SANTIAGO – At least 17 of the 155 people who will be in charge of writing a new Constitution in Chile will be of indigenous descent. A bill that reserves seats for indigenous people was approved by the Chilean House of Representatives and the Senate on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2021. With seven seats, the Mapuche people will have the biggest share.
After weeks of intense debate between government and opposition legislators, both the House of Representatives and the Senate in Chile approved on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2021, a bill that reserves seats for indigenous peoples at the Constitutional Assembly. Out of the 155 established seats, 17 will be held for indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples are being assigned a set number of seats reflecting their percentage of the Chilean population. For the Mapuche people, the largest indigenous group in Chile, this means seven seats. The Aymara people in the north are receiving two, and the following will each receive one: the Rapa Nui, Quechua, Diaguita, Atacameño, Colla, Kawesqar, Yagán, and Chango.
Social Development minister Karla Rubilar called the approved bill a historic milestone, and “a step towards repaying our debt.” Under the current Constitution, indigenous people are not recognized, despite the fact that over two million people – or 13 percent of Chile’s population – identify as indigenous.
Giving Chile’s indigenous peoples a place at the table to write a new Constitution was a demand from the opposition. Earlier, they aimed to add 24 seats to the already-established 155 seats. After several compromises, however, they had to lower that number to 17 and incorporate it into the existing 155 seats.
In April, during municipal elections, Chile will vote to select the Constitutional Assembly members. The assembly will then have up to a year-and-a-half to draft a new Constitution. In a follow-up referendum, Chileans will then decide whether to approve the new Constitution or keep the old one.