Constitutional Process NATIONAL POLITICS

On the Path to the Constitutional Convention: Chapter 1

Elections for the Constitutional Convention are fast approaching. On Apr. 11, Chileans will go to the polls to choose the 155 representatives who will be tasked with drafting a new constitution. Chile Today has talked to some of the candidates from across the nation to discuss what inspired their candidacies, and what they hope to see in this unprecedented democratic event.

The election to select Chile’s 155 Constitutional Convention members is less than two months away, Apr. 11. Seventeen of the 155 seats are reserved for representatives of indigenous groups: seven for the Mapuche people, two for the Aymara, and one each for the Atacameño, Chango, Diaguita, Kawésqar, Quechua, Qulla, Rapa Nui, and Yaghan peoples.

Catalina Cortés, candidate for district 2.

Catalina Cortés, Aymara candidate for District 2: Iquique and Tamarugal

Former councilor for the town of Pica in the Tarapacá region, Catalina Cortés is an engineer with a master’s degree in environmental science, and she is now completing a master’s degree in human rights and intercultural development. Cortés has been an activist since age 17, fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples in the region.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Q: What inspired you to become a candidate for the Constitutional Convention?
A: … I am the only Aymara female from Tarapacá who fought … for the approval of the reserved seats for indigenous peoples. … the indigenous fight is something I am very passionate about, it is a subject that moves me, and everything I have done in life – everything I have studied – has been to obtain more tools to justly strengthen the fight for rights of the indigenous peoples. … it is a historical opportunity … for the indigenous peoples.

Q: What do you think is the current Chilean’s state biggest weakness?
A: Well, the Chilean state today is a subsidiary state. I think that we should change that perspective; we should move towards a plurinational state, where the persistence of indigenous peoples is considered, and from there we should confirm the rights that we, the indigenous people, have always had, but have never been recognized by the Chilean state ….

Q: Who do you – or are you – looking to represent with your candidacy?
A: Let’s see … firstly, Aymara men and women …. Secondly, the Chilean people and indigenous peoples in general. Even though indigenous constituents will be elected to reserved seats, we will also have to work on matters that affect the whole of society; therefore, I hope that I can primarily represent the Aymara people, indigenous communities, and Chilean society as a whole, but with a special emphasis on women, and indigenous women mostly.

Q: Which article of the current constitution would you change or remove?
A: I think that we must work on the constitution beyond one single article, because, from the indigenous vision that we are intending to propose, we would seek to guarantee the Suma Qamaña …. So, … we will need to review the mining code, water code, look at territorial issues. We must go through every article to add the Suma Qamaña for all the people that live in this country ….

The Suma Qamaña has 13 principles and is based on material and spiritual balance: eat well, drink well, dance well, sleep well, work well, meditate well, think well, love and be loved well, listen well, speak well, dream well, walk well, and give and receive well.

Q: The situation in Colchane in the Tarapacá region has brought a lot of attention recently. From the perspective of a new constitution, how would you approach immigration?
A: We must make it clear that immigration is a right. We as people all have the right to migrate and it is a condition, if we can call it that, that has become more visible in recent times, but we as the Aymara people also … have Chilean and Bolivian Aymara, we share a territory. Anybody could say that administratively this country has treated the Bolivian Aymara as immigrants, as people who have to legalize a series of things. Even in my town, those who have worked, paid their taxes, and have managed to buy a property are not legally allowed to register it for living in a border district, but they are people who have come to contribute, they have followed the rules and have not even accessed to public subsidies – they have bought their properties with their own money.

Firstly, we must define that the matter with indigenous communities and the Aymara requires special treatment. It is not the same. We are a nation that was divided by an invisible line, … the Aymara … have always lived in this territory and have always had these cross-border exchanges.

Secondly, … we must establish that migration is a right …. [People] do not migrate for tourism purposes or to see new places, but because of other needs, and here is where the state needs to take responsibility for this issue, but in solidarity with these people, allowing us to come up with real solutions.

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