The elections for the constitutional convention are fast approaching. Chileans will go to the polls on Apr. 10 and 11 to choose the 155 representatives who will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country. Chile Today has talked to some of the candidates to discuss the inspirations for their candidacies.
A new surge in Covid-19 infections has put as many as 13.4 million Chileans in quarantine, as the government tries to curb the spread of the virus ahead of the April elections. Authorities hope these tightened restrictions will allow for safe conduct of the electoral process.
Santiago’s voting district 10 is one of the most politically contested in the country. Both the left and right have nominated some of their most prominent candidates, which include lawyers, former ministers, journalists, TV personalities and many more who are contesting one of the seven seats available for the Constitutional Convention.
Jorge Baradit, Socialist Party candidate for District 10: Santiago, Providencia, Ñuñoa, Macul, La Granja and San Joaquín
Originally trained as a graphic designer, Baradit is one of Chile’s most famous contemporary writers. While he first started writing fiction, his non-fiction trilogy Historia Secreta de Chile, published in 2015, became a bestseller in the country, with the first two parts selling over 200,000 copies by 2017. He has also had numerous appearances on television, particularly on La Red’s Mentiras Verdaderas, where he was a regular commentator on Chilean history.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: What inspired you to run for the constitutional convention?
A: This process is multifactorial, and there are many situations that I can relate to. First of all, I am very interested in this country’s history, and a pivotal moment in our history is when the constitution is changed, when our government model and the distribution of power are altered. From that perspective, there is nothing more fascinating for someone interested in history than being part of a constitutional process.
But there are also more historically and emotionally charged issues: one goal of this process is to democratize the nation, to equalize the distribution of power, and to incorporate the middle and lower classes into the structure of the state. This is a struggle that workers have been engaged in since Chile first obtained its name. Chile from its foundation was a tiny oligarchic construct of a few families, with an estimated 80 percent of the indiada (indigenous population) living on the outskirts of the cities, in complete neglect.
My family was part of that indiada. My grandparents were laborers, saltpeter miners, self-employed and didn’t receive pensions of any sort. I’m the first in my family with a university degree. I have reached many people with my books and now I’m making myself available to those people for the constitutional convention if they feel like I’m suited for the job.
Q: Will you stay in politics once the constitutional process is finished?
A: No, I’m only thinking about the constitutional convention and the contributions that I can make with my political positions. For me, my political standing is more important than any input I could provide with more technical aspects. I have a vision of society, and then a technical team will help me figure out how to get there.
I will continue supporting the constitutional process, because it will not be finished straight away. There is the process to set up the newly written constitution, and there will also be a lot of work with other institutions. It can easily take a country up to 10 years to go through a process like this, so that is my principal concern.
Q: What is the Chile you envisage?
A: Unlike [President] Piñera, who a few days ago accused people of dreaming up utopian realities, I am an idealistic person. I don’t care if something is possible or not in the short term, there is nothing more important than visualizing an objective, a long-term destination, and to progress towards it. At present, I want to see an equal society, one where everyone enjoys the same opportunities, a dignified society with a common ground, a common foundation of equal social rights that will let people worry about other things than bare survival.
My idea, my vision is a society where everyone’s basic problems are solved, and that’s doable, but what I’m truly interested in is what happens afterwards: the society we will build after we guarantee these social rights, and in this context I would like to see a society that is spiritually, philosophically, and culturally rich, a sophisticated society. Not one where everyone is competing.
And if people want to call this utopian, then go ahead, but that’s the society I envisage, one where nobody is left behind because they cannot run fast enough. That’s what happened in the jungle, and we’ve moved on from that, so now we must proceed and build a society where you don’t need to be the strongest and fastest to beat the tiger.
Q: You have previously indicated that you would like to establish a welfare state in Chile. How do you define that?
A: Without intending to sound Marxist, this is a continuous historical process that is progressing whether the oligarchy likes it or not, and we’ll see an empowered society, a more democratic society that defends its own interests.
From my perspective, in a country like Chile the solution of a welfare state, or a state of guaranteed social rights as I prefer to call it, is not ideological but a solution for Chile’s historically rooted structural issues. When a country has the inequality that we see here, where only a tiny portion of the population can afford better rights, and where it is commonplace that an enormous number of people cannot pay for simple services … this problem could be resolved collectively. It’s not rocket science.
To see more on Jorge Baradit, visit his YouTube channel.
Francisco is finishing his degree in Journalism at Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago.