Constitutional Process NATIONAL POLITICS

On the Path to the Constitutional Convention: Chapter 7

Gaspar Domínguez

Due to the pandemic, the elections for the Constitutional Convention were rescheduled for May 2021. Chileans will go to the polls on May 15 and 16 to choose the 155 representatives tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country. Chile Today is talking with some of the candidates from across the nation to discuss their candidacies and goals in this unprecedented democratic event.

A board of health experts suggested postponing the elections due to the recent outbreak of coronavirus cases across the country, especially in larger cities. President Sebastián Piñera sent an urgent bill to Congress on Mar. 29 to reschedule the elections. The biggest electoral event in Chile’s history will take place on May 15 and 16.

Gaspar Domínguez
Gaspar Domínguez, candidate for district 26.

Gaspar Domínguez, candidate for District 26: Calbuco, Cochamó, Maullín, Puerto Montt, Ancud, Castro, Chaitén, Chonchi, Curaco de Vélez, Dalcahue, Futaleufú, Haualaihué, Palena, Puqueldón, Queilén, Quellón, Quemchi, and Quinchao.

Universidad de Chile doctor and public health expert Gaspar Domíngez has worked in the field since 2014. Domínguez works in some of the most remote areas of the country, doing medical rounds and providing primary medical care in rural areas.

Q: What motivated you to become a candidate for the Constitutional Convention?
A: My interest comes from my background in healthcare …. This route will allow us to look into the way the state works to ensure future policies are designed, taking into account access to water, education, social rights, and housing, which would all have an impact on people’s health.

Q: And who are you looking to represent with your candidacy?
A: I’m representing District 26 …. In total there is a heterogeneous population of around 550,000 in larger cities and rural areas. I’m looking to represent those who voted Apruebo mainly. I want to take on the constitutional process to embody the vision of those who want a decentralized state regarding Santiago and the smaller more isolated areas.

Q: And how would you battle the state’s centralization?
A: Well, Chile is one of three OECD countries with the lowest sub-regional expenditure. This means that only 15 percent of public spending is defined and managed by the other regions, compared to 30 or 40 percent in other OECD states, or Denmark which even goes up to 60 percent. These numbers show that La Moneda in Santiago decides how we have to spend this money in other regions, so I think it’s necessary to set up an institution that will give more regional autonomy.

This should be a three-level institution: the first level organizes regional services, and we have made some progress in this area, but fiscal autonomy is where we are lacking it, and it has to do with how we want to spend our money. Lastly, political autonomy has to do with choosing our own local authorities and that they truly make the decisions that affect us. For instance, today municipalities (local governments) have very little self-rule: they can’t get into debt, they can’t manage, they handle very little money, and all the decisions come from La Moneda.

Increasing fiscal and political self-government in the territories would increase citizen participation, allow every individual to have the power to be involved in the decision-making process where they live.

Q: And now talking about the pandemic and healthcare, how do you think healthcare should be approached in the new constitution?
A: Well, firstly, the 1980 Constitution doesn’t guarantee access to healthcare, what it grants is the liberty to choose between the private and public sector, and the pandemic has shown that this has been a failure. And why? Because to best handle the pandemic, one of the most important things were critical beds, and the vaccines.

Both should have been managed under a universal logic, where the Health Ministry controls ICU beds in both private and public hospitals, and it takes charge for the immunization campaign universally, without considering people’s healthcare insurance. So, this reveals that the current constitution doesn’t work.

My proposal is to adopt the Medical College and Universidad de Chile’s Public Health School’s suggestion from 2018, and it involves removing all the different health insurance packages we have today: Isapre (private healthcare), Fonasa (public healthcare), Dipreca (police healthcare), Capredena (armed forces healthcare), among others, and put them together as one healthcare solution for all. This is something that happens in the UK (National Health Service), New Zealand, Canada, so it’s a trend; Brazil does the same, so I think this is key.

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