SANTIAGO — In a speech on Sunday, President Sebastián Piñera discussed 10 points that he thinks must be included in a new Constitution. In his opinion, these points are “essential to build a democratic Constitution for all Chileans.” However, opposition sectors criticized his proposal, saying it is too similar to the current code.
Political tensions are rising with the first anniversary for the social crisis approaching on Oct. 18, and the referendum for a new Constitution on Oct. 25. The constitutional plebiscite was scheduled because a key demand during the protests was to do away with the current code, written and implemented during Pinochet’s dictatorship.
President Piñera has not take an explicit position on a new Constitution. However, he presented a set of points that he thinks should be included, in case the plebiscite decides for a new one.
Piñera’s “Ten Commandments” for a New Constitution
1. The state’s role:
Piñera said the Chilean state must serve its people in a “democratic republic where the rule of law prevails.” In this sense, he said the state must recognize and guarantee the autonomy of intermediate bodies, as well as “guaranteeing the right to develop any economic activity.”
The president said the family is the core unit of society, so “the state must protect the preferential right and the duty of parents to educate their children.”
3. Civil and political rights:
According to Piñera, the Constitution must guarantee the right to life, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of movement, presumption of innocence, and the right to own property.
4. Economic and social rights:
Education, Piñera said, must remain compulsory under a new Constitution, and parents should retain the right to choose the educational establishment for their children.
The state must also guarantee free access to health services, Piñera said. Each person must have the right to choose the health system – private or public – he or she prefers.
And he added that the Constitution must ensure that all Chileans have pensions that “allow them to live in a dignified way.”
5. A diverse and inclusive society:
“There should be no privileged persons or groups in Chile,” Piñera said, so a new code should guarantee equal rights to men and women, as well as the recognition of native peoples.
6. Public order:
The state, in Piñera’s view, has the duty of guaranteeing public order and national security, “for the protection to the population and families.”
A new constitution “must establish the principle of sustainable development” to protect future generations.
8. Distancing of the powers of the state:
Piñera said a new code should establish the independence of state powers. “The state must respect the judicial decisions and international treaties ratified by the country.” He added that the Constitutional Court should be modernized.
A new Constitution should establish strict compliance with the principle of probity. “The acts of state institutions must be public and transparent.”
For a long time, different groups have argued that the decentralization is necessary to include all the regions and break the dominance of the Metropolitan region. Piñera said that state bodies must strengthen regionalization. “We must constitutionally … establish a real distribution of local, regional and national powers.”
Reactions to the Proposals
Fuad Chahín, president of the Christian Democratic party (DC), told daily El Mostrador that the president did not focus on guaranteeing fundamental rights. Chahín said that although he shared some points with Piñera, such as including environmental issues, most of the proposals were not different from the current Constitution. “It is more of the same, for example, the way he addresses the rights to education and health.”
The leader of the Party For Democracy (PPD), Heraldo Muñoz, agrees with Chahín. He told El Mostrador that the president’s proposals “don’t differ substantially from the current Constitution.”
Former presidential candidate for left-wing coalition Frente Amplio, Beatriz Sánchez, told news outlet Cooperativa that “what the president is doing with this decalogue is installing topics completely based on today’s Constitution. There is not a different proposal … especially in something that defines the 1980s code, as is the subsidiary state.”
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant