Former member of the Constitutional Convention Roberto Vega reflects on his participation in the process. In this interview, Vega, who’s part of the right-wing National Renewal party, talks about the failure of the right-wing proposals and the Rechazo (reject) campaign. He also refers to the fake news accusations from the left.
How do you evaluate the job done by yourself and your peers in the Constitutional Convention?
The work done in the Convention had a taste of everything. To me, it embodied the first words of the constitutional board, led by Elisa Loncón and Jaime Bassa, when they said that they wanted to reestablish everything. Their group wanted to change everything, and they didn’t listen to other sectors.
Do you believe that the members of the Convention complied with society’s expectations?
Not at all. When citizens took the streets after the October social crisis, they were requesting five things in particular: better pensions, health, and education, to have the right to a dignified home, and finally, to have less politics. And in the process, on the contrary, we did not improve the pensions or the education, we raised the number of parliament members, and we created a difference between Chileans and indigenous people. We have a final text that represents what the polls are telling: more than 50 percent agree that the text needs reforms and that it doesn’t fulfill the expectations.
You were part of the Environmental Commission. How do you evaluate the discussions in that group and the results of that job?
The result is in plain view. There was a very low level of discussion, with a lot of intolerance. We respected each other, but the ideas that were contrasting weren’t tolerated. We were only four [Vamos por Chile representatives]: Bernardo Fontaine, Pablo Toloza, Rodrigo Álvarez, and me; and we couldn’t do a lot. The ideas of the majority were imposed, and the text reflects that. It recognizes the rights of animals, it says they should have an abuse-free life without making distinctions between the different species, which puts plague control in danger. Also, what happened with the water regulation, where the whole system was erased. An ecoconstitutional agenda with a very basic discussion level was imposed.
What are the biggest flaws in the proposal?
Dialog. If we had been capable of dialog, in a couple of months we could have drafted a good Constitution, with the elements people were asking for. My political sector presented more than 200 proposals, but none of them was approved. There are pieces of them in the text, like for example in the articles about dignified homes or corruption, but not in the sense we meant. There was no democracy, dialog, or a country vision in the process. Every group wanted to have a piece of themselves in the new Constitution. For many members of the Convention, it was more important to have their name on the paper than the wellbeing of Chile. To me, it is beautiful to be able to tell my kids that the Constitution of their country has my name on it, but it’s not going to be nice to tell them that they will have to live in worse conditions than the ones that I experienced.
The Rechazo campaign also strongly alludes to “reject to reform.” What reforms should be accomplished first?
I belong to the group “Somos Región,” and we presented a letter to Congress with the principal topics it should reform (if Rechazo wins the plebiscite). They must work to lower the quorums, to improve the political systems, to lower lawmakers’ remuneration, improve the AFP [private pension] system so that the personal savings belong to members, and improve health system coverage for the regions. There are eight points in the letter that were considered by Congress members.
The polls have shown the Rechazo option far ahead of Apruebo. How will the Rechazo campaign develop in the remaining weeks?
In politics the results are always uncertain. I can assure you that since last month, all the Vamos por Chile former Constitutional Convention members have been working in our regions for the Rechazo option. We are informing people about the importance of rejecting this text and the reforms we want to impose. All of this with the conviction that it is the best for Chile. It doesn’t matter if you are from the left or the right, we all want the country to succeed. And I want to clarify that the left says that we are broadcasting fake news, but that is not true at all. We are talking based on the final text.
Catalina Vergara is graduated in Social Communications from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She has previously worked on Strategic Communications.