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Chileans approve rewriting of structure in landslide vote

Chileans approve rewriting of structure in landslide vote


Chileans voted overwhelmingly Sunday to rewrite the nation’s present structure, which dates from the army dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet 4 a long time in the past.

With 99% of ballots counted, 78% of voters favored drafting a brand new nationwide constitution, whereas 22% rejected the initiative, based on official outcomes.

The margin of victory exceeded projections in polls that about 70% of Chileans would favor a rewrite of the 1980 structure.

The constitutional vote — a response to final yr’s civil unrest that paralyzed this South American nation of 19 million — turned a sort of referendum on the nation’s future. Critics mentioned a brand new structure was wanted to reform deep financial and social inequalities, whereas supporters of the present structure feared altering it may result in instability.

President Sebastián Piñera, who had maintained a publicly impartial stance on the problem, confirmed that the transfer to draft a brand new structure had triumphed.

“Today, unity has prevailed over division,” Piñera mentioned in a night handle to the nation. “And peace over violence. This is a triumph for all Chileans who love democracy, unity and peace.”

Thousands of Chileans gathered Sunday night time within the iconic Plaza Baquedano to rejoice the vote. Fireworks marking the balloting illuminated the capital’s skyline.

Chile’s referendum, initially scheduled for April however pushed again due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was the federal government’s main concession to mass protests final yr.

Chileans additionally voted for the brand new structure to be drawn up by a 155-member meeting to be elected in April. Voters rejected another that will have seen a mixture of present lawmakers and elected residents rewriting the structure. The choice would seem to mirror a scarcity of religion within the nation’s present elected management.

“I want a new constitution, and I want new people to draft it because trust in politicians is over,” mentioned María José Ugarte, 30, a yoga teacher lining as much as vote at Santiago’s National Stadium.

The stadium had been used as a jail camp after the 1973 army coup led by Pinochet that overthrew the democratically elected authorities of leftist President Salvador Allende.

“I know changes won’t happen right away, but we need radical change,” Ugarte mentioned.

Once a brand new structure is drafted — after as much as a yr of labor — the doc can be submitted to voters in one more referendum scheduled for 2022.

Chile’s present structure enshrines the free-market ideas endorsed by the previous army management.

“I hope that a new constitution guarantees health, education and housing as human rights,” Jorge Molina, 86, a retired engineer, mentioned after voting at a faculty close to downtown Santiago.

Molina mentioned he receives a pension of $750 a month however spends greater than half of it on medical payments — he has diabetes, prostate issues and glaucoma. His life financial savings, he mentioned, have been drained by therapies for the most cancers that stricken his spouse earlier than her dying.

“I receive a relatively high pension for Chile and look how I am,” he mentioned. “Imagine how the rest of the old folks do here.”

Opponents fearful that constitutional reforms may dampen prospects for progress and heighten strain on state funds already stretched skinny by the pandemic.

“It’s true that there are many inequalities here, but there have to be better ways to handle the problem,” Fernando Cabello, 45, son of one of many 1000’s of Chileans exiled through the dictatorship, mentioned after voting towards the constitutional change at a faculty within the capital’s Providencia neighborhood.

“I grew up in Venezuela, so I witnessed the chavista revolution,” he mentioned, referring to the leftist authorities of former President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. “I’m totally against that way of making changes.”

Sunday’s referendum passed off 32 years after Chileans went to the polls in a landmark plebiscite and voted to finish the dictatorial rule of Pinochet. The 1988 plebiscite led to Pinochet stepping down in 1990.

During the 17-year junta, Chile turned generally known as a pacesetter of the free-market philosophy extensively referred to in Latin America as neoliberalism. Leftist governments in Mexico and elsewhere within the area have denounced neoliberalism as a technique that heightened inequality and unfold poverty all through Latin America.

“We never thought there could be a new constitution,” Fabiola Campillay, 37, instructed native media who have been ready for her outdoors her house within the working-class neighborhood of San Bernardo, south of Santiago, on Sunday afternoon.

Last November, Campillay misplaced sight in each eyes, in addition to her sense of style and scent, when a tear fuel cannister fired by police hit her face. At the time, she was ready for a bus to take her to the spaghetti manufacturing facility the place she labored.

The officer who fired the tear fuel shell was dismissed and is in jail, whereas Campillay, a supporter of the constitutional change, turned a logo of final yr’s protests. According to Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights, nearly 4,000 civilians have been injured in final yr’s protests and clashes with police, together with 460 who suffered eye accidents.

“Now we have to keep fighting,” Campillay mentioned Sunday. “We have to keep fighting so that the constitution is written by the people and not by the same politicians as always.”

Special correspondent Poblete reported from Santiago and Times employees author McDonnell from Mexico City.

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