chile boric chilean president gabriel boric left president michelle bachelet applaud ceremony

Chilean parties will try again to replace the dictatorship’s constitution

Chile will try again to replace its constitution, imposed four decades ago by a military dictatorship

Chilean parties will try again to replace dictatorship constitutionBy EVA VERGARAThe Associated PressThe Associated PressSANTIAGO, Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean political parties from left to right have agreed to try again to replace the constitution imposed by General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship four decades ago.

The agreement was announced in the former Congress building, the same place where the entire Chilean political firmament – except for the Communist Party, which would not join it – agreed in 2019 to start the constitutional process which is ended up being rejected on September 4 by 62% of voters.

That refusal came as a blow to President Gabriel Boric, who had argued that the document would usher in a new progressive era. Chile’s current constitution is a pro-market document that favors the private sector over the state in aspects such as education, pensions and health care, and makes no reference to indigenous people who make up nearly 13% of the population.

Most Chileans favor changing the constitution, but across the country of 19 million, polls showed distrust of the process, which led to a cumbersome 388-article statute that would have introduced free education rights , healthcare and housing and established autonomous indigenous territories, among others.

This time, the 14 parties agreed to convene a new commission with 24 congressional-appointed experts that will set the framework for 50 people democratically elected in April 2023 to draft the new charter. They will be joined in commission by representatives of the indigenous population of Chile, whose numbers will be determined in the same popular vote.

The final debate on Monday evening concerned the number of commissioners and how to choose them. The ruling party wanted everyone involved elected, while the right-wing opposition wanted a mix of appointees and elected members. Both have conceded to reach an agreement.

The agreement also calls for a new charter to build on a dozen constitutional principles previously determined by political parties, including requiring Chile to have a unitary but decentralized government with separate and independent executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Other principles include that Chile’s 11 indigenous peoples be recognized as part of the Chilean nation; and that fundamental rights and freedoms are recognized, including the right to life and property, and that Chile’s military forces are always subordinated to the civilian government.

The parties have also agreed that a neutral “arbitrator” will ensure compliance with these fundamental principles, composed of 14 judges, one for each party, designated by Congress.

Monday night’s deal must now be approved by a 4/7 vote in Congress: 29 Senators and 89 Representatives. Members will then have five months to draft a new charter, which must be approved or rejected in a mandatory nationwide vote at the end of next year.