Plebiscite in Chile: they vote if they change the Constitution amid the coronavirus pandemic

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A year after the historic social protests, the trans-Andean country defines the modification of the Magna Carta drafted during the Pinochet dictatorship.

With masks and hope, Chileans vote this Sunday if they change the Constitution drawn up during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, just one year after a historic march that gathered more than 1 million people a week after the start of social protests.

In what is considered the most relevant electoral process since the return to democracy three decades ago, more than 14.7 million Chileans are called to vote in this plebiscite in which the options “Approve” or “Rejection” will be decided. at the change of a Magna Carta that had several reforms during democracy.

Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera voted early and asked his compatriots to go to the polls “because all voices matter.” He also called to “reject violence and embrace the path of unity” when leaving the Colegio San Francisco del Alba, in the Las Condes neighborhood.

“Whatever the result, tonight is not the end, it is the beginning of a new stage,” said the president who assumed power in March 2018 and who faced the most serious social crisis Chile had in its 30 years of democracy, deepened by the economic blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The referendum was decided after a broad political agreement reached in November last year, almost a month after the start, on October 18, 2019, of social protests and violent clashes with the Police after the increase in the Metro ticket fare. from Santiago.

A week later, on October 25, the largest democracy march ever took place. More than 1.2 million people gathered around the Plaza Italia de Santiago, a demonstration of the depth and breadth of the social discontent accumulated in decades in a country considered a model of economic growth and stability in Latin America.

An exact year after that historic demonstration, Chile is gambling at the polls the possibility of changing the Constitution drafted in 1980 and definitively burying the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship, solving the problems of inequality and exclusions that triggered the ” social outbreak “of October.

Polls give broad support to the option “I approve”, with between 60% and 75% of the preferences. But the pandemic – which on Saturday exceeded 500,000 infected and almost 14,000 deaths in Chile in almost eight months – adds uncertainty about electoral participation in a country where voting is voluntary.

In addition to choosing between “Approve” and “Rejection”, voters will also define the body that will draft the eventual new Constitution: a “Mixed Convention”, made up of 172 members, distributed equally between elected citizens and sitting parliamentarians, or a “Constitutional Convention”, of 155 members, in which all its members must be popularly elected.

(AFP)

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