President of Chile receives draft of proposed new constitution

SANTIAGO (AP) — President Gabriel Boric received on Monday the formal draft of a proposed constitution intended to replace the charter imposed by a military dictatorship 41 years ago and usher in fundamental changes for Chile.

Chileans will vote in a September plebiscite on whether to adopt the charter, which was drafted by a Constitutional Convention elected last year.

“This September 4, it will once again be the people who will have the last word on their destiny,” Boric wrote on Twitter.

In the first of the articles of the project, Chile is described as a “social and democratic State”, as well as “plurinational, intercultural and ecological”. The document recognizes the existence of 11 indigenous groups, which represent 12.8% of the 19 million inhabitants of the country.

Among other things, the draft would require a new public health system and a process to return land to indigenous peoples. It also establishes new rights, including the right to “adequate and decent housing” and equal pay for equal work between men and women.

The head of the convention, María Elisa Quinteros, delivered the proposal, which includes 388 articles, to Boric in a solemn act. Boric then signed a decree setting the date of the plebiscite, in which Chileans must vote.

“I am honored to lead this historic moment,” said Quinteros.

More than three-quarters of Chilean voters in a 2020 referendum called for a new constitution, but the ceremonial handover of the draft comes at a time when people seem increasingly skeptical about the convention’s work.

Polls at the beginning of the year indicated that a clear majority intended to vote in favor of the new constitution, but polls since April have found a marked change of opinion, and those who oppose the new document appear to be ahead.

Analysts say that the arrogant attitude of some delegates to the Constitutional Convention more than the content of the proposal has embittered Chileans.

Giorgio Jackson, minister of the presidency, alluded to this circumstance by saying that “we have seen a very bad evaluation of the process.”

During his speech on Monday, Boric also urged Chileans not to view the plebescite as a survey of their government. The September vote “is not, nor should it be, an evaluation of the government. It is the debate about the future and destiny of Chile,” he said.

Although Boric took office less than four months ago with a high approval rating, recent polls have shown Chileans increasingly resentful of his administration amid rising crime and high inflation.

The delivery of the new document coincides with the dissolution of the Constituent Convention one year after its constitution.

If the draft is rejected in the plebiscite, the current constitution, drawn up during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, will remain in force despite widespread agreement that the country needs a new charter.

If the document is approved by a majority of votes, a process will begin that will take years to become a reality. Congress would have to pass new laws to implement its requirements.


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