Amid Demonstrations, Chileans Call For Replacement Of Pinochet-Era Constitution

[Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

As protests enter their second month in Chile, Chileans have begun demanding a new constitution to replace the one written in 1980 by a committee of former dictator Augusto Pinochet’s loyalists.  While this constitution has gone through several rounds of amendments since the dictatorship ended in 1990, there is a crisis of legitimacy due to the document’s pedigree and a new poll reports that 80% of Chileans believe it needs to be scrapped entirely.

Unrest has been wracking Chile since October 14th, when students came out en masse to protest a 30 peso ($0.04) increase in rush hour metro fares.  What had begun as simply public objection became demonstrations and fare evasion after Minister of Economy Juan Andres Fontaine announced that those upset with the price rise could just wake up earlier.

Since then, the protests have expanded to encompass issues related to corruption, inequality, and extreme poverty, including complaints about Chile’s privatized pension system.  The government initially responded by declaring a state of emergency, but after upwards of a million people took to the streets it has struck a conciliatory tone by ending the state of emergency and replacing several cabinet members.  Several unpopular ones remain, however, and the new ministers are seen as unqualified.

Still, protesters say it’s not good enough, and have continued to demonstrate.  23 people have been killed since protests started according to the government, and the National Human Rights Institute says that more than 1,600 people have been injured.


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