It would seem that our country has always suffered more than others – because it is certainly not a Chilean “monopoly” – from strong doses of amnesia, deceit and historical self-deception. To confine ourselves to our recent history, we can see this dramatically expressed in the widespread ignorance -mainly due to the concealment by the concertacionist elite- of crucial policies and measures adopted by their governments to the detriment of their proclaimed centre-left positions. How many of us remember -or ever knew! of the gift to the right of the imminent parliamentary majority made by the concertacionista leadership, through the constitutional reforms agreed with Pinochet in 1989; or how many of us remember – or ever knew! of the “successful” policies of extermination of the centre-left press, followed by successive Concertación governments, which liquidated “Análisis”, “Apsi”, “Fortín Mapocho”, “La Epoca”, “Hoy”, “Rocinante”, “Plan B” and “Punto Final” – among many other media – and which have had a devastating impact to this day! Or how many of us remember the failure of the governments of Lagos (between August 2000 and March 2002) and Bachelet to use their respective parliamentary majorities – eventually obtained – to modify the neoliberal economic model?
But undoubtedly the most disconcerting generalised oblivion (because no one who had the use of reason at the time can say they did not know!) is that the current Chilean Constitution, although created by Pinochet in 1980, was subsequently endorsed by Lagos and all his ministers in 2005. You, dear reader, can certify this by looking at any text of our Constitution published after that year.
That is why the recognition made in this regard by the recent presidential pre-candidate of the PR, Carlos Maldonado, is commendable. Thus, he has said in relation to the progress of the text of the new Constitution drafted by the Convention, that “if the line, the contents, the form are not substantially improved, and therefore a much better text than the one we know so far is not presented, if I had to vote today, I would choose the Constitution of Lagos” (“El Dinamo”; 20-4-2022). Given that “rejection” means keeping the current Constitution, this is the vote Maldonado is announcing.
Who also recently came out in favour of the current Constitution (strictly speaking, it was the product of a Constitutional Reform) was the former deputy and minister of the PDC, Jorge Burgos, in a letter to “El Mercurio”: “In Wednesday’s edition, the former president of the Senate, Sergio Romero, recalls the origin and process of the constitutional reform of 2005. In his recollection, he includes a legislative procedure that did not take place, the Joint Commission. Perhaps if such a commission had existed, the proposal for a ratifying plebiscite could have emerged from it, which ended up being a regrettable omission, of which I am also guilty” (15-4-2022).
Another distortion of historical memory used by the concertacionismo -taking advantage of our proverbial amnesia- is that this Constitution (or Reform, as it wants to be called) was generated as the only possible advance that could be achieved at the time given the parliamentary power of the right. But in no way did it represent a fully democratic Constitution – a lie as big as a cathedral! Proof of this is Lagos’s enthusiastic and fervent speech at the act of endorsement of this “new” Constitution on 17 September 2005:
“Today, 17 September 2005, we solemnly sign the democratic Constitution of Chile (…) Today we gather here to celebrate, to solemnly celebrate the reunion of Chile with its history. The Constitution of 1833 opened the way to the Chile of the 19th century; the Constitution of 1925 opened the way to the 20th century. And today we meet, inspired by the same spirit of 1833 and 1925: to give Chile and the Chileans a Constitution that will open the way to the 21st century (…) Chile now has a Constitution that no longer divides us, but is a shared institutional floor, from which we can continue to advance along the path of perfecting our democracy. Our Constitution is no more than a dam in national life; national life can now flow like a river through this institutional channel” (“Siete”; 18-9-2005).
His enthusiasm went even further: “Today is a landmark day. We begin our national celebrations with a greater, more united, more prestigious homeland, recognised in the world; a homeland that has just reencountered its historical tradition, where all its children can embrace each other, where we can all look each other in the eye with respect; without unacceptable privileges, without unworthy subordination, without shameful exclusions. Having a Constitution that reflects us all was fundamental, fundamental for all the tasks that Chileans have ahead of us, since it consolidates the heritage of what we have advanced economically, socially and culturally” (Ibid.).
And he concluded in his exaltation: “This is a transcendental moment for all Chileans, but above all for young people and children, because they are also called to the task of perfecting our democracy, broadening our freedoms, raising the levels of social justice, making Chile an ever-greater country, as the fathers of the country dreamed, respected for the virtues and the good life of its inhabitants. Chilean men and women: This is a very great day for Chile, we have reason to celebrate, we have today, at last, a democratic Constitution, in accordance with the spirit of Chile, of the permanent soul of Chile. It is our best tribute to Independence, to the Glorias Patrias, to the glory and the strength of our national understanding. Chilean men and women: Today, today spring is dawning. Thank you very much” (Ibid.).
Given all this, the acknowledgements by Maldonado and Burgos that the current Constitution is the Constitution of Lagos tend to put things somewhat in their place. Curiously, the social revolt of October 2019, which unveiled the legitimising character of the “30 years” dictatorship model, has continued to speak of the current Constitution as from the 1980s, without highlighting its endorsement by Lagos and the Concertación in 2005. Perhaps as a way to finish “waking up”, without trauma, many of the Concertación’s rank and file so that they reject the current Constitution in the future plebiscite in September. In any case, such a predicament reveals, on the other hand, that the “work” of Lagos and the Concertación – and particularly its alleged 2005 Constitution – has been nothing more than a (fortunately) frustrated attempt to legitimise, consolidate and “perfect” the political, economic and social projection of the dictatorship.