As Napoleon Bonaparte said in 1807 in the framework of the Peace of Tilsit “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan”, so the post-election reaction after the crushing victory of the Rejectionist option needs to be removed from the dusty books of universal history.
By Jorge Molina and Patricio Mery Bell
One of the first reactions seen by adherents linked mainly to sectors, some of them, of the Frente Amplio, was to blame the defeat on the people who, in the context of the serious economic crisis of stagflation that we are living in Chile, have turned to the voting masses who rejected the constitutional proposal emanating from the Constituent Convention. Motivated more by a sense of anti-systemic indignation and a profound medial intoxication. Let’s remember that the Rechazo obtained funding of over one billion pesos, which had no control of expenses or obligation to report to SERVEL. The happiest were the producers, advertising companies and spokespersons like Pedro Gubernatti of the Bad Boys.
However, adding and subtracting, we can see a complete dissociation between the government, including not only President Boric, but also his ministers, undersecretaries, presidential delegates and regional ministerial secretaries, together with Regional Governors who simply have not been up to the task. People are upset. The political, communicational and economic management has been bad.
For the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Marx’s rational critique of ideology is absurd, because it is not a veil of ignorance that causes our actions to go in favour of the system. Ideology is an unconscious practice (Lacanian heritage) and not mere ignorance.
Why do we do what the system dictates even though we know that it serves the interests of a few? Because we enjoy it, the Slovenian philosopher will answer. In short, why does ideology stay with us? Žižek’s response is blunt: because we enjoy it. An example Žižek has analysed extensively is anti-Semitism in the Weimar Republic of the 1930s.
Why did the workers opt for the National Socialist option instead of others that were more favourable to them? The response for Žižek is simple: the National Socialist discourse (and its possibility of revenge with a strong Germany) captured subjectivity much better, it seduced much more than other more proletarian or class-based discourses. Ideology is the story we tell ourselves in order to understand reality, and there are stories we enjoy more than others. That is why ideological unmasking is inoperative in mass society, because what ties us to ideology is an unconscious enjoyment.
In line with the study El Chile Profundo (Mayol et. al.; 2013); regarding the current persistence, in our country, of the colonial-rooted hacienda cultural model to the detriment of the entrepreneurial model; the former leader of the typographical trade union Carlos Campos Villalobos, a former prisoner of the dictatorial Pinochet dictatorship, points out that the history of Chile shows that all the people have a great sense of ideological conservatism.
photo by Enzo Blondel
We believe, therefore, that the reasons why the Apruebo option was overwhelmingly defeated in the exit plebiscite this 4 September are as follows:
- Octubrism betrayed by tackiness, infiltrators and electoral punishment of the government.
The idea of the “end of octubrismo” has been socialised by a good handful of political analysts who tried to take a first look at the results of the first round of presidential elections last year, where José Antonio Kast went to the second round with 27.9% and Gabriel Boric, with 25.8%; results that showed the participation of 47% of those eligible to vote in those elections. Several voices have pointed to the end of the 80%-20% logic that was seen after the October 2020 referendum, but with dozens of nuances. One of them, perhaps the most fundamental, is linked to the need to resolve the structural problems of the country’s political and social order, which – in part – today is partly due to the institutional solution embodied by the constituent process; others also point to an almost natural inheritance of other historical processes, as well as the responsibility of the political class itself.
Octubrismo is synonymous with a conception in which 80% of the country would be in favour of radical changes, without much preoccupation with violence, order or economic stability.
According to Carlos Peña, lawyer and rector of the Diego Portales University, “there is a contrast to the diagnosis of 18 October 2019, where the media, journalists, rectors, unthinkingly gave in to a kind of moralising, to an easy diagnosis of what was happening in Chile: that it was like a balloon filled with injustice until it finally burst. That always seemed fallacious to me. And Chilean politics allowed itself to be guided by that diagnosis”.
Concerted intelligence operation, infiltration of ANI agents as advisors and/or adolescent performances?
In spite of the unsuccessful efforts of most of the conventional ones to do an impeccable job, it is clear that there were certain low points, conveniently exploited by the dominant national press, commanded by its editorial duopoly: COPESA and El Mercurio, and on TV by Mega, Chilevisión and Canal13 which, in the context of the social outburst and the pandemic, recycled the showbiz entertainment, changing it for the showbiz of the parliamentary political class and political analysts we thought had retired. It was no coincidence that simple proposals with no chance of being approved, such as having two flags or having a government of soviets were disseminated as judged things… As irrefutable truths.
The case of Rodrigo Rojas Vade (pela’o Vade), is emblematic. We are talking about a guy who invented a cancer to rise as a hero of the protests, to the point that he was elected as a constituent, and as a liar and unscrupulous swindler. Although he did not write any rules and returned all the money he received as a salary, he was the trigger for the first image crisis that the Convention suffered.
Another jewel with few intellectual lights and zero soft skills was the ineffable Elsa Labraña, who confronted and shouted at the convention judge, Carmen Gloria Valladares, to interrupt the installation ceremony of the convention, inside which there were also children from an orchestra playing the Chilean national anthem, in the face of the uncertainty of the protests that were taking place outside the building of the former National Congress.
Days before the installation of the Constitutional Convention, Labraña herself spoke of the possibility of changing the national anthem and the Chilean flag, generating strong controversy over these proposals, issues that she raised on the programme Mentiras Verdaderas, on La Red.
On the other hand, on 30 July 2021, the then deputy and presidential candidate for Apruebo Dignidad, Gabriel Boric, was assaulted and beaten by a group of protesters and inmates while visiting the Santiago Uno prison to talk to and meet the prisoners in the context of the social unrest. Faced with this situation, part of the deceased and buried Lista del Pueblo (People’s List) uploaded to their Instagram account a red line against the Magellanic deputy that read “Blood for Blood, watón Boric”, a publication that was later deleted.
In short, spontaneous mobilisations that end in acts of unjustified violence have exhausted people.
Following Pablo Ortúzar (2022): “The established order, at that point, was left without sustenance. And two paths opened up: that of justified overthrow and that of reform. A section of the Communist Party took the gamble of overthrowing the democratically elected President from the streets – as a response to the brutal police repression – The reformist path, meanwhile, took shape in Congress and was sealed by the agreement of 15 November. This second path won. And Gabriel Boric, by joining it, opened the doors of La Moneda. Thus, the Constitutional Convention was born, with a strong therapeutic mandate: they had to heal the Republic…”.
Photo by Enzo Blondel
● Controversies of Constitutional Convention members
Daniel Stingo: his remarks on the social security system proposed in the text, the mere fact of raising the possibility of losing ownership over pension funds triggered a terror bomb among the people.
“(The funds) are not inherited, because it is not your money, it is the money of the system to pay pensions. It is a social security system, different from a system of personal savings of my little money, which is running out”.
Fernando Atria: In 2013 he said in an interview with El Mostrador that the Chilean constitutional problem had to be solved “by hook or by crook”, he was the Convention member who had been associated for the longest time with changing the current constitution. In the first phase of the Convention, instead of leading, he joined initiatives by independent groups such as the now defunct People’s List, calling for the pardon of the 18-O prisoners to be speeded up and the withdrawal of the State Security Law in those cases involving Mapuche prisoners (this law supported the investigation of the leader of the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee [CAM], Héctor Llaitul, currently in pre-trial detention). These two facts, in the light of national conservatism, provoke panic for trying to help alleged lawbreakers.
Elisa Loncon: Notwithstanding her election by Time magazine, the same magazine that praises Zelensky, as one of the most influential women of 2021, she publicly dispatched a gem as follows:
“How are they (social rights in the proposal) guaranteed? Through the redistribution of wealth; because it would no longer be concentrated in the 10 families, but throughout the regions, which will also administer resources”, she said in July, receiving widespread criticism for postulating something that was not in the text.
Jaime Bassa: In April he was at the centre of a controversy when he put forward the thesis that “if the Rejection wins, the 1980 Constitution will remain in force, the constitutional question will remain open and we will have a major political and social crisis”, said the member of the convention, who is close to Boric.
On the day of the exit plebiscite, he denigrated the voters of the rejectionist option by saying: “The delay, the rejectionist, sorry, is still not clear about what he wants, he does not know if there is going to be a new Convention or not” (Radio Biobío).
- Guillermo Teillier
The Communist Party leader, displaying little verbal restraint, said days before the exit plebiscite:
“If Apruebo wins narrowly the right wing will surely try to question the result, it will make any manoeuvre, like the ones it has already made in front of the Electoral Service or how it went to the Comptroller’s Office to say that here there was fraud or anything and try to remove the floor from the installation of the new Constitution… So, on that day I at least believe, I am convinced, that already knowing the first results of Apruebo’s victory we must go out into the streets to defend that victory, to defend it.”
This was also interpreted by a large majority of citizens as a call to disregard democracy and stir up public disorder.
Photo by Enzo Blondel
The right and its campaign of terror through Fake News
Chile does not particularly stand out globally as a country linked to reading, therefore, this allowed the fallacies generated by the right wing, in the media, regarding the new constitutional text to be easily digested by a huge number of citizens.
In the academic world, there are multiple studies that show that a high percentage of the population, around 63%, does not understand written instructions, nor is it capable of carrying out simple arithmetic or mathematical logic exercises, nor of developing a critical or analytical position on the information provided by the media. They are called Functional Illiterates, people who know the letters, can put them together, but cannot read or interpret them.
CIPER (2022), toured 12 popular communes of Greater Santiago and, without pretending to make a statistical measurement, collected the arguments of their residents who voted Reject. That the State would take over housing, that pension funds would not be inheritable, that the country would be divided, a vote to punish the government and rejection of abortion, were the most repeated statements.
According to Castro Mauro (2022), the brutal compilation of fake news propagated by the right wing since practically the opening of the Constitutional Convention is as follows:
-Effective protection of the right to property in all its forms is over.
A.: The approved norms do establish the right to property, ensuring that “every person, private individual or legal entity, has the right to property in all its forms and over all kinds of goods, except those that nature has made common to all persons and those that the Constitution or the law declares inappropriate”.
-Eliminates the institution of the Carabineros.
A.: The articles on public security and police speak broadly of the police, a term that covers both the Carabineros and the Investigative Police (PDI).
-There will be no equality before the law.
A.: The Constitutional Convention in the article that establishes the right to equality and non-discrimination explicitly states that “the Constitution ensures equality before the law for all persons”.
-The territorial unity of the state ceases to exist.
A.: At the beginning of the chapter on Regional State in the draft, it is clearly stated that “Chile, in its geographical, natural, historical and cultural diversity, forms a single and indivisible territory”.
-The patriotic emblems are eliminated: anthem, flag, coat of arms and even the cueca.
A.: The chapter on constitutional principles establishes that the flag, the coat of arms and the anthem will continue to be the national emblems of Chile.
-The Convention has a Bolivarian agenda.
A.: Exaggerated and tendentious assertion by a right-wing Convention member.
-A foreigner with 5 years residence in Chile could be President.
A.: According to article 40 of the draft, “to be elected President of the Republic it is necessary to have Chilean nationality”, among other requirements, so a foreigner could not run for office, regardless of his or her years of residence.
-The armed forces would not be able to cooperate as they have done in disaster situations. A.: According to the constitutional draft, and as is currently the case, when a State of Catastrophe is declared, both the Armed Forces and the police will be under the charge of the civil authority designated by the President of the Republic. The Carabineros and PDI are replaced by civilian police forces led by politicians, where the hierarchical, obedient and non-deliberative order is eliminated.
A.: The draft establishes that the police depend on the Ministry in charge of public security and are civilian institutions of a centralised nature, with jurisdiction over the entire territory of Chile, and are designed to guarantee public security, give effectiveness to the law and safeguard fundamental rights, within the framework of their competences.
-We are not going to have a state.
A.: Although it is recognised that within Chile there are several nations, they are part of a single State, the Republic of Chile.
-They want to eliminate the judiciary.
A.: What today is known as the Judicial Power, in the constitutional proposal is renamed “Justice Systems”. It will have similar powers; it is not eliminated.
-The left refuses to condemn violence.
A.: A declaration was approved that incorporates the phrase “The Constitutional Convention condemns all forms of violence”.
– Some in the Constituent want to change the name of the country.
A.: There is no register of any initiative to change the name of the country. -You will not be allowed to have two houses and they will be expropriated for distribution to the homeless. A.: There is no mention of this anywhere in the proposal. Instead, the text provides for the creation of a National Housing System.
– The new text is a copy of the Bolivian Constitution.
A.: It deals with similar matters, but in no way is it plagiarism. photo by Enzo Blondel
- Giorgio Jackson and Camila Vallejo
On Monday 6 June this year, the Minister Secretary General of Government (SEGEGOB), Camila Vallejo, referred to comments made by her then counterpart in the General Secretariat of the Presidency (SEGPRES), Giorgio Jackson, regarding an eventual triumph of the Rejection. In statements to El Mercurio, Jackson said that in the face of such a scenario, “we will have to review the best mechanisms to carry out our programme, but many of these reforms, with the current constitutional framework, could not be carried out”. Vallejo described Jackson’s comments as “a truism”.
From La Moneda, the minister said: “It’s obvious, isn’t it? And this is what the President of the Republic said.
The above indissolubly linked to the option I approve with… Boric’s government First of all we must point out that Boric won by the anti-Kast vote and the Rejection won by the anti-Boric vote. This administration does not govern for, nor with the people; nor does it stop its irrepressible march of unforced errors.
The government continues its wandering march without understanding anything. They blame the people of Petorca or La Pintana for the rejection vote. The citizens are not foolish, they punished the management of the President of the Republic and the arrogance of those who afterwards voted against the fifth withdrawal of pension funds and became heads of the Apruebo campaign.
Likewise, the fifth withdrawal of AFP funds has played a key role. While many members of the current government, including the President of the Republic, were members of the Chamber of Deputies, they were enthusiastic supporters and precursors of the measure to give AFP contributors the possibility of withdrawing part of their funds. One of the great corporate defences made by the former Piñera government and the controllers of the AFPs was that this type of measure would cause serious damage to the economy and would be one of the causes of deepening the socio-political crisis in which the country has found itself since 18 October 2019. However, when the current administration took office, it opposed promoting a new withdrawal of AFP funds, using the current deputy Karol Cariola as a spearhead on behalf of the ruling party to prevent withdrawals. Evidently, this political decision to put economic interests above the interests of the people caused a divorce between the government and its citizens, committing, in our opinion, the worst mistakes of the approval campaign: on the one hand, denying the withdrawal of pension funds with arguments similar to those put forward by ex-President Piñera; and, on the other hand, putting the same deputy who was “burned” for denying the withdrawal of funds in the Chamber of Deputies and then torpedoing the attempts of some parliamentarians to put the discussion on the relevance of the withdrawal of funds from the AFPs back on the table, as head of the campaign and spokesperson for the “I approve” option. Returning to the thematic thread of the previous case (Jackson-Vallejo), the cocktail affecting the popularity of the youngest president in Chile’s history combines the persistent problems in the south due to the Mapuche conflict, galloping inflation -which in the last twelve months has reached 14.1%, the highest level since 1992- linked in part to world food and fuel prices, and several missteps by his ministers. How Gabriel Boric fares is key not only for Chile but for left-wing governments in Latin America and their ability to win over voters angry about high fuel and food prices, the cooling economy and the residual impact of the coronavirus pandemic. During his campaign,
Boric pledged to end the free market-oriented economic model, though he moderated his rhetoric by appointing former Central Bank president Mario Marcel as finance minister, a signal that calmed investors. The conflict with the Mapuche in southern Chile, where arson attacks on property, machinery and vehicles are frequently recorded, also tested the more conciliatory stance of Gabriel Boric, whose sector harshly criticised the government of Sebastián Piñera for resorting to the military to deal with the conflict. And although in the campaign he assured that his government would not resort to a state of emergency, in the end it did. Indigenous groups are claiming possession of lands they consider to be theirs by ancestral rights and which are now in the hands of forestry companies.
To solve the crisis that has been going on for years, Boric’s government naively bets on dialogue, in circumstances where both the radicalised Mapuche groups and the paramilitaries hired by the forestry companies are betting all or nothing on an armed conflict. Since Boric took office on 11 March, the image that has suffered most is that of former interior minister Izkia Siches.
A security lapse exposed her on a visit to the south, to the area of conflict between the Mapuche people and the state. She was also affected by an erroneous accusation about migration management during an appearance in Congress.
Despite this, Boric backed Siches, who had to offer a public apology after these and other internal communication failures in the cabinet. In conclusion, we can point out as latent causes of the defeat of the “I approve” option a divorce with the feelings of the citizens, unforced errors of the new government, refusal to accede to the legitimate requests of the people, a growing functional illiteracy and book phobia, which shows the urgent need to amend the course to build a country respectful of its citizens, which preoccupies itself with solving the problems of the people, rather than the problems of politics… But under no circumstances can this defeat be attributed either to the popularity (statistically at rock bottom) or to the intellectual density of the right wing. It is enough to remember that we (the people) are, as Eduardo Matte Pérez said, an impressionable and sellable mass that does not weigh either as opinion or prestige.