The deputy and president of Acción Humanista declared that “nothing prevents the holding of town meetings, assemblies, debates, mechanisms to gather proposals and opinions” from the social world and the citizenry for the drafting of a new Constitution. He also argued that the discussion in Congress could “evaluate whether there are elements that can be incorporated” to improve what was resolved in the negotiations between political parties. On how to stand before the election of constitutional councillors, the parliamentarian indicated that “a single list is fundamental, we have to work and make an effort to maintain unity”.
Hugo Guzmán. Journalist. “El Siglo. The week in which the agreement between parties for the development of the “constituent process” was signed is coming to an end. In general, at this point, what is the general view of this document, considering the open controversies?
It is an agreement that we reached after a major defeat in the plebiscite, it is a context that we cannot avoid, that we cannot stop looking at, and therefore I would say that it is an agreement in which we achieved what we could, we achieved what we could. It is not something that leaves us happy, totally satisfied, nobody came out celebrating, at least in our world, in our sector. But at the same time, we are fully aware that it is essential to put an end once and for all to the dictatorship’s constitution. We must not forget that we are the only country in the world that 32 years after the end of the dictatorship, we still have the Constitution of the dictatorship, there is no other case. We have to make the effort to move on to a new stage and we know that the result of this constitutional proposal will not be like the first one, where there was talk of important, profound transformations, of major changes in environmental matters, of women’s rights, of diversity, of the rights of native peoples, of the elderly, in the regions, for children. We are probably going to find ourselves with a much more lukewarm proposal, we have arrived at a proposal in which although there will be 50 elected councillors, there are 24 appointed by Congress, which is not what we would have liked. We are faced with a scenario that is not what we wanted, it is not ideal, but we are going to push for the best possible proposal for a new Constitution.
Is the criticism that the end result could be a proposal for a Constitution 2.0 of the 1980 Constitution, very conservative, and that in the end this process will not respond to what is expected as a constitutional change, exaggerated?
No, I don’t think it will be a Constitution 1980 2.0, nor that there will be no changes. Times change, history has its dynamics, more than 40 years have passed, there is a generational change, a change in the world, in international relations, in our country there is a political change, and all this means that in any case we are going to have a much better and different Constitution, the social and democratic State of rights will be established and it will be a step forward.
I insist, I don’t think that what I have dreamed of as a humanist all my life in terms of social rights, de-concentration of power, and so many other issues will come out, and from that point of view we humanists, at least, say that there is still a task, a challenge, and we are going to have to continue, probably for a long time, with a struggle to build a better country.
What is the position of Acción Humanista with regard to the discussion that is coming up in Congress on this agreement, already as a project? Do you think it is unacceptable to make changes to it or do you think it is a space for improving the agreement?
The structure of the agreement is there. But Congress is not a simple mailbox, and from that point of view, it is clear that when a bill reaches a committee and the chamber, one has to study it, discuss it and evaluate whether there are elements that can be incorporated to improve it. That is undeniable and it is not going against the agreement, in no way, always the contribution that we make in Congress, as long as it helps to improve, is welcome. So, I would not see it as a dialectic between not touching it or changing the whole thing, no, it can be studied and eventually make improvements.
Where could those improvements be?
In giving more powers to the elected body (Constitutional Council), the Committee of Experts seems to me to have excessive powers, there is a great deal of vigilance, a fear that it may end up doing something that someone doesn’t like. There are these twelve bases, the arbitrators, the experts, I think that all of this is debatable. I would like to see the possibility of there being more representation of the original peoples, the parity of entry and exit was good, that is an important point that has already been achieved. We will have to study the project to see how it comes about.
There is an enormous challenge regarding the election of the 50 constitutional councillors, since the Senate election system will be used, and there are only a few in each region. Should the ruling party or the progressive, left-wing sectors go on a single list for this election?
The electoral process ahead of us is very complex, we know that the Senate system favours the conservative forces, the right, and in a way takes away some of the representativeness of the process. I would have hoped for an electoral system more similar to that of the deputies, seeking the greatest possible proportionality, which we know is distorted in the case of the Senate. For the same reason, today more than ever, it seems to me that a single list is fundamental, we have to work and make the effort to maintain unity. It would be a very inadequate signal if we were fragmented and divided, but at the same time we need men and women on this single list who are truly committed to contributing to profound changes in our country, it is the opportunity we have to generate a Constitution that really allows a majority to live in better conditions, to put it in broad terms. That depends very much, of course, on who we manage to elect.
It will be difficult if a party criterion is applied, if everyone wants to put forward their candidates.
Well, we will have to think more in terms of the whole than in terms of the individual, I know it may sound naïve, but that’s the important thing. All the parties of Apruebo Dignidad and Democratic Socialism would like to have some representation, and I think we can have it to the extent that we have a good, frank, open conversation, presenting the best names, and I hope that there is no party that seeks hegemonic control of the list, that would do great damage to what we are trying to build.
Should there be names on that list from the Christian Democrats, the Democratic or Yellow groups?
The Yellows have nothing to do here, they have been completely aligned with the right, with the Rechazo, with the opposition, that is obvious, as someone said, they are not really yellow, but are in the right-wing sector. Regarding the Democrats, their position is not very clear. It seems to me that there was joint work with the Christian Democrats, and we could very well converge on a common list.
But the president of the Christian Democrats, Alberto Undurraga, said he wants two lists, he wants nothing to do with “the refoundational left”, he was open to Democratic Socialism but closed to Apruebo Dignidad.
He will have to make his decisions. We as a government alliance are going to build a list, the DC is not part of the government alliance, so in the end they will have to make their own decisions. But we are not going to be divided, if Undurraga is looking for a division within the alliance with his statements, he is taking a profoundly wrong path.
For the Committee of Experts, specifically for Apruebo Dignidad, will it be difficult to find candidates, are there names, are there profiles?
I don’t want to name names now, I think there are women and men in our world who are perfectly qualified to contribute. I have no doubt that we have to be present in the Committee of Experts and have as broad a representation as possible. I know that it will be a complex, hard, difficult task, but it will be very important, we must not leave the experts’ space to the right or to the most conservative sectors of society.
There was criticism of the agreement from social movements, from the feminist movement, but it is something in development. How do you see the channelling of opinions and proposals from the social world, from the citizenry? The agreement says that universities should play a role, but this is not entirely clear.
We have to go much further than what the agreement says, the agreement is the legal, formal, institutional part, but it does not prevent us from having very active and relevant citizen participation. Nothing prevents us from holding town meetings, assemblies, debates, mechanisms to gather proposals and opinions, that is fundamental.
I have always argued that when it comes to drafting a Constitution, there may be a small number of people who are responsible for presenting the proposal, but it is a joint, citizen-based process. That means a very active community, mobilised, present, making its proposal, its voice, its opinion known. It seems to me that this will be fundamental, it is not a formal part of the agreement, but for me it is one of the fundamental elements to be able to generate a good Constitution.
How do you see the role that the government should play?
The government should be basically independent in terms of the work of the Council but it has to facilitate all the elements so that the process can be carried forward well, so that it can be an informed process. As much as the right wing may not like it, I think the role of the government to inform properly, as it did in the first process, is fundamental.
I also think it is very important that the government continues to address the strong social needs that the vast majority of the country is raising today. We need a government that is very active in responding to the needs of workers, students and families who are still in debt, agricultural workers, fishermen, forestry workers and the indigenous world. Of course, the issue of crime, drug trafficking, security, which is of concern to the public, everything related to the rising cost of living. The best contribution the government can make is to work hard to respond to the social needs of Chilean families.