On December 17, the new draft Chilean Constitution, prepared in recent months by a Constitutional Council dominated by the extreme right, won an overwhelming victory in the May 7 [2023] [Constitutional Council] elections, will be put to a referendum.

The previous draft Constitution, very advanced in many aspects, was rejected in the September 2022 referendum.

We talked about the political and social situation and the perspectives of progressive forces with Tomás Hirsch, [Member of the Chamber of ] deputies [ of Chile] and president of Acción Humanista.

What happened after the May vote? Despite the defeat, has there been progress in the application of the transformation program that brought Gabriel Boric to the Government?

In the May vote, when the members of the Constitutional Council were elected, there was an enormous victory for the extreme right and a defeat for the progressive forces and therefore those who led the drafting of the constitutional proposal were precisely the representatives of this extreme right.  This is why the proposal that we have to put to a plebiscite today represents only the view of that sector, which, having an overwhelming majority in the Constitutional Council, did not compromise on anything, did not seek agreements, did not build consensus with the rest of the political forces, but that simply applied its majority to impose its wording of the articles and chapters of the constitutional proposal.

Beyond the result of the May vote, the government has continued with its work and the implementation of its program with all the difficulties that being a minority in Congress means, both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. However the government has maintained its priorities in terms of responding to the demands and needs of citizens.

At the same time, the government has been separated from the constitutional process, as established by law. The right-wing has constantly tried to turn the plebiscite to be held on December 17 into a vote for or against the government, which is a sort of plebiscite on the government. However, the government has not fallen into that trap and has remained totally outside the constitutional process. It is the political parties, the social organizations, the women’s, youth, workers and indigenous peoples’ organizations that are actively working in this basic citizen campaign, while the government continues with its task.

Humanist Action is participating in the campaign to vote against the new draft Constitution. What do you think are the most dangerous aspects of the proposal that Chileans will have to vote on December 17 [2023]?

Humanist Action is participating very actively in the campaign for EN CONTRA (Against), that is, we are committed to the dissemination of what this constitutional proposal means if it becomes the Constitution of Chile. It is a tremendously regressive proposal, which means a true civilizational setback, preventing progress in the demands, needs, and challenges imposed by the 21st century.

There are many dangerous, negative, and regressive aspects of the proposal that the right has developed. Firstly, it means a gigantic setback in women’s rights, and the law that today allows abortion for three reasons could be annulled. There are setbacks in terms of health since the private health system that exists in Chile is installed at a constitutional level. There is an enormous setback for workers and pensioners since it restricts the right to strike and on the other hand, constitutionalizes the private pension system, preventing future progress towards more supportive, more equitable systems that generate better pensions.

The proposal has an article that allows the release of genocide prisoners, human rights violators of the dictatorship, who after very long trials were sentenced to serve sentences for crimes against humanity committed during the years of the civil-military dictatorship.

The proposal harms all the poorest communes in the country since it allows the richest sectors of Chile to be exempt from contribution taxes, which is the tax paid for the properties that a person owns. Of course those who pay these taxes are the richest, around 22% of families. 78% are exempt from this tax. What they propose is to eliminate this tax, which precisely benefits the 200 poorest communes in the country. Therefore, it means an enormous setback, it means leaving the poorest sectors of the country without the necessary resources for the enormous needs they have at the municipal level.

The proposal ignores the urgency of facing climate change, global warming and the serious problem that is affecting Chile in the present and the future in environmental matters.

The proposal does not grant the indigenous peoples and in particular the Mapuche people, the rights for which they have been fighting for decades. Today, a large majority of the country recognizes that it is necessary to move in the direction of granting constitutional recognition to indigenous peoples.

In short, the list of loss of rights and setbacks is very long and is the reason for which today a majority of Chileans, according to the latest polls, will vote against in the December 17 plebiscite.

What scenarios open up depending on the result of the referendum?

If the En Contra (Against) wins, as we all hope, we have said very clearly that this process ends here. The conditions are not there to begin a third process of drafting a constitutional proposal. We will have to wait for another time in the future when it will again be possible to raise an alternative proposal to the current Constitution, but that will be later.

We humanists have been fighting for 40 years to have a new and good Constitution, to be done with Pinochet’s Constitution. But we are not willing to change that bad Constitution for anything worse, for a proposal that would be a major setback. The proposal that we have to put to a plebiscite on December 17 is very bad and therefore if it is approved, it would consolidate a model that has been disastrous for the country, but now “validated” in democracy and deepened in its economic and value fundamentalism. That is, with significant setbacks in the few rights achieved in recent decades.