By Steve Sweeney
Chile’s indigenous population is celebrating a historic victory after the election of a Mapuche woman as president of the country’s Constitutional Convention at its first session on Sunday.
Elisa Loncon won 96 votes in the second round of voting among the 155-member assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution for the South American country.“Indigenous women are a fundamental part of the refoundation of the country. We were always the last in history. Today, we are reborn together. Thanks to the women of all peoples,” she said.
It marks a historic moment for the country: the Mapuche people, some 10 per cent of the Chilean population, have long been marginalised by successive governments —Chile’s Pinochet-era constitution is the only one in Latin America not acknowledging its indigenous people.
The drafting of a new constitution brings with it new hope of establishing rights for the Mapuche — and the return of vast swathes of land stolen and handed to rich business families between 1973 and 1990.
The convention’s composition seen as a major victory for the progressive movement following the uprising which began in October 2019. Communists and leftists won a majority of its seats in May, with conservatives taking just 37 seats in a major blow for right-wing President Sebastian Pinera.
But Sunday’s first session was delayed as demonstrators clashed outside the national congress building in Santiago and were attacked by the carabineros (military police), apparently mobilised by Mr Pinera.
The left is seeking to enshrine labour and women’s rights in the new document and boost public spending on health and education but there are fears that the government will attempt to block progress, seeking to protect the neoliberal politics embedded in the current constitution.
The body has also been urged to seek the release of all political prisoners detained during the unrest between October 2019 and May 2020 — according to the Institute of Human Rights in Chile 11,300 were arrested and 2,500 jailed during that period.
The convention has 12 months to draft a new constitution, which will then be presented to the public in a referendum.
Presidential elections are planned for November with Communist Party of Chile candidate Daniel Jadue emerging as frontrunner.
He welcomed the election of Ms Loncon, saying it was “without a doubt the beginning of profound transformations” for the people of Chile. (IPA Service)
Courtesy: Morning Star