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What does Chile 'peace treaty' really mean?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

by Samuel Flewett in Concón

A demonstrator throwing a fire extinguisher at riot police during an antigovernment protest on Thursday in Santiago, Chile.Credit...Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the "peace treaty" signed in the early hours of Friday morning. The 12 point document refers only to a call for a referendum to change the constitution via either a mechanism consisting of 50/50 current MP's/citizens or 100% citizens' delegates.

The form with which these delegates are to be elected is not yet fixed in stone, however is likely to be the same as that used for the election of congress, a semi-proportional system which gives a moderate advantage to the two largest groups of political parties.

The constituent "convention" will draft the new constitution from scratch, and anything which does not reach a 2/3 majority will remain outside the constitution to be dealt with by the normal legislative process. In any case, the only way which the Pinochet constitution can remain on the books is if the proposal to change the constitution is rejected in the referendum.

Crucially, the peace treaty does not make any mention of the economic demands or the human rights prosecutions being filed against various public officials up to and including the President. The treaty was not signed on the condition of impunity for anyone, and it is likely that impeachment papers will be filed against the president tomorrow, Tuesday.

The economic demands remain largely unfulfilled, and it is crucial that the movement remains on the streets in order to advance in this area. The construction of an effective political leadership in this area is also important, and in my opinion in the absence of such leadership it is likely that the movement is close to reaching its potential - at least in the short term.

A coalition of left parties (of which I am personally a member) has been accused of negotiating with the right on Thurs night behind closed doors in a "cocina/kitchen" behind the backs of the demonstrators.

I personally reject this accusation for the following reasons:

1. The negotiations were under duress. At the time there was a real threat of renewed military intervention and a resulting bloodbath. Last night these suspicions were officially confirmed by the president.

2. Chile is not a fully developed country, which means that the small business class "petit bourgeoisie" is numerically more important than in a fully modern economy. To date this group has remained largely onside, however with the economic damage of a month of demonstrations, this could quickly change providing fuel for nascent fascist movements.

3. The final version what was signed is in fact quite favourable to the movement, and the negotiators held out for another 5 hours at the last minute after the right wanted to keep clauses from the old Pinochet constitution in the case where the 2/3 majority is not reached. 4. It has been stressed that no-one on the left signed on the condition of impunity for those accused of human rights abuses.

So where to from here? The past month has made clear the fact that a few days of demonstrations and especially general strikes are more effective than years of normal political process. Our leadership must therefore requilibrate efforts in order to strengthen a long term movement on the streets and in the workplaces.

We must also prepare a propaganda campaign to counter what will surely be a barrage of "fake news" of historic proportions designed to limit any constitutional change.

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