Chile: Boric faces Mapuche challenge

Gabriel Boric, a young leftist lawmaker and former student protest leader from Punta Arenas, is celebrating his victory over far-right rival José Antonio Kast in Chile's Dec. 19 presidential run-off election. His declaration "La esperanza le ganó al miedo" (Hope triumphed over fear) has gone viral over social media in the South American country. He was the candidate of Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity), a new coalition that came together to press for progressive reforms under Chile's new constitution. The constitutional redrafting process was set in motion by incumbent President Sebastian Piñera in response to a wave of popular protest two years ago.  (TeleSur, NYT, The Wire, Al Jazeera)

But Boric, who is to take office in March, will face an immediate challenge from the mounting armed resistance movement of the Mapuche indigenous people in Chile's south. Following his electoral victory, the group Lavkenche Mapuche Resistance (RML) issued a statement claiming responsibility for 35 arson attacks on trucks and equipment of timber and mining operations on traditional indigenous lands in Arauco province, Biobío region. The statement said, in Spanish studded with Mapuche words: "El weichan no parará. Ni con Piñera ni con Boric." (The struggle will not cease. Neither with Piñera nor with Boric.) (MercoPress, Pauta)

A state of emergency in four provinces of Biobío and La Araucania regions has been extended by Piñera's government every two weeks since it was first imposed in October. On Dec. 24, a court in Cañete, Arauco province, sentenced eight Mapuche men to 20 years in prison in the December 2019 killing of a local farmer in a land dispute. The anticipated sentence prompted the Dec. 22 communique from RML, pledging to "punish the racist oppressor state." That same day, a contracted bush plane in the service of the regional timber and mining company Forestal Mininco was shot at while flying over Lago Lanalhue, Arauco, damaging one wing. (Al Jazeera,  El Dinamo, Televisión Universidad de Concepción, El Desconcierto)

Hope for de-escalation may lie in the constitutional reform process, which is to be led by a Mapuche linguist and academic, Elisa Loncón. She was voted as president of the Constitutional Convention in July by delegates who had themselves been chosen in a popular election in May that saw a sweep for progressive forces.

The 155-member Convention must approve a new charter by a two-thirds majority, before it is put before the voters next year. It is to be Chile's first new constitution since the long right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The current Pinochet-era constitution is one of the few in Latin America with no provision for the autonomy of indigenous peoples. (The Conversation, MeroPress, BBC News)

Chile finalizes draft of new constitution

Chile's Constitutional Convention on May 16 finalized the draft of a new constitution, following 10 months of negotiations. The draft has been heralded for its progressive nature, with it requiring free higher education, gender equality in government leadership, and a robust climate change plan. It also includes reparations for indigenous groups whose land has been taken. The Indigenous Constitutional Platform shared its support for the proposed constitution and has been involved throughout the negotiations. The constitution will be put to a referendum on Sept. 4 this year. (Jurist)

Chileans reject new constitution

Chileans resoundingly rejected a new progressive constitution to replace the charter imposed under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet 41 years ago, dealing a setback to President Gabriel Boric. With 99% of the votes counted in the Sept. 4 plebiscite, the rejection camp had 61.9% support compared to 38.1% for approval amid heavy turnout with long lines at polling states. Voting was mandatory. (AP)

Chile: far-right party largest on new constitutional council

The far-right Republican Party has finished first in an election to choose the members of the body tasked with drawing up Chile's new constitution. The Republicans won 22 out of the 51 seats, with other right-wing parties winning a further 11 seats. The Constitutional Council is to draw up a new charter to replace the one instated during the military rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. (BBC News, El Pais)

Chileans reject new constitution —again

For the second time in less than two years, voters in Chile said "no" to a proposal to rewrite its current constitution. The new document, largely written by right-wing councilors, was actually more conservative than the current Pinochet-era charter it had sought to replace. It would have enshrined free-market principles, and overturned te country's limited abortion rights. Now there seems to be little energy or willingness to try for a third effort at a new charter. (The Guardian, PRI)

Chile commanders indicted in 2019 repression

Amnesty International welcomed Jan. 4 the indictment of three senior commanders of Carabineros de Chile for their purported involvement in the disproportionate and unlawful repressive response to mass protests in late 2019. (Jurist)