Replacing the Pinochet-era Constitution

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryTens of thousands of Chileans have been protesting for the replacement of the Chilean Constitution that had been created under then president/dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The constitution that Pinochet had put into place gave him, the police and the military carte blanche to rule the country and even to dissolve the duly-elected government if the military leaders deemed the government “a threat to national security.” Clearly, there are too many anti-democratic, authoritarian clauses and paragraphs built into this document. And worse, it provided former ruler Pinochet an out from any responsibility for crimes against humanity he had committed while he ruled the country. Hence, while he lived Pinochet was immune from prosecution. The Chilean government tried to change this, but Pinochet died before any real action could be taken against him.

The real problem with the Pinochet-era constitution is that it could allow another strongman to come to power and commit the same kind of crimes Pinochet had done. Clearly, many people in Chile want an end to this constitution and for the government to adopt a far, far more democratic document to protect ordinary Chilean citizens from arbitrary arrest, police brutality, the military getting involved in politics again, and for a guarantee of a fully independent judiciary. The people of Chile will have a chance to vote whether they want to keep the Pinochet-era constitution or reject it on October 25th. So far, those polled said a majority would vote against the constitution. If the vote goes against the Pinochet-era constitution, then it will be possible for the government and the people of Chile to create a new constitution, and hopefully one that reflects the democratic values and constitutional safeguards most Chileans will want in their new legal document.

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