A New Dawn for Chile: EPES and the Constituent Assembly

A New Dawn for Chile: EPES and the Constituent Assembly

Chile joined the group of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, seeking to change its Constitution in the last twenty years.  The updating of Chile’s Constitution came out of an intense social mobilization process in the face of abuse and inequality.  It is important to remember that on October 18, 2020, Santiago and the rest of Chile were shaken by massive social protests.  Vast sectors of the middle and popular classes have expressed their rejection of the current neoliberal model.  The demonstrations resulted in large marches, massive “caceroleos” (banging of pots and pans), and destruction, looting, and fires in subway stations, supermarkets, and public places.  The media reported extensively on the social mobilization throughout 2019.

Since 1973, it is crucial to consider that Chile became a neoliberal “laboratory” model after the September 11 Coup d’Etat.  The Cold War framework was essential for the dictatorship and its allies to demonstrate that the market economy could generate “socio-economic development” and not just “underdevelopment.” For these purposes, the Chilean dictatorship adopted the 1980 Constitution, ruled as illegitimate by many social sectors.  The leading critics of the actual Charter signal the impossibility to counteract the normative consequences of those ideological elements imposed by the original liberal-authoritarian design.  Citizens could not move forward in their claims of justice because of specific constitutional constraints.  Besides, the political discussion was always limited to that framework, affecting Chilean democracy and the self-determination of its people.

Popular Education in Health (EPES, acronym in Spanish), one of Global Ministries’ partners in Chile, has been active, developing materials with information for citizens to participate and take ownership of the constituent process. Sonia Covarrubias, EPES’ Executive Secretary, reported on the campaign they are working with the citizens of Chile:

“In sectors where EPES works, persons were informed about the constituent process, the critical dates, scopes, and limitations.  In September 2020, informational materials were provided on the constitutional process in which the country is living, specifically on the national plebiscite of October 25, 2020, informing on the vote that each person had to mark, what was the mixed convention and constitutional convention, and on the critical dates of the process after the plebiscite. The materials were geared toward women citizens who are members of the organizations that work with EPES.  Due to the context of the pandemic and quarantines, all the materials produced were designed for sharing through social networks, especially WhatsApp.

Four conversations were held on the constituent process.  They were broadcasted on the EPES’ Facebook Live and YouTube sites, addressing different topics that should be included in the new Constitution and had the participation of experts, activists, and social leaders.

Regarding the challenges faced by the orientation process, Sonia expressed the difficulty of ‘carrying out activities in the context of the pandemic and with quarantined communities.’ We worked through electronic communications technology with the collaborating organizations of EPES, training on how to use a cell phone and how to connect to Zoom and Jitsi Meet platforms.  We had to readapt the programmed activities, and face-to-face ones were suspended. This form of work made it possible to sustain contact with women constantly throughout the period.”

Regarding plans, EPES wants to continue supporting the vast dissemination of the constituent process in Chile among women of popular organizations.  They seek to promote the informed participation of communities, the most excluded sectors, especially women, during the discussion of the new Constitution.  They hope that constituents can express their demands out of the expectations from communities.

Learn more about the work of the EPES here.