On October 25th, a referendum will be held in Chile for the possibility of a change in the constitution that was written during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1980. Although it has been 30 years since the Chilean government switched from a dictatorship to a democracy, many of Pinochet’s policies have been preserved through the constitution. It has been the cause of many social inequities and the deprivation of basic rights, such as education, health and even water (Chile is one of two countries in the world where water is privatized and it has the highest tariffs in Latin America).
Last year, a protest sparked in Chile after the subway fare increased – a small amount in US dollars but a significant amount to Chileans, who earn an average of $490 USD a month. The protest, which started as a strike against the subway fare price, quickly evolved into larger revolts against the deprivation of basic rights in Chile since the end of the dictatorship left private interests with entrenched power.
The possibility of changing the constitution would give Chileans the chance to create structural changes to address problems that came with the privatization measures under Pinochet’s constitution. Many people are keen on voting on October 25th in hopes of finally having a constitution that can provide social safeguards for all citizens and address problems such as uneven wealth distribution, better pensions and public health, to name a few.