Chile’s Congress agrees to reform constitution after weeks of protests


The new constitution will seek a “peaceful and democratic exit to the crisis,” Chilean Senate President Jaime Quintana announced at a news conference in Santiago early Friday morning.

Quintana said the new code would “build a true social contract” and be “100% democratic” compared to the current constitution, which was approved in 1980 during the rule of military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“This has become possible thanks to the citizens who have been mobilized,” he added.

Large-scale demonstrations continued across Santiago on Thursday — this time to mark one year since a young indigenous man was shot dead by police.

Camilo Catrillanca, a 24-year-old activist, was killed by a gunshot to the head during a police operation in the central Araucania region last year. Police deny he was murdered, saying he was shot accidentally while they were aiming at masked robbers.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera had already promised social and economic reforms to tackle issues at the heart of the recent unrest, including pension raises, affordable medical insurance, lowering the price of medicine and stabilizing electricity prices.

Last month he announced a cancellation of energy price hikes that would have affected “almost 7 million Chilean households,” but many demonstrators continued to turn out in their hundreds of thousands, seeing the reforms as too little too late. Many have demanded Pinera’s resignation.

A demonstrator throws a fire extinguisher at riot police during a protest in Santiago to commemorate the first anniversary of the murder of Camilo Catrillanca, on  November 14, 2019.

The protests initially began over a now-suspended price hike for subway tickets in Santiago but have since expanded, revealing anger among ordinary Chileans who feel they have been excluded from the nation’s economic rise.

Almost a third of Chilean workers are employed in informal or non-permanent jobs, and one in two people in the nation of 18 million has low literacy skills, according to the OECD.
Many are frustrated over economic inequalities, living costs, rising debt and corruption in a country that remains among the most prosperous and stable in Latin America. Tensions were heightened further by accusations of police brutality and draconian tactics, with the United Nations sounding the alarm about potential human rights abuses.

Both an upcoming APEC economic forum and COP25 environmental summit due to take place in Chile were canceled as a result of the unrest.

CNN’s Helen Regan, Leona Siaw and Gremaud Angee contributed reporting.


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