Massive General Strike in Chile Demands a Constituent Assembly

A wide range of sectors joined the strike as port, agro-industrial, commercial, banking, health, and public services workers, as well as teachers and students.

About 129 organizations adhered to the general strike Tuesday, as hundreds of thousands of Chileans across the country took to the streets in the biggest demonstration since the beginning of the anti-neoliberalism protests.

“The General Strike stands for the unity of both public and private workers who are seeking structural transformations and a constituent assembly,” Chile’s National Association of Fiscal Employees (ANEF) said and added that what prevails is a broad effort for “the conquest of social rights.”

A wide range of sectors joined the strike as port, agro-industrial, commercial, banking, health, and public services workers, as well as teachers and students,  unified their petition of structural changes through a Constituent Assembly.

“The whole country will be paralyzed. This, in the context of demanding a Constituent Assembly, as a new Chile is being claimed in the streets,” President of the Union of Teachers Mario Aguilar told El Desconcierto.

Although the Chilean government has agreed to replace the 1980 Constitution, which dates back to the Pinochet dictatorship, it will be President Sebastian Piñera, cabinet members and political allies who will lead the process of re-writing the document, according to Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel.

Chile’s Communist Party said in a statement the Piñera administration had still not gone far enough, demanding a referendum even before the process begins so the “people can determine the mechanism for drafting the new Constitution.”

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“What the people demand is a New Constitution elaborated in a broadly democratic and participatory process. That path is the constituent assembly. Citizens will not validate a constitution emanating from Congress even if, in a deceptive way, it is assigned the name of ‘constituent’,” the statement reads.

Since protests began on Oct. 14 due to the rise in the price of the Santiago Metro ticket – a measure later annulled by Piñera – the National Institute of Human Rights has received reports of torture, abuses of power, beatings, and detentions of civilians by military personnel.

So far, the Government’s official list of deceased is 23 dead, five of them at the hands of members of the Armed Forces and Carabineros. While more than 2,000 people have been injured in recent weeks according to the President of the Chilean Red Cross Patricio Acosta.

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Chile: Opposition Unites Calling For New Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly is the most democratic mechanism to guarantee broad citizen participation and full legitimacy to the process.

Chilean opposition political parties generated a unitary agreement on Tuesday and called on Sebastián Piñera’s government to hold a Constituent Assembly and a plebiscite for a new Constitution.

Through a communiqué, the political alignments called on the government to reject its own proposal for a Constituent Congress and listen to the “mobilized citizenry.

“The need for a New Constitution, born out of the claims of citizenship, must allow the establishment of a new political, economic and social model.

The text also affirms that, through institutionality, an agenda that combats abuses and inequalities must be urgently implemented to alleviate the situation faced by thousands of families.

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“It is a fact that the only possibility of opening a way out of the crisis begins with a New Constitution. The citizens mobilized throughout the national territory have established, through the facts, a “constituent process” throughout the country.

The text also states that the political forces have the duty to make viable a binding Plebiscite for the establishment of a New Magna Carta that governs the destiny of the country.

The opposition points out that the current Constituent Congress proposal “moves away from the popular demand for participation and deliberation in the important task we face.

For public opinion, experts and civil society organizations alike, the Constituent Assembly is the most democratic mechanism to guarantee broad citizen participation that gives full legitimacy to the process.

Finally, the parties point out that “the Government must understand that the citizens mobilized in the streets throughout the country demand and must participate in this historic process.

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