Chileans have overwhelmingly voted to tear up their constitution in favor of a new citizens’ charter that guarantees equal rights to healthcare, education, and pensions.
With almost all the ballots counted, 78% had voted “yes” in the referendum. The vote brings an end to a year-long protest by various citizens groups.
The current constitution dates back to military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s era, and some groups of people have always argued that it is rigged to favor the wealthy.
Chile is not a poor country. The number of Chileans living below the poverty line has decreased by more than 20% in the past 20 years. As a result, Chile is today the richest country in South America. But it is the most unequal country in the region, with millions of people still being unable to pay the basic healthcare and education costs.
In Chile, unlike many other countries in Latin America, the private sector is in control of health, education, housing, and pensions. The new constitution is most likely to bring these important sectors under the purview of the government.
As the results of the vote started to trickle in, people began to celebrate, with someone beaming the word REBIRTH on a building in downtown Santiago.
“The referendum is not an end of the road, it is only the beginning of a new era,” stated the country’s President Sebastian Piñera, whose popularity rating has hit new lows as the country debated inequality.
Chileans will have to return to the polls in April 2021 to elect a 150-members team to draft the new constitution.