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Latam Brief: Chileans reject Constitution 2.0 (video)

Watch video: Chile voters reject conservative constitution in second referendum (france24)

Latin America Daily Briefing

Chilean voters rejected a draft constitution in a plesbicite yesterday. It is the second time in just over a year that voters have rejected a proposal to replace the current, dictatorship-drafted magna carta. Nearly 56% of voters rejected the proposal drafted by a conservative-led Constitutional Council, and 44% supported it. About 12.86 million people participated in the vote, which was mandatory. (Servicio Electoral de Chile, see Friday’s post.)

“The country got polarized, divided,” President Gabriel Boric said during a televised address yesterday, adding that the result shows the process “didn’t channel the hopes of having a new constitution written by everyone. (Associated Press, Reuters)

The results show a nation divided “over a set of rules and principles to govern it even after four years of debate,” reports the New York Times. “This could have been a possibility for people to believe again in politics, in politicians — and that has not happened,” Michelle Bachelet, a leftist former president of Chile, said in an interview ahead of the vote. “Nobody will try to do a third version of this process.”

“The results of both processes ended up being more radical than Chile was willing to accept,” said Claudia Heiss, the head of the University of Chile’s political science faculty, after the result was confirmed. “The political class needs to find a more humble and inclusive way forward which includes everybody.”

The rejected proposal was more conservative than the one it seeks to replace, which is why leftists, including many members of the Boric administration’s ruling coalition, had called for voters to reject it. “Leading figures in the campaign to reject the document said that it read more like a Republican Party manifesto than a long-term project,” reports the Guardian.

The vote comes on the heels of the resounding defeat of a progressive proposal in 2022. The Boric administration has said it will not pursue another attempt to rewrite the constitution — a key demand of social protests in 2019 known as the Estallido. Instead, Boric said the government will move forward with pension and tax reform through the legislature.

Voters appear to be exhausted of the issue after three years of processes and elections. “The result was predicted by polls released 15 days ago, before the ban on new voter intention surveys. But it was an open race, in part because voting in Chile is mandatory, meaning there are new voters who could sway the outcome. Polls had also indicated that support for the proposed constitution was rising,” reports El País.

More analysis will emerge in coming days, but this morning La Tercera published a study that found higher income sectors supported rejection, while lower income groups supported the proposal.

More Constitution

  • The proposed Constitutino’s “connection to current trends in U.S. conservatism isn’t coincidental. One of its key architects comes out of an influential group of conservative Catholic legal thinkers at the University of Notre Dame,” reports the Washington Post.

Guatemala court protects Arévalo

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ordered Congress to guarantee “the effective inauguration of all elected officials in the 2023 electoral process,” last week, a measure aimed at protecting president-elect Bernardo Arévalo from an ongoing onslaught of legal challenges led by the country’s public ministry. (AFP) Arévalo is set to take office on Jan. 14.

“In reaching its decision, the court analyzed a request for protection filed by a group of lawyers led by constitutionalist lawyer Edgar Ortiz Romero, who demanded that the court guarantee democracy in Guatemala, where they see a possibility that “the popular will will be disobeyed” as expressed at the last elections,” reports El País.

More Guatemala

  • Guatemala violated Indigenous rights by permitting a huge nickel mine on tribal land almost two decades ago, according to a Friday ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — Associated Press.

  • Aloan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) may have been a key part of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht’s Guatemala bribery scheme, according to an OCCRP investigation.


  • “The I.M.F. and World Bank have aroused complaints from the left and right ever since they were created. But the latest critiques pose a more profound question: Does the economic framework devised eight decades ago fit the economy that exists today, when new geopolitical conflicts collide with established economic relationships and climate change poses an imminent threat?” asks the New York Times.

  • Economic experts, including former Argentine economy minister Martín Guzmán and Joseph Stiglitz have called for an international legal arbiter to adjudicate disputes related to sovereign debt. (New York Times)


  • “Migration has reached record levels in the Americas,” writes Jordi Amaral in the Americas Migration Brief. “The Americas are at a crossroads, and the countries of the hemisphere have adopted increasingly multifaceted responses.” He identifies relevant trends for next year: Growing maritime migration, Haiti’s crisis, climate change, integration investment and elections.

  • “Rivalries between organized crime groups in long-violent states and an expansion of these battlegrounds to previously calm parts of the country is fueling what migration experts are calling the largest exodus of Mexican families in modern history,” reports Reuters. (Via Americas Migration Brief.)


  • “Brazil’s lower house approved on Friday a major consumption tax overhaul, seen as capable of boosting the country’s potential growth, although its effective implementation hinges on subsequent bills and an extended transition period,” reports Reuters.

  • “Indigenous protesters on Friday tried to prevent a public hearing on the construction of a railway that is planned to run through their lands to carry grains to a northern port in the Amazon,” reports Reuters.


  • The Milei administration’s newly announced protest protocol aims to limit demonstrations known as piquetes, that block roads for long periods of time, in the midst of devaluation and significant austerity measures. But Argentine human rights groups have expressed concern that the measures will essentially criminalize legitimate protests, reports the Guardian. (See Friday’s briefs.)

  • At least 16 people were killed in an electrical storm that struck Argentina and Uruguay over the weekend. (Reuters, New York Times)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

December 18, 2023

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