Social Revolt and Constitutional Plebiscite in Chile – Situational analysis by the Bio-bío Anarchist Assembly

The Bio-bío Anarchist Assembly has published a situational analysis entitled: Social Revolt and Constitutional Plebiscite in Chile – from October 2019 to October 2020.

[You can read the spanish version here]

[You can read the turkish version here]

[You can read the french version here]

Social Revolt and Constitutional Plebiscite in Chile  
from October 2019 to October 2020
Situational Analysis – Anarchist Assembly of the Biobío[1] (Chilean Region)
biobioanarquista.org – biobioanarquista@riseup.net

Uprising and political crisis

Since October 2019, when the uprising began along with the repression that followed it, the Chilean region is going through difficult times. Although the arrival of the coronavirus[2] partly changed the agenda, the window that the biggest revolt since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship opened is now defining the current political scene, starting with a process to rewrite the Constitution and the massive politicization that it generated in the people.

The uprising, which started over a great variety of social demands, was channeled into rewriting the current Constitution due to its neoliberal nature that privatized public services and commercialized social rights. This Constitution drafted in 1980 by the military dictatorship of Pinochet goes beyond the military. It is part of a historical project of the neoliberal sectors, that after the exit of the dictator, defended the Constitution and the model through the parties of the political right. This sector takes advantage of this very model, which allows it to maintain the status quo even when they are a minority in the parliament. What this model implies is that any bill attempting to modify any important aspect of the Constitution, requires a high quorum for approval. Therefore, even though the right wing has the minority, it has been able to apply a veto to reforms. It is worth mentioning the complicity of the governments of the center-left parties grouped in the “Concertación” [coalition of center-left parties founded in 1988 to seize power after Pinochet’s dictatorship] in keeping the Constitution and the model intact, since during their post-dictatorship presidential mandates[3] the central aspects of the system were not changed and they formed, together with the right, a duopoly that alternated in power.

In this scenario, the uprising pushes the right-wing Constitution to be paradoxically questioned in a plebiscite in a right-wing government that however, opens up to the option of approving a new Constitution to keep itself afloat and also bets everything to define the constitutional process.

The revolt shows the cracks and failure of Chilean neoliberalism, bringing back past wounds as the protests, which began by claiming commercialized human rights, ended up with serious human rights violations, with dozens of deaths, thousands of people injured and several cases of torture at the hands of the Chilean police and military. The widespread street violence was curiously validated by the citizens, amounting to strong confrontations with the police, attacks on state buildings, political party headquarters and banks, looting of supermarkets and department stores, but also attacks on symbols of capital such as churches and statues of Spanish conquerors, which makes clear how deep the social and political crisis is.

Although the uprising began in early October 2019 with protests over the increase in public transportation fares in Santiago and the massive metro fare evasion called by secondary school students, it soon evolved into massive protests against the repression suffered in the subway stations those days. On October 18th, the demonstrators overflowed the streets of the capital, not only because of the price of the metro fare, but also because of the high cost of living. The movement grew in size and it was extended to a raft of social demands, which shows the nonconformity in which Chileans have been living over decades. In a matter of days, a current economic problem like a fare hike would have unleashed the biggest political crisis since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

By October 19th, the revolt would have spread throughout the Chilean region and the discontent with the government grew after Piñera announced on TV that «we are at war with a violent enemy”. In the streets, the protests were not only over the cost of living and social inequalities, but also claimed for a new Constitution, since the current one is identified as the legal basis of neoliberalism.

The revolt is just the last straw for so many people who live with all the social issues and feel the injustices accumulated for decades on a daily basis. Neither the government nor the discredited powerful institutions were able to ease the unrest. Among the injustices at the hands of these institutions are: the Catholic Church, for the cases of sexual abuse of minors; the ruling class, for having configured itself as a privileged caste and the several cases of corruption due to irregular financing by companies in exchange for bills in their favor; the Judicial power for not pursuing corruption in politics and sanctioning tax crimes and price collusion by large companies with «ethics lessons», as well as impunity in cases of femicide and patriarchal violence. The above is added to great scandals of corruption and theft of public funds during the last few years at the hands of the Chilean police, Carabineros, and the Military, which increased the accumulated unrest due to profiting with social rights such as education, health and the dismal pensions, which are a result of the privatized model of pension imposed by the dictatorship.

Added to a lack of social rights is the high level of household indebtedness, something that slowly called into question the «success» of the Chilean model promoted by the elite. In this scenario of claims for social rights, the resignation of Piñera and a new Constitution, there was a key moment for the social movement with the announcement of the political class to open a process of constitutional change. Nevertheless, the absence of an immediate social agenda kept the unrest and reinforced the contrast between a bureaucratic system and the demand for quick changes as claimed by this digital and vertiginous time, where demonstrations are called for via the internet and injustices are spread out on social networks that are disputing the hegemony of the official press.

While the empowerment of the people increases, the crisis of representative democracy is sharpening, as can be seen in the massive demonstrations where no political party flags are seen, but black Chilean flags and Mapuche[4] flags. The uprising does not follow vanguards or political parties that could direct the street movement, something that sets the political agenda and becomes a space of power.

We feel happy with the awakening of our territories and for questioning the current patriarchal, neoliberal and extractive system. While the elite is frightened because they «did not see it coming» what they call «social unrest», for years people have been fighting and demonstrating in the streets, a process which is now at a crucial stage. These are moments of openness and politicization in the cradle of neoliberalism, where progress is made from questioning the commodification of social rights to criticizing the model as a whole.

The «social unrest» they did not see coming comes from a slow process of learning and from struggles that began even before the return to democracy and the end of the dictatorship, a struggle for which we the people, students, workers, children and youth rose up, and which, although ended with Pinochet’s dictatorship, was dismissed by the social pact created by the political parties that maintained and improved the model imposed by the dictatorship. However, during the struggles of the ‘90s, a new form of political relations and action began to spring up, which gradually questioned the vertical structures of traditional social organizations. Anti-authoritarian and anarchist collectives and groups germinated, which from different experiences of social fights interacted with people and groups that were getting closer to anarchist ideas after the fall of the Soviet Union and actual socialist governments and the theoretical gap which this process left.

Despite the lack of organization and errors of the recent past, as anarchists we have tried to be part of this slow articulation of the social movement in the Biobío region during the gray ‘90s, when the coal mining strikes in 1996 took place,  together with the revitalization of the student movement and the current territorial struggles. From these experiences is that we see the change, not only a generational change, but also in the manifestations per se, that have been strengthening from the student protest during the so-called «penguin revolution» in 2006 and the even more massified student manifestations in 2011, where the criticism of profit in the education system was installed at a social level, beginning to question the consequences of the commodification of social rights.

The protests in Chile have been evolving since 2006, passing through the massive student manifestations in 2011 to the latest demonstrations in 2019. This shows the transition that the protest has experienced, from requesting free public services and the end of profit with social rights, to the empowered evasion of the metro system and the destruction of symbols of capital. That is why the phrase «Chile awoke» is so relevant.

In a consumer society, it is important for the community to be against debt and the commodification of social rights, because in this way, it puts pressure on the market as the axis that articulates and integrates social relations. But the market cannot regulate society by restricting its own mechanisms such as debt or commodification. Therefore, by questioning the rules of the market, the social pact as a whole is put into debate and the disruptive revolt is unleashed.

Neoliberalism privatized the economy and the political scene became a technocracy reduced to the administration of positions without real power. For this reason, through the constitutional process, politics may take back that space of power seized by the market. In this scenario of decomposition of traditional politics, the people awoke, but still do not show enough capacity to take the lead and dispute with the political class that is now refreshed by the constitutional process. The uprising has politicized public opinion and the street, but with low participation and identification with the political parties, that is why the constituent process is a strategic move in the face of the political crisis and the legitimacy of the parties, which are recovering, defending themselves corporately, processing the discontent through institutional means and maintaining governability, which has been tested by the revolt.

Cultural revolt

The revolt is clearly a turning point at the moment. It begins a new era, not only politically, but also culturally, bringing new subjectivities and political awareness, which shows us the efficiency of the street manifestations and it also separates political actions from the traditional channels of representative democracy.

Nowadays the patriarchal system, in which we live, is strongly critized thanks to the feminist movement. The struggle of the environmental organizations is getting more visible and the social organizations are setting up under the premises of horizontalization. We are going through a process of social and individual empowerment that questions the traditional mechanisms of  representation and criticises traditional authorities both from the State and in social relationships. Socially this process was seen in the spontaneous neighborhood assemblies, which arose in light of the protest, an unprecedented phenomenon in times of individualism and competition due to the effects of the neoliberal culture. In these assemblies, people discussed their problems and social reality, beginning a fertile path for popular organization.

At a State level, people began to question the exacerbated presidential system and the role of the parliament, which is far from understanding the local reality. Consequently the mayors in every city started to play a very important role in the political scene in the country, as the citizenry sees these institutions closer to them. Which is why the mayors, both from the right and the leftwing, have been so visible lately, even approaching a possible presidential race. The now growing neighborhood assemblies together with the importance of the mayors in politics confirm the spirit of this era, which prefers the local, from each city, where a new community is built, a community that was devastated because of the influence of the State, centralism and neoliberal individualism.

This cultural process of transformation in the forms of political representation takes place within a digital and immediate society that debates in social media everyday, which unsettles the old structure of representative democracy and state bureaucracy.

Constitutional process

Due to the massive protests and riots in many different cities which outnumbered the police, Piñera imposed a state of emergency together with measures we hadn’t seen since Pinochet’s dictatorship, for example, curfew and soldiers in the streets to patrol and repress protests. The state of emergency lasted from October 19th until the 28th in 2019, which resulted in 20 deaths and over 1,200 people injured.

The size of the revolt made the political class and the State act quickly. On November 27th, 2019, the “Asociación Chilena de Municipalidades” [Association of Municipalities] announced a national poll, which was carried out on December 7th, 2019, to see whether people agreed with the idea of a new Constitution; in addition, the poll also concerned other social issues like pension and healthcare system, inequality, wages, etc. On November 10th the government drew up a proposal for a Constituent Congress to have a new Constitution written by the Parliament. Even though this proposal did not include the participation of citizens, the idea of a constitutional change opened wide at a political level. As this was taking place in the Parliament, the streets were burning during the historic nationwide strike of November 12th, 2019.

With the revolt spread throughout the country and the uproar over the harsh repression and human rights violations, a so called “Agreement for peace and the new Constitution” was signed in the parliament after hours of negotiations the day of November 14th, 2019, until the early hours of November 15th. The agreement is shown as an effort to «guarantee peace» and “public order” by opening the political system to a constituent process. The process would begin with a voluntary[5] entry plebiscite on the new Constitution (to approve or reject it) and on the type of body that should draft it. One option is the “mixed constituent”, where 172 people would be elected, half of whom would be chosen by the citizens and the other half by the parliament from among its members. The other option is the “constituent convention”[6], where 155 people would be elected by the citizens only. This last point was the key in the agreement, since it was presented as a concrete possibility for having citizen participation in the process.

However, soon the process was questioned, since it did not originally contemplate equal distribution between men and women for the drafting body, an aspect that was later included after its approval in the parliament; nonetheless, it was agreed that such equal distribution would only be for positions elected by popular vote, which means the “constituent convention” would be equal, but the “mixed constituent convention” would not, because only half of it would be elected by popular vote and the other half is chosen by the parliament and there might not be parity between men and women.

In addition, the agreement contemplates neither seats for the indigenous peoples, for representatives of the social world, nor for the possibility of high school students to vote, the ones who started the uprising, because they are underage. Also, the agreement stipulates that the new Constitution must respect the international agreements signed by Chile, which would mean not only protection for foreign capital, but also the existence of issues that are prohibited from being dealt with in a theoretically sovereign and deliberative body.

Originally planned for April 2020, the plebiscite was put off to October 25th due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virus also had as a consequence the strengthening of the militarization of the streets that began during the first protests, which was the backdrop for the plebiscite in Chile, a country with a night curfew like few others in the world.

After the plebiscite, if the option «approval»[7] wins, the constituency group will have nine months to draft the Constitution, time that could be extended for three more months. The quotas for the popular election, both in the mixed and constituent options, will be chosen under the same electoral system used to elect the parliament with an election scheduled for April 11th 2021. Once the work of the constituency group is done, the resulting new Constitution will be submitted to a ratification plebiscite.

After the political leaders announced the “agreement on peace and the new Constitution”, a broad debate started on the meaning of constituent sovereignty that theoretically lies in the people and how this inter-party agreement showed the breakdown between the political classes and the citizenry. This agreement was seen on TV merely as a reality show, since these leaders were at a meeting at the former National Congress building until 3 am, which ended with a scene that will be hard to forget: politicians from the left and the right, all together sharing at a big table telling the news to the press in the wee hours. Piñera was not at this final meeting, which shows, once again, that the government prefers to step aside knowing that people reject his administration. It also showed how the political class tried to bridge this gap through the Parliament, as well as highlight the fight over the search for solutions to the crisis with the “Association of Municipalities”. As for the parties that signed the agreement, besides the ones from the historical duopoly of the right and the Concertación (coalition of center-left parties), the participation of the new left wing represented by the “Frente Amplio” (coalition of left-wing parties and movements founded in 2017), brought fresh air to validate the agreement. However, some parties did not sign the agreement due to the secrecy of its origin, for example, the Partido Comunista (Communist Party) and others that left their coalitions, as happened in the Frente Amplio.

In spite of the initial climate of mistrust that arose in the population about the agreement, it was seen by many as a triumph of the people, something inevitable considering the size of the revolt. At the same time, in the neighborhood assemblies, people discussed the opportunities that may open up in presence of an organized community that is able to install demands and also how the agreement signed by the parties was a play of the ruling class to emerge from the situation. The agreement took up the agenda and despite the reticence, the territorial assemblies and the social organizations quickly leaned towards the «approval», which symbolizes the end of the post-dictatorship transition and marked a milestone in the de-Pinochetization of Chile.

Many polls predict for the October 25th plebiscite a broad victory of about 70% for the «approval» option, added to a massive participation that is expected to exceed the numbers of votes from other regular elections, in which just half of the voters participate.

Even tough as anarchists we question the origin of the agreement and the possibility that the constituent process will mean a co-optation of the revolt in hands of the traditional political channels, we have to try to explain to ourselves the nature of popular enthusiasm for the plebiscite, which is symbolically a milestone outside of the rest of the constituent process. Besides overcoming the inheritance of the dictatorship established in the current Constitution, the plebiscite of October has the nature of a binding consultation, which is very unusual for the Chilean representative democracy, where the political class has the power to deliberate on any matter. In addition, consulting people’s opinion on constitutional issues has no precedents in Chile, a country where all the Constitutions have been drafted by the elite with neither citizen participation nor with a ratifying plebiscite. Furthermore, the plebiscite has no candidates to be elected to any political office, an issue that makes many people vote for the first time in their lives or at least after many years without participating in any kind of elections.

The electoral cycle

Based on these features, the plebiscite is a milestone itself on a symbolic level and it is separated from the rest of the constituent process, not on a political and operational level, but speaking of subjectivities. The binary nature of the plebiscite and its “approval vs. rejection” scheme makes it easier to decide what option to choose, as opposed to the election to choose the constituent body in April 2021, in which the parties have their participation guaranteed either if the “Mix Constitutional Convention“ or the “Constitutional Convention” wins. This election will be concurrent with another four elections, which will bring confusion and complexity to the parties’ list of candidates. Not only the members of the constituent body will be elected, also mayors, councilmen and regional governors. Added to the electoral competition with these already controversial candidates, the whole process of elections may lower the citizens’ expectations, cause great disappointment over the process and decrease the number of voters in comparison to the referendum to approve or reject a new Constitution.

The April 2021 election will be held with the same district electoral system used to elect the parliament, which gives an advantage to the party-lists of candidates over independent candidates. In practice, the most competitive lists will be those of the parties, while citizen and social organization candidates will be forced to compete with them and their strong structures and financing possibilities. This situation will force social organizations to join party lists and submit to their program, or will make them form political parties to try to compete equally. 

The electoral cycle that will start next April 2021 after the plebiscite, will be at the top of the agenda and confirms the dynamics of representative democracy, tensed by the revolt as a whole beyond this or that particular party. The political class is aiming to clean up its image, holding institutionality responsible for the people’s unrest, renewing the political system and disputing the importance that the mayors have reached in the political scene as the “Agreement for peace” proposed  by the parliament is the one which prevails over the proposal of plebiscite made by the Association of Municipalities.

From a broader perspective, the “agreement for peace” is a measure taken by the State in response to the uprising. The executive was responsible for the repression, the judicial power for the imprisonment of thousands of demonstrators, and the legislative power for approving the anti-barricade and anti-looting bills. At the same time, the political class came to this agreement for peace as some kind of exchange of social peace democratically, as stated in the first articles of it. Nonetheless, rioting is not something that the parties that signed for the agreement could handle or stop as they are seen as an obsolete intermediary between the citizenry and the State, which can be seen in the streets with the manifestations and clashes with the police that persist after all. The agreement for peace tries to establish limits of what is to be considered as valid and acceptable protest, making all the parties condemn street violence, promoting the separation between good and bad, violent and peaceful demonstrators. The repressive consequences of the agreement for the ongoing revolt, remind us of the process of «pacification» of the protest after the departure of dictator Pinochet in 1988 with a plebiscite, in which people who continued fighting in the streets where isolated, imprisoned and killed even after the re-establishment of democracy.

The constituent process will take place within a more politicized society, which faces a wave of protests straining the political system from the streets. There are many possible scenarios, among them the process of drafting a new Constitution or just to continue with the current one, if the “rejection” option won in the plebiscite; or even the whole process may fail because of inner problems in the traditional political scene. In any case, not establishing a social agenda for immediate problems of the society, will increase the unrest and deepen the crisis.

The current situation will determine the social and political life of the next decades in Chile. We have to be aware of the ruling class’ game in this constituent process, as they will try to manipulate the revolt with the same “parliamentarisation” of the 2011 student’s movements. The objective of the constituent process is not only to draft a new Constitution, but also to restore the trust in the political class to the people. To validate the process of drafting this new Constitution is their goal in the short-term and so people feel it as something that belongs to them.

The process of drafting the new Constitution will be at the top of the agenda and the continuity of the social movement will be tested. Although it is true that the uprising has turned society more politicized, this is just the beginning. This may explain why due to the pandemic the mobilizations have eased, added to the politician’s divisive propaganda that condemns the protest, because it “contaminates” the constituent process. All of it will be a challenge to keep the streets crowded and get concrete solutions to the social demands.

Crisis projections

Political crises in Chile have historically ended up with an early termination of the government, the president’s ouster or a military intervention. For this reason, Piñera’s continuity until the end of his presidential term is an indicator of his success at remaining in power facing the revolt. Beyond Piñera, the Chilean political system is profoundly presidentialist, which is why the political class shields the president with the imposition of the constituent process not to save Piñera as a person or politician himself, but to save the institutionality that the presidency embodies as head of the State. Piñera’s early dejection would mean an institutional break that would drag down the entire political class, and therefore they stay together from left to right to contain the revolt and direct the energy released within the system without forcing Piñera out.

The scenario is not easy for Piñera, as he drags in complaints about human rights violations committed during the revolt. He is also questioned for his mishandling of the pandemic and faces a complex economic future. Added to this is the great instability of his administration, as demonstrated by the large number of ministerial changes he has made and the high level of disapproval he rates in polls. Piñera’s usefulness to the right is beginning to be questioned, since he does not show the capacity for articulation in his sector. He is changing his agenda in comparison to his original program and the political principles of the right that led him to the presidency, in addition to taking a big defeat in the withdrawal of 10% of the workers’ pension funds[8] to alleviate the economic difficulties resulting from insufficient and tardy State aid.

In 2019 the revolt criticized the political bases of the model in the neoliberal Constitution, whereas in 2020 the complaints were centered around the economic bases of the model in the AFP [Chilean pension system][9]. In both cases the extreme sectors of the right see in Piñera signs of crisis and instability.

Other sectors of the right see how the social contradictions worsen, cracking the model, which is why they are open to giving in to reforms and root for a change in the Constitution. In that «social» right is Mayor Joaquín Lavín[10], who, besides being in favor of this “approval”, advocates for the withdrawal of 10% of the AFP‘s funds and declares himself to be a social democrat. Thanks to this and to his media showcase as mayor, he stands at the top of the candidate list in the presidential race, which is a paradox considering that, at the moment, a right-wing government is pushed to start a process to draft a new Constitution from the right itself, while the next president could be a right-wing candidate.

Lavín pretends to get rid of his past as a “Chicago boy” while the government hesitates between approval and rejection. Nevertheless, the right wing understands that to continue ruling, it must change the Constitution and partly modify the neoliberal model. The political scene is undergoing great changes and pressures, including growing tensions between State powers, as demonstrated by the Parliament’s many constitutional accusations against ministers and the government’s questioning of resolutions of the Judicial Power. However, the economic model remains intact and that may be the motive for a second revolt post-pandemic.

Projections of the revolt

While we feel people’s joy for the process that is just starting with the plebiscite, we do not share the enthusiasm. From anarchism we do not participate in the campaign of «approval» nor in the campaigns of the electoral cycle of the constituent body since we consider that the process as a whole possesses a restorative nature of the political class, which was contested by the uprising and which also reaffirms the dispossession of popular sovereignty in the hands of traditional politics.

Our bet is to deepen and strengthen our capacity to mobilize, as the revolt’s vastness is the way to obtain concrete improvements for the people. The tasks of social movements are quite daunting if we consider that the situation up to now is moving forward without being able to achieve progress in the de-commodification of social rights or the release of the prisoners of the revolt.

Our commitment is to strengthen neighborhood assemblies and to build social forces in order to achieve an autonomous capability to fight for change outside of the state apparatus. We consider that the key for the social movements are the forces that allow us to occupy the streets and change the agenda, as it happened when the uprising began in October 2019; the general strike of November 12th, 2019; the commemoration of every November 14th (since 2018) for the anniversary of Camilo Catrillanca’s death, a Mapuche killed by the police and all the support shown with the Mapuche people; the greatness of the feminist wave, and the protests to pressure for the approval of the withdrawal of 10% of the AFP’s funds.

The future of the movement is facing key moments after the plebiscite as the political class may co-opt the process considering the instability of the scenario. The fact that the political class had the capability to claim popular sovereignty and to unilaterally decree the terms of the “Agreement for peace” shows the very limitations of the movement.

In light of the revolt, the old and the new coexist, which is why the way out of it is institutional through the constitutional process: the old does not end up dying and the new does not end up being born. Thus, facing the discredit of the government and the parliament, added to the political class’ impugnation, those in power take advantage of the mayors, who are catching everyone’s attention, to stay afloat. This is the way to keep the political system alive, from the perspective of towns, regions and neighborhoods, but at the same time hijacked by the same party system and old politics.

On the other hand, neighborhood assemblies are the organizational innovation that the revolt left, as they answer to the same regional and neighborhood sense that the power sees in the municipalization of the political system, but from autonomy. The power clings to the role of municipalities to exalt formal politics, while neighborhood assemblies and social organizations arise from the people. They are both phenomena of the very same moment. A problem could be that the autonomy of the assemblies and organizations may be hijacked by the parties to use them for their own benefit.

The bets on the political capacity of mobilization outside the conventional political system are very relevant in these times when the political class, presidentialism and parliament are being questioned, crumbling the legitimacy of representative democracy. If the population did not vote in the past, it was because they were disappointed with an inert political class that had surrendered to the market, which administered the system through parties, which were like employment agencies in the State. But this did not mean that citizens were not interested in politics, as was demonstrated by the revolt and the overflow of political action from its traditional framework.

Nowadays the parties are discredited and do not arouse people’s interest in taking part of them, but participation in social movements and neighborhood assemblies is increasing. Under this situation, the chances of social movements becoming parties are high and really alarming, not just because of the co-optation of social movements by parties to control them, but also because they are divided into, for example, environmental movements, student movements, etc. which is why it is hard for them to gather more supporters as they only make an interpretation of the reality from their fields and not one that could make sense for the rest who do not take part in them. On the other hand, parties do make such interpretations, praising social articulation instead, meaning that social movements are constantly threatened and in need of interaction with parties to reach the rest of the citizenry and therefore risking being hijacked by external agents. Likewise, movements are put in danger of becoming political parties themselves, under pressure to enter into debates that involve issues that go beyond their individual struggles. The challenge now for social movements is to be able to organize among themselves not only in operational terms but also when interpreting reality, and to work under horizontal and federated principles to prevent incorporation or their conversion into parties.

We are committed to promoting the mechanisms of direct democracy, strengthening autonomous organizational forms at regional and neighborhood levels. We understand the municipalization of the political system and the phenomenon of neighborhood assemblies as signs of a new epoch, and aspire to position ourselves within them as well as in other forms of insurrection. Our efforts seek that the criticism of representative democracy shapes into popular self-representation forms of federative and horizontal nature to face the scenario opened by the revolt. 

Anarchist Assembly of the Biobío

October 2020

Translated in January 2021


[1] Translator’s note: The Biobío Region, located in south-central Chile, is together with Santiago and Valparaiso, one of the three largest urban centers in the country with a population of 1.5 million people.The regional capital is the city of Concepción, located on the banks of the Biobío River, and its population is mainly urban.

[2] Regarding how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the Chilean region, we wrote a situational analysis called “Coronavirus in the cradle of neoliberalism”, Anarchist Assembly of the Biobío, April 2020.

[3] TN: Patricio Aylwin, Partido Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democratic Party), first president after Pinochet between 1990 and 1994; Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democrat Party), between 1994 and 2000; Ricardo Lagos, Partido Socialista (Socialist Party), between 2000 and 2006; Michelle Bachelet, Partido Socialista (Socialist Party), between 2006 and 2010; then between 2014 and 2018.

[4] TN: The Mapuche (literally «People of the Land» in the Mapuzugun language) are an indigenous people of southern Chile and Argentina forming several communities, some of which are struggling for their autonomy and reclaiming of their lands.

[5] TN: In Chile voter registration is automatic, but voting is no longer mandatory since 2011.

[6] TN: The plebiscite results on October 25th, 2020, showed that 79% of the population opted for the Constituent Convention as how the new Constitution should be drafted. About 1100 persons registered in the SERVEL (Electoral Service) in January, 2021, to compete for a quota to write the new Constitution. The 155 members of the Constituent Assembly will be elected in April, 2021.

[7] TN: The national plebiscite results were 78% for the “Approval” and 21% for “Rejection”. From 15 million eligible voters, more than 7,5 million (50.91%) voted in this national plebiscite, numbers of voters we haven’t seen in many years. More people voted in this ballot than in the last presidential election. With great enthusiasm, despite the pandemic, people celebrated all night long in the streets the results of the plebiscite.

[8] In this episode, the government was isolated in its position of rejecting the withdrawal of the pension funds of AFPs (pension fund administrators) affiliates, since in the parliamentary vote of July 23th, 2020, the project to withdraw the funds was approved thanks to the votes from some rightwing parlamentarians. Demonstrations demanding the approval of the withdrawal put strong pressure that led to this vote. The importance of this vote was that it was not because the government was worried about future pensions that would be diminished by the withdrawal, but because Piñera was just trying to protect one the basic pillars of Chilean neoliberalism as the AFP is, which once privatized the pension system and plays an important role in economy, because each person’s funds are invested in enterprises, the stock market and banking.

[9] TN: The AFP, the engine of the Chilean economic system, was set up under Pinochet’s dictatorship. With this pension system, all workers must pay mandatory contributions amount to 10% of the monthly income, money that goes to an individual account managed by AFPs (Administrators of Pension Funds), a private financial organization in charge of -theoretically- making funds grow.

[10] TN: Mayor of Las Condes, commune in the suburbs of Santiago, an area inhabited mainly by upper-class people, of which he has been mayor since 2016. Previously he was the Mayor of Santiago (commune) between 2001 and 2004. Later under Piñera’s administration was the Minister of Education (2010-2011), Minister of Planning and Cooperation (2011) and Minister of Social Development (2011-2013).

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