ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Chile’s Paradox

Chile has lived through many protests in the last three years since the October 2019 massive demonstrations, which changed the discourse of the country. The people are eager to overcome the institutionalised privatisation of common goods through the change of Magna Carta. In this light, the results of the last constitutional referendum that rejected one of the most progressive constitutional proposals are elaborated in the history of Chile.

In the Engage article published in Economic & Political Weekly, “If You Want Change, Look to the Youth: Lessons for Chile’s Struggle against Inequality” (14 March 2020) on the issue of the Chilean ­October 2019 protest (Ranjan and Castillo 2020), we had concluded with the following line, “to solve the problems of social and economic inequality, politics in Chile needs to be reformulated, and an agenda needs to be set for the next years.” The setting up of “an agenda” seems to be true in the path of Chilean reality after the massive protest, which paved the way for the plebiscite and the further rewriting of the 1980 Chilean constitution by a democratically elected constituent assembly. Nevertheless, the newly drafted constitution was rejected, and in this article, we have analysed the results of the constitutional referendum and exa­mined some internal and external s­ociopolitical factors that may explain its rejection. However, before going into the profoundness of this process, there is a need to contextualise Chile and its ­recent electoral process.

Since the return of democracy in the early 1990s, Chile has been considered as one of the countries with the highest economic growth worldwide, which res­ul­ted in a level of development unprecedented in Chilean history (Schmidt-­Hebbel 2006). This image of economic power defined as the “Jaguars of Latin America1 (Contreras et al 2009) made Chile the first Latin American country to be invited to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). However, this robust economic growth masked an internal process of widespread impoverishment and social inequality, driven by the implementation of an extreme neo-liberal economic–social model. Although economic growth contributed to reducing poverty, this also increased the inequality gap and income distribution (Pizarro 2005). Currently, Chile is the second most un­equal country in terms of income inequality in the OECD (Mieres 2020), alt­h­ough in general terms the level of poverty has been reduced considerably (Agostini et al 2008; Ranjan and Castillo 2020).

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Updated On : 19th Nov, 2022
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