Last Sunday, Chileans used their masks as armor, facing the pandemic and taking to the streets with the aim of putting an end to the country’s 1980 constitution, one of the last remaining legacies of the Pinochet dictatorship. And this was no tight victory: 78 percent voted to tear up the existing charter and draft a brand-new Chilean constitution.
Now Chile’s mission is to elect 155 members to a constituent assembly, who will decide on the provisions of the new charter. What’s more, Chile’s will be the first constituent assembly with gender parity — the country will elect an equal number of men and women on April 11, 2021.
But the victory was not easy. The historic referendum was the result of a troubled year that started in October 2019 with massive protests against the state. Among the biggest demands was increased social protections, as the average pensioner in Chile receives less than the minimum wage.
But while Chile is increasingly distancing itself from the legacy of Pinochet, the Bolsonaro government in Brazil is flirting with anti-democratic positions. In fact, President Bolsonaro has praised Pinochet in the past, suggesting he “should have killed more people.”
This week, the government whip in the House, Ricardo Barros, argued in favor of a referendum to rewrite Brazil’s 1988 constitution, drafted under a democracy and that defends basic rights for the population, such as education and health. For Mr. Barros, it is necessary to establish more “responsibilities” for the population, along with rights.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s aggrandizement of South American dictatorships is nothing recent. When running for office in 2018, he denied the existence of the Brazilian military coup of March 31, 1964, and while in government he has joined anti-democratic protests, demanding the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court.