Chileans slate Petro comments in wake of referendum

Photo: Gustavo Petro / Twitter / TBR

Colombian President Gustavo Petro sparked huge criticism with his comments on the outcome of Chile’s constitutional exit referendum in Chile on Sunday, in which the electorate massively rejected the country’s new constitutional draft. As a result, Chile’s current Constitution, drafted during the military dictatorship, remains in force.

After the result became clear, Mr. Petro tweeted that the outcome “revived” former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, words that even left-leaning figures in Chile deemed reductive to explain the country’s complex electoral process. 

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Mariano Fernández, who worked under the center-left administration of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, called Mr. Petro’s statements “unfortunate,” saying Chile had a “serene day of democracy, with fast and indisputable results.” Other former officials in both Chile and Colombia joined him in criticism. 

Former center-left Chilean President Ricardo Lagos had also shown concern about the elaboration of the new constitution five months before the text went to a vote. Mr. Lagos alerted President Gabriel Boric that the current Constitution has “his signature,” not “the signatures of four generals [under Pinochet].”  

Mr. Lagos managed to propose constitutional reforms during this time in office in the mid 2000s and sees the current constituent process with skepticism and nuance.

As The Brazilian Report’s Ignacio Portes explained, the reasons behind the proposal’s rejection are multi-faceted. 

Regardless of Sunday’s result, Chileans are keen on overhauling the binding dictatorship-era Constitution. Immediately after the referendum result, right-wing parties in Chile reaffirmed their pre-established commitment to rewrite “a new and good constitution.”