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First Session of Chile's Constitutional Convention Inaugurated

  • Chile’s Constitutional Convention—far more diverse than Congress, and a better reflection of the diversity of Chilean society—gets to work this week.

    Chile’s Constitutional Convention—far more diverse than Congress, and a better reflection of the diversity of Chilean society—gets to work this week. | Photo: Twitter/@ChileTodayNews

Published 7 July 2021

Despite little support from the institutions in charge, the Convention held its inaugural session this Wednesday.

After the Constituent Convention was installed two days ago, the body that will draft the new Constitution of Chile managed to start its first session after trying unsuccessfully on Monday and Tuesday.

Elisa Loncón opened the plenary session of the Constituent Convention in Santiago de Chile after overcoming technical and administrative problems.


Chile: Constitutional Convention Starts Amid Protests

The highest authority began by greeting in all the languages of the indigenous peoples represented in this convention.

"On Monday we could not meet, but we have worked hard to start today. We begin the first formal session, with some established bases," said the body's president, indigenous academic Elisa Loncón, in Mapudungún and Spanish.

At the same time that she began the event, she affirmed that "we have not been well received, we have been violated in the most basic aspect, which is the question of health," referring to the lack of support shown by the government for the effective functioning of the assembly. 

The 155 constituents were able to meet, for the first time after the inaugural ceremony, this Wednesday inside the old National Congress of the capital to begin the drafting of the new text, only after it was confirmed that the conditions regarding capacity and health protocols were met.

The vice-president of this body, Jaime Bassa, also said that "the preparatory work did not exist and we have figured it out practically in 24 hours."

"This is thanks to the President and the University of Chile, of our constituents, and of members of the Medical Association who have put themselves at the service of the Constituent Assembly," he said.

"NOW - first session of the constitutional convention and vice president. @Jaime_Bassa explains what happened in previous days, saying, 'we didn't trust the government.'"

On Monday, when the first session was scheduled, the constituents had to leave the premises due to technical and sanitary failures, such as the lack of space to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and the lack of connectivity in the rooms.

As a result of this situation, one of the promises made, which was to take a public position on the issue of political prisoners resulting from the protests in Chile, could not be fulfilled.

Although the first item on the agenda was to increase the number of seats at the table to seven, which several convention members considered an excess, the priority for the representatives of the "People's List" was that the eventual petition for amnesty for the so-called "prisoners of the revolt" should not be left until Thursday, as had been stipulated.

An event that did have particular repercussion was the introduction from the deputies from the Christian Democracy (DC) party of a request to the oversight committee regarding "eventual irregularities" in the 450 million peso contract with the company Street Machine Corp, which was in charge of organizing the first day of the Convention.

The request to the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) for an audit stated that in addition to the audit, it was asking the government to respond publicly because "an essential work such as the one that must be carried out by the Constitutional Convention was put at risk; and the law is clear: the responsibility lies with the Government," emphasized the deputy head of the DC bench, Gabriel Silber.

The constituent assembly process in which Chile is immersed was generated after an agreement between the political parties that sought to provide a way out of the severe wave of protests that broke out at the end of 2019 and left some thirty dead and thousands injured, in addition to episodes of extreme violence.

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