NEW DELHI: Over 78 per cent of Chileans have voted “to get rid of the last vestige of the Pinochet dictatorship—its charter,” says John W. Bartlett, ‘The Guardian’ correspondent in Santiago. On October 25, the country voted for a 155-member constitutional assembly, which must feature an equal number of men and women elected by the public to draft a new constitution by early 2022. General Augusto Pinochet ruled from 1973 to 1990 when over 40,000 people were imprisoned, tortured or killed, experts estimate. Speaking to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, John Bartlett narrated a “poignant story of a man who had been tortured in the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium) and made to walk around the stadium blindfolded and tripping over the bodies of his murdered friends returning to vote in the same stadium against the final relic of the dictatorship”.
Bartlett pointed to “a long and fraught process ahead” with “an exit referendum set, but not in stone, for mid 2022.” A 155-seat convention of citizens will be elected in April 2021 and have a year to agree to a draft text, approved by a two-thirds majority. Chileans will then vote again on whether they accept the text or want to revert to the previous constitution. He also described how protests over a U.S. 4-cent metro fare hike in October 2019 led up to “a night of fire and fury across Santiago and then snowballed into a million people protesting on the streets” against politicians out of touch with everyday needs. The other thing that will come out of the protests, Bartlett added, is “reserved seats for indigenous peoples (about 13 per cent of the population) who aren’t even recognized by the Constitution.”