Mapuche woman to lead creation of Chile’s new constitution
Members of Chile’s constitutional delegation chose a woman from the indigenous Mapuche people to lead efforts to create the new constitution. This choice marks a great turning point for a people who were ignored during the development of the current constitution of the country.
The Mapuche are the largest group of indigenous people in Chile.
Elisa Loncon is an independent politician, university professor and activist for the educational and linguistic rights of the Mapuche. She was chosen by 96 of the 155 men and women – including 17 indigenous people – who make up the new constitutional body. The group will replace Chile’s current constitution, which was approved under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Loncon was celebrated by band members after accepting the post on Sunday. She said: “I greet the Chilean people from the north to Patagonia, from the sea to the mountains, to the islands, everyone who looks at us today.
Loncon added that she was grateful for the support of “coalitions which placed their trust and dreams in the hands of the Mapuche nation”. .
The London election represented a one-day highlight that included a suspension of delegates swear ceremony. The delay came after protests took place outside and inside Santiago’s former convention building, where the event was being held.
During the London elections, protesters from all political stripes demanded that the police not be involved in the ceremony. The protesters were greeted by heavily armed police during roadblocks.
While delegates demanded the departure of the special forces police, the head of the electoral tribunal agreed to suspend the event until noon.
The incident demonstrated the intense challenges of creating a new constitution as the country faces deep divisions. In 2019, there were massive protests against inequalities that worsened after police responded with violence.
The constitutional body was chosen by popular vote in May and is made up mostly of independent and left-wing candidates. Some candidates had roots in the protest movement. A smaller proportion of more conservative candidates received support from the current center-right government.
Delegates pledged to work on issues such as water and property rights, central bank independence and labor policies. This has led commercial investors to worry about possible major changes in the free market system for the world’s largest copper producer.
Before the start of the ceremony, Aymara and Mapuche delegates held spiritual ceremonies in the streets that included songs and dances. Not recognized in the current constitution, these indigenous communities hope that the new document will include cultural, political and social rights.
The delegation has up to one year to agree on a common regulation, establish committees and write a new document.
I am Alice Bryant.
Reuters news agency reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learn English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in this story
indigenous – adj. the first known inhabitants of a place, especially a place that was colonized by a now dominant group
greet – v. publicly praise someone or something
swear to – v. have a ceremony in which a new leader promises to do their job properly, with honesty and loyalty
Committee – m. a group of people who are chosen to do a particular job or to make decisions about something