Thousands protest in Chile in favour of new constitution

 Several thousand people took to the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities to demand a Constitutional Assembly as a means to provide the country with a new constitution, as was promised by President Michelle Bachelet during her election campaign.

IANS| Updated: Nov 24, 2014, 10:22 AM IST

Santiago: Several thousand people took to the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities to demand a Constitutional Assembly as a means to provide the country with a new constitution, as was promised by President Michelle Bachelet during her election campaign.

In Chile`s capital, police said some 3,500 people - although organisers placed the turnout at 10,000 - marched along Bernardo O`Higgins Boulevard, the city`s main thoroughfare, to demand a new national charter based on the input of Chilean society Sunday.

Although Bachelet has said that drafting a new constitution to replace the one that dictator Augusto Pinochet imposed on the country in 1980 is one of the pillars of her administration, she has suggested that the mechanism for providing it should come through the prevailing institutions, with the Parliament as the moving force.

Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a two-time candidate for the presidency and leader of the Progressive Party, participated in the demonstration and demanded the establishment of a Constitutional Assembly via a constitutional reform that would legalise convening a national plebiscite with an eye toward having the public decide the mechanism whereby the new charter would be created.

According to Enriquez-Ominami, the governing coalition has the votes to get that reform approved and he noted that there are opposition senators who are disposed to discuss the matter.

The idea for a Constitutional Assembly coalesced during last year`s presidential and parliamentary campaigns and election, when its organisers called on the public to vote not only in the name of their preferred candidate but also by adding the letters "AC" - the Spanish-language initials for "Constitutional Assembly" - to their ballots.

It has never been announced how many ballots were marked so, since - because there was no such option included in the election - they were not counted.

Alvaro Ramis, the coordinator of Sunday`s demonstration, expressed his desire that the march "serve to demand that the government give a clean pronouncement regarding the mechanisms for constitutional change, after President Bachelet`s promise for a new constitution".

The Santiago demonstration was staged peacefully and ended in a park near the La Moneda presidential palace.

Simultaneous demonstrations or civic actions also were held in the cities of Arica, Antofagasta, Calama, La Serena, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, Valdivia, Ancud, Coyhaique and Punta Arenas, among others.