Skip to main content

ALERT: KPBS 89.5FM is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in a temporary signal outage. Click here to listen on our radio stream.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Chile Celebrates Voters’ Decision To Scrap Constitution, Start Over

Photo caption:

Photo by Matias Basualdo NurPhoto via Getty Images

A family celebrates the approval of a new constitution in Santiago, Chile. After decades, the constitution from the country's years of dictatorship will finally be thrown out.

It started as a ripple: anger over higher subway prices. But a growing wave of protests followed, and now people in Chile have voted overwhelmingly to throw out their country's Pinochet-era constitution and create a new document under which to live. Nearly 80% of the voters chose to form a new constitution.

The result threw Chile into a huge celebration. One year after Santiago's streets were jammed by protesters, they were filled Sunday with revelers, ecstatic over the results of a national plebiscite. There were music and fireworks. Signs declared "Renace Chile" — Chile Reborn.

"Many Chileans see this as a turning point, an opportunity to end social inequalities that led to last year's mass protests," NPR's Philip Reeves reports for our Newscast unit. "They also voted to elect an assembly of 155 citizens, to write a new constitution. Chileans have many demands, including the right to better pensions, health care, and education, and greater recognition for Indigenous people."

More than 7.5 million people voted, setting a record for voter participation in Chile since at least 1988, according to Servel, the country's election service. Chile's population was recently estimated at more than 18 million people, up from an estimated 12.8 million in 1988.

The vote was the most prized concession protesters won from President Sebastián Piñera and other leaders last fall. Weeks of protests over economic inequality forced Piñera to agree to the move after his efforts at reform — including raising the minimum wage and pensions — failed to appease demonstrators.

The first protests last October were small, as students jumped turnstiles to avoid the higher subway fare. After incidents of arson and violence, the president deployed the military to the streets, saying he would not bow down to an enemy. But the sight of troops in the streets sparked new anger, particularly among older Chileans for whom it recalled the country's troubled past under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The protests and response also jarred the conceptions of Chile as one of South America's most stable countries. At least 30 people died in the unrest, and thousands more were injured. Damages to train systems, businesses and other targets were estimated in the billions of dollars.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.