New Constitution in Chile: From a protected transition to an agonic transition


A constituent process has been installed in Chile. On October 25, 2020, the date of plebiscite, the alternative “Apruebo” (78%) by a new political constitution, and the option of “Constitutional Convention” (79%), obtained the majority over the option of “Rejection” (22%) and over the “Joint Constitutional Convention” option (21%), respectively.

This is the current state of things. But let’s go back a little bit regarding its origins.

In 1988 the Plebiscite took place that said NO to Pinochet, and which then led to the first presidential and parliamentary election after 17 years of dictatorship. Pinochet accepts this plebiscite in large part for fear of a popular rebellion, an issue that was akin to protests that would begin to occur progressively and on massive scale from 1983 to 1986 in Chile,(Délano, 1985; Delgado-Torres et al., 2018; Manzano, 2014, p. 80; Salazar Salvo, 2019) called “the awakening” (Moulian, 2002, p. 261), and for the assassination attempt  on Pinochet (the so-called “Operation TWENTIETH Century”) on September 7, 1986  (Equipo de prensa CHV, 2015; Holzapfel, 2006; Zalaquett, 2011).

And all this popular uprising occurred, even though the media of the time were trying to create distortions in the perception of the veracity of the facts. What is iconic, for example, is the protest that took place in an act broadcast on television about John Paul II’s visit to Chile, where it is possible to contrast the social reality of the events caught at that time on camera, and the fully uchronic journalistic narrative (TVN, 2015) With the Plebiscite of 1988, this would put an end to the right-wing military dictatorship or “pinochetist” dictatorship.

The new regime or new state of affairs would arise from a political negotiation (Departamento de prensa, TVN, 2018; Godoy, 1999; Kaltwasser, 2007)or “antisocial pact” agreed between a sector of political opponents to Pinochet- on tone hand, and Pinochet and the pro-dictatorship political sectors on the other.. Pinochet leaves the political power of the executive, not without first ensuring his own political-judicial immunity for the future, and his economic and political heritage which, and as such, should continue and be projected over time. Proof of the first are the negotiations of the governments of the “Agreement of parties for democracy” to rescue him from trials in England  (Agencia EFE, 2018; Guzmán, 2001; Huneeus, 2018; Portales, 2018)and the one who was never tried on national soil  (Gárate, 2016). Thus, it was said: “We Have an unwritten covenant, but morally subscribed by all political forces, so as not to review the dictatorship”(Baby, 2011). To enable this, from an economic and political model that would have already been installed in dictatorship  (Salazar Vergara & Pinto, 1999)”transition” (a term adopted by Pinochet himself in Chacarillas’ speech in 1977), consisting of a process of administration protected by the continuators, is proposed. In short, Pinochet’s political power would be abandoned, but the political and economic model flanked by the Political Constitution and related laws would not be touched.

Between 1990 and 2000, there is a phase that we could call a protected transition, somewhat in reference to the name that some gave of this period as “protected democracy”  (Huneeus, 1997). Protected by Pinochet and political parties; protecting the model. All the police measures taken in that period, and for the sake of this “protection” were aimed at disarticulating the movements of armed insurgency. Just like the Dictatorship through the DINA and its “turn continuator”, the CNI did so with the self-styled “Revolutionary Left Movement”(MIR), and, in part, with the” Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front” (FPMR),and the police also did so during the transitional governments with the”Lautaro Youth Movement” or  MAPU Lautaro, and any other focus of insurgency that was thus”(Labbé, 2019)

For their part, economic measures were geared towards gaining the maximum economic access to foreign capital. The Chilean economy was opened to the installation of foreign companies of all kinds in Chile, and Chilean companies with large economic conglomerates. It is the time of the Great Stores that trade with all kinds of goods and services, species of “Walmart”, that allowed a constant flow of purchase and sale of goods, of all those destined for consumption, an issue that led to the consideration of Chile by the authors, as a “paradise of consumption”  (Moulian, 2002).

Apart from this, there was a strong export incentive, but where only one sector of entrepreneurs (large scale company) enjoyed the benefits of such activity, of full liberalization of the economy based on an extractive economy whereby transnational corporations made use of domestic labor at low wages compared to the resulting benefits for enterprises-i also with serious environmental damage (Espectador, 2019),foreign contractors selling second-hand or obsolescent goods and services at the price of first-hand goods and services and state-of-the-art technology. As an example of this, we have the purchase by the administration of the government of Ricardo Lagos Escobar of second-hand Spanish trains on the railwa,y that united the capital “Santiago” with the city “Chillán”(Délano, 2008), whose closest effect is the trail of economic damages that it has brought to the company and its workers(Donoso, 2008; Mostrador, 2011; Sánchez, 2008).

A social structure based on the acquisition of material wealth and social ostentation would also have contributed, an irrepressible need of the popular classes to resemble the most affluent classes; there is an aspirationalism or social climbing (Ariztía, 2016; Contardo, 2013). As the most affluent classes were constantly gazing at Europe, and then the U.S. as their image to imitate, this eventually irrigated the entire Chilean social structure. There was no “identity” (with all the issues that have been encountered by the postmodernist academy regarding this term). Chile, fertile province for the ideology and practices of remote nations.

Now, on  one hand was politics based on the logic of political parties, under a system of indirect representation without the possibility of revocation of mandates or citizen trials for poor performance (Salazar, 2011, 2015). On the other hand, the practical attempt to monopolize politics by political parties in Chile and exercise unweighted dominance of it leads us to the phenomenon of the “partidarquía”(Carrasco Jiménez, 2016, 2020).

The Chilean “partidarquía” originated with the first post-Pinochet government, that is, in the government of Patricio Aylwin. The political blocs of Pinochet were clearly recognized, and the pro-dictator block. These blocks would continue with dominance until the first luster of the 21st century, when the student movement of 2001 and Pinochet’s death in 2006 occur, turning points in the historical process of Chile.

Adherents to mass, incendiary, and revolutionary protest socialism of the 1960s and 1970s began to enjoy the economic “goodness” of the model established by the dictatorship and ceased to be (if ever really) critical of economic disadvantages. If their model worked for them, then the gangsterism, arrogance, threats, and corruption of the administration as ways to preserve power in all its manifestations didn’t matter. Instead, they were installed as ways of doing things, all with the aim of extending their prebendas, privileges, and domains. What Pinochet’s partisan block already perversely enjoyed, even before it became a block and simply being Pinochet’s adherents during its regime, the socialists, who were the block opposing it, would also begin to taste its perverse fruits. Therefore, right, or left, it was already the same when it comes to embodying the vices of the political and economic model.

Many exhibited their corrupt and corrupting practices without inhibition, exercising nepotism, the trafficking of influences, the undue pressures, participating in television shows as celebrities, posing as movie or rock stars, and others, notorious for their romances and confessions (Equipo FMDOS, 2016)an exhibitionist egolatry. It should come as no surprise, then, that the world of the show is interspersed with that of partisan politics (Sandoval, 2013). We understood that they were public servants, but figuration, flattery and power made them feel like land gods. Drunk with ego, they did not know what was going on in real Chile, the one of daily life.

The “partidarquía” was also built on political operators who did not belong to the dome but lived off partisan clientelism. His entire social position, his “benefits”, were secured by the party only by his belonging and devotion. Jobs were secured for people without professional instruction, or who, having it, were and are of paradigmatic mediocrity, along with accumulating, a whole “toolbox” of bad practices: deviations from public resources for personal interests  (Bravo, 2019; Mostrador, 2019); obtaining professional qualifications for projects through bribery, threat and extortion  (Arroyo, 2017; Espinoza Riquelme, 2020; Jara Herrera, 2020); the granting, with public funds, of professional services at a cost to friends and family without merit (, 2017; Kelly, 2020; Pizarro & Sepúlveda, 2017). Thus, a working culture was built based on this mediocrity, on the trafficking of influences based on political favor. That is, a corruption of practices, an issue that was permeating every labor organization.

This, in some way, was accompanied by a whole process of deep banalization, a “concertacionist aesthetic” (Oporto Valencia, 2015, p. 254), kind of “soma” as described by Huxley in Brave New World, an opium that was distributed by the political system prevailing “post-pinochetist” and  transitional (1990-2000), whose effect produced some malaise in Chilean culture, and the evasion of the population to the social reality resulting from the model. Many “ingested” this drug, this alcohol, as an anesthetic wayof trying to forget rape and its trauma, not only human rights violations, but also real and concrete violation of the body, one of the political foundations of Pinochet’s dictatorship and of hispolitical heritage. So many others also consumed this “soma” so as not to hear. Pitifully, this led them to insult those who wanted to restart their lives with the necessary justice after the ageing, an issue that the political system threw under the carpet out of fear and cowardice  (Deutsche Welle, 2018; Herceg, 2020) In this way they were “resentful”, there was a boredom to listening to the issue of human rights, and in the most extreme cases, to mention that the unfinished work of the dictatorship lay in not having killed all those who were part of political dissent  (Guzmán, 2001) This type of violence demonstrated, in our view, two things: (1) that the model installed by the dictatorship was more than just a “brick” and a Constitution; it was a structural complex, within which the economic and the political are elements, but that the way to configure them socially and historically, is what defined the model; (2) that the model produced the same effects as in dictatorship, also in “democracy”, so that the people humiliated were still humiliated.

This is how the questions that arose in everyday conversation, on the journey on public transport, in the opinion of the driver, the passengers, at the clothesline, a cashier, in the mass chats, began to gather at the mouth where their waters were slowly growing. And the rumour of them did not stop, and it was timed by the stone on which the political parties had founded their building. This was decanting in a distrust of the “political class” and in a “crisis of representation” (Salazar, 2019).

It is not that the current Constitution, in itself, is “the” source of any possible corruption. Rather, the defect would be the type of relationship between the economic structure implemented in Chile and the established political-legal structure, a political-legal structure whose head, ceiling and support is the current Constitution. The result of the interaction and dynamics of both structures in Chile is a set of social and/or practical relationship modes that are distributed lenticularly throughout the social body. It would have to be the “what are you willing to do to achieve the social objectives that the political-economic framework allows you”, that is, cost. And optimization would indicate, in a society like ours, that media matters more than ends. Therefore, political or class favor, which is but the “sale of the soul to the devil”, implies a means of obtaining social position, riches, and recognition. But if these are conceived only individual means for purposes other than just individual ones, the way of social relations, perhaps they could change. This lack, in my view, is the current social model.

All these critical points are sharpened by bordering a phase that we will call agonic transition. The transition is beginning to dilute, because the political and economic model that was intended to be founded would have already progressed in its maturation sufficiently. The transition was simply the “snake egg” that enabled the process of “maturation” (Oporto Valencia, 2015) of a political and economic model that began to peck the space for its culmination. And this was possible to perceive as social problems became more acute and critical, and as a result, the social bubbling of this culmination begins to burst on the surface, producing an ever-increasing social cracking. In other words, the greater the consolidation of the model, the greater the social cracking, and as a result, the student protests that were to come begin to take place.


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Edison Carrasco-Jimenez
Edison Carrasco-Jimenez
Research scholar, School of Law, University of the Americas, Chile. Doctor in Criminal Law, University of Salamanca, Spain. Master in Criminology and Juvenile Delinquency, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.


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