Social movements in Chile activate their “Approve” campaign


With a strategy of decentralization and a strong inauguration in several regions and cities of Chile, the social movements launched their campaign with the slogan “I approve the new constitution”. The coordination group brings together more than 100 organizations, including a teachers’ union, the Movement for the defense of access to water, land and environmental protection. [Modatima], the Feminist Collective of March 8 and the Union of Domestic Workers [Sindicato de Trabajadoras de Casa Particular].

By Raúl Espina (El Mostrador)

HAVANA TIMES – On Wednesday, July 27, the social movements campaign – “I approve the new constitution” – was inaugurated, with activities organized simultaneously in several Chilean cities, including Santiago, Iquique, Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, Osorno and Punta Arenas. The “command post” will coordinate a decentralized campaign that aims to deploy independent sectors of the different civil society groups, after their experiences being part of the Constitutional Convention.

To do this, the Social Movements campaign brings together new and old groups, totaling more than 100 organizations from Arica to Punto Arenas. They marked out a strategy and a territory that distinguishes them from the official campaign Aprueba x Chile [“Approve for Chile”]which works more closely with the government and established political parties.

Among the groups that are part of the campaign are the feminist coordinator of March 8, in charge of publicity; the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection; and unions or professional associations such as those of teachers and the Union of Domestic Workers; the Mapuche Women’s Network; the social coordinator of Amagallanes; and the Permanent Assembly for the Legalization of Abortion, among others.

These groups hold a coordination meeting every Tuesday. They have already held several sessions to consider logistics, such as defining spokespersons and deciding on the distribution of material, among other tasks. They also organize training on the preparation of campaign briefings. At the same time, a communication and audiovisual team is working on the content they will use during the television slots allocated to them and which they estimate to last around one minute. This process is coordinated by journalist Gonzalo Oñate.

The Coordinating Body will have three spokespersons in the metropolitan area around Santiago and others in the different regions of the country. Unlike the Aprueba X Chile campaign, they have no direct connection with politics or traditional politicians. In this regard, one of their spokespersons in Santiago, Manuela Royo, a former delegate to the Constitutional Convention and representative of Modátima, stressed that social movements could become “crucial and relevant” to the success of the Approve movement. According to her, their campaign is characterized by its “diversity and social and territorial strength”. In addition, it is made up of public figures who “have worked for social justice in Chile for years”.

As Royo expressed it: “We believe that the decentralization and the diversity of the more than 100 organizations that make up us are elements that identify and differentiate us. We have set up an organization that covers the entire Chilean territory. It also allows us to make visible a diversity of stories about who we are as a country. Because of this great diversity and decentralization, and because we also wanted to give voice and space to those of us who haven’t always had one, we decided to contribute as Social Movements. We want to gain support for the Approve campaign in a way that is more territorial, independent and reflects the work of social organizations that do not necessarily identify with government or administration. One of our main goals is to make visible those of us who have been historically excluded.

Rayo added that one of the characteristics of the social movements effort that differentiates them from similar campaigns is that they are present in all territories. There are social movements from Arica to Punto Arenas, that is, in all regions of the country. “In this sense, we have a force that deploys door-to-door, to inform. We will also continue to join forces between each of our small spaces. What we have achieved is very positive, despite the fact that we are self-organized,” noted one of the other Metropolitan Area Command spokespersons.

A different approach to Aprueba x Chile

Quite recently, a debate broke out within the two government coalitions concerning possible modifications to the draft Constitution. The groups discussed possible changes in some specific aspects, such as laws that are exclusively initiated by the president; a review of the justice system; or if presidential re-election is allowed. These issues have divided two of the parties that make up the government coalition:Apruebo Dignidadand the Democratic Socialists. The question that arises is whether an agreement to make reforms must be reached before or after the constitutional plebiscite of September 4. In this controversy, the Command Post of Social Movements agrees with the words of Chilean President Gabriel Boric. On July 19, in an interview with Radio Caricia of Chile, Boric repeated: “the Constitution can be improved”. The president added that he sees “no problem in discussing it, talking about it and agreeing on some of the changes that can be made”.

On this issue, Manuela Royo stressed: “It is important to understand that no constitutional transformation is possible if it is not approved on September 4.e. Given this, it seems appropriate that we be clear on our main objective: to ensure the vote of approval. In doing so, it is important to move towards consensus and agreements. That is why we agree with what President Boric has said – that today our first objective is a vote to “approve” [the new Constitution]. There are other things that will have to be discussed later, but always keeping in mind that the important thing is to put an end to this old Constitution of dictatorship and to unite around it.

In search of this “unity” to achieve a victory for the “Approval” vote, the question arose as to why social movements decided to generate their own space, differentiating themselves from the narrative of Aprueba x Chile, the coordination group that coordinates civil society organizations with closer ties to the government. Juan Ignacio Latorre, senator and president of the party of the Democratic Revolution, rejected the idea that the organization of a parallel space on the part of social movements would harm in any way the notion of “unity” around of the approval of the new Constitution. Latorre himself is one of the most visible faces of the Approve de la Front Amplio to party [“Broad Front” a left-wing Chilean political coalition founded in 2017].

“It seems to me,” Latorre said, “that all of the endorsements add up — endorsement to reform, just endorsement, endorsement for social movements — all of the endorsement support contributes to the end goal. I appreciate the organization that social movements achieve. They have the ability to bring in territories that traditional parties have trouble reaching. We are faced with the enormous challenge of mobilizing the popular sectors and the world of youth. Social movements can also provide support. I believe that there is a very deep desire among the peoples of Chile to know the real content of the new Constitution, to dispel the lies and fake news that the conservative sectors that do not want change have instilled in this country. In this, we can all add our grain of sand to achieve a victory in the approval vote on September 4th.epointed out the senator.

Finally, given the decision of the “official” campaign for the Approve vote to appoint two legislators as spokespersons: Vlado Mirosevic (Liberal Party) and Karol Cariola (Communist Party), the Social Movements are betting instead on another strategy. They value the relationship with the representatives of established powers, but they prefer a strategy based on deployment in the territories in a more decentralized way, with faces linked to social organization. They say theirs is a narrative that “reflects reality as it is” with the aim of “transforming the hatred propagated by the Reject campaign into a positive transformation of the country”.

“I believe that each group has its own leaders, its own voices and in this sense it seems to me very important that the representatives of the governing powers also show their support, because it shows the transversal relations useful to the objective, which is a triumph of the vote of approval. Of the Social Movements, we have decided to maintain the spokespersons of each territory, because they represent our Movements. This is definitely the tonic, to make sure that it is not always about the same faces, but also giving space to new voices, always coming from the social organization, which characterizes us”, concluded Manuela Royo.

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