Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'Normal' is killing us.

Donald Trump is out of the White House. COVID-19 is fading, at least in wealthier nations. The world, they say, is returning to “normal.” That’s the narrative that the corporate media is selling. But there’s a problem: “normal” is destroying our planet, threatening our democracies, concentrating massive wealth in a tiny elite, and leaving billions of people without access to life-saving vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. Here at Common Dreams, we refuse to accept any of this as “normal.” Common Dreams just launched our Mid-Year Campaign to make sure we have the funding we need to keep the progressive, independent journalism of Common Dreams alive. Whatever you can afford—no amount is too large or too small—please donate today to support our nonprofit, people-powered journalism and help us meet our goal.

Please select a donation method:

Citizens in favor of rewriting the Chilean constitution celebrate while awaiting the official results of the referendum at Plaza Italia Square in Santiago, Chile on October 25, 2020. (Photo: Alejandro Olivares/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Citizens in favor of rewriting the Chilean constitution celebrate while awaiting the official results of the referendum at Plaza Italia Square in Santiago, Chile on October 25, 2020. (Photo: Alejandro Olivares/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'Let This Echo Around the World': Nearly 50 Years After US-Backed Coup, Chile Votes to Rewrite Pinochet Era Constitution

"This historic day belongs to those who have struggled for decades, to those who have given their lives, to the tortured, to the mutilated, and especially to those who remain imprisoned."

Kenny Stancil, staff writer

Nearly 50 years after a U.S.-backed coup toppled Chile's democratically-elected socialist president Salvador Allende and paved the way for military dictator General Augusto Pinochet to impose a right-wing constitution that still exists three decades after his regime ended, Chileans on Sunday voted in a 4-to-1 landslide to approve the creation of a new constitution. 

"Chile is reborn," political theorist Melany Cruz said on social media. 

"The people of Chile have shed the shackles of Pinochetismo—and opened a new chapter in their history."
—Progressive International

Cruz explained earlier on Sunday in Tribune that the waves of privatization and other free-market policies implemented in the 1970's and 80's under anti-democratic circumstances at the behest of economists from the University of Chicago led to vast inequalities and rendered egalitarian reform exceedingly difficult, even in the post-dictatorship period that began in 1990. 

There have been numerous attempts over the past 30 years to rein in market fundamentalism in Chile, but because neoliberalism was so deeply embedded into the country's constitution during the dictatorship era, Cruz wrote, the reign of Pinochet's politics outlived the military dictator.

Cruz called the historic referendum a "chance to bury Pinochet's legacy... and rebuild the country on a truly democratic basis."

The Chilean people responded en masse, seizing the opportunity to deliver a resounding blow to Pinochet's constitution. The vote signaled the culmination of a decades-long revolt against the era of neoliberalism that was unleashed in the wake of the U.S.-supported bombing of the capitol building in Santiago on September 11, 1973. 

Celebrations erupted Sunday night as results of the plebiscite rolled in. The final vote tally showed that of the more than 7.5 million Chilean citizens who cast ballots, the vast majority—nearly 80%—were in favor of rewriting the country's right-wing constitution. 

A video shared by AFP captures the jubilant mood of the massive pro-reform crowd that gathered in downtown Santiago:

"We've been living under an illegitimate constitution created by a military regime, that's only allowed progress to those who have money," Catalina Miranda told The Guardian on Sunday night. "There's been very few times that Chilean people have shared a collective victory like today."

Following Chile's democratic triumph, progressive voices around the world on social media expressed solidarity and congratulations, noting that this outcome is the product of generations of struggle and sacrifice. 

"Another historic victory for the people of Latin America," wrote journalist Ben Norton, linking Chileans' demand for a democratic constitution to last week's defeat of authoritarianism, neoliberalism, and U.S. imperialism in neighboring Bolivia.

Chile "is finally liberating itself," Norton added, "from some of the institutional leftovers of the CIA-installed, U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship."

Progressive International followed suit, saying that "the people of Chile have shed the shackles of Pinochetismo—and opened a new chapter in their history."

"Let this echo around the world," wrote Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, whose bestselling book 'The Shock Doctrine' used the Pinochet era as a benchmark example of what she termed disaster capitalism. "May this joyful day be the beginning of the end of the global reign of the Chicago Boys," which "started in Chile in 1973, in blood and fire."

In response to the decisive rejection of the neoliberal constitution adopted during Pinochet's dictatorship, journalist Carla Astudillo stated that it is impossible to overstate "how historic this moment is!"

Astudillo and Norton both noted how Sunday's referendum was made possible by the nationwide protests against austerity that erupted last October following a transit fare hike. As Pablo Abufom wrote at the time, however, the social uprising in Chile is "not about 30 pesos, it's about 30 years."

As Norton documented in February in The Grayzone, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera—himself a billionaire whose University of Chicago-trained brother served as one of Pinochet's economists during the military dictatorship—responded viciously to the political unrest, "shooting anti-austerity protesters, blinding and maiming [them] by the thousands."

Despite the government's violent repression of demonstrations, Chilean citizens' persistent and militant resistance forced Piñera last November to schedule a plebiscite for April, which was postponed until October due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As political scientist Lucía Dammert told the New York Times on Sunday, rewriting the country's constitution "wasn't on anyone's agenda" before last year's protests. "The fact we are now discussing a new constitution is a victory of the social movement."

Greg Grandin, the prize-winning historian of Latin America, pointed to the even longer roots of Sunday's victory, which he called "the fruit of decades of heroic protest" that was achieved "at the cost of untold lives."

"This historic day belongs to those who have struggled for decades, to those who have given their lives, to the tortured, to the mutilated, and especially to those who remain imprisoned," wrote Daniel Jadue, a left-wing architect and mayor of the community of Recoleta in the Santiago metropolitan region.

Sunday's call for a new constitution, Jadue added, "is the opportunity to transform Chile into a better country."

The political theorist Cruz noted that "what is ahead won't be easy and free of conflict."

"But it will be ours," she added. "We are writing our history."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Support progressive journalism.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

NY Court Suspends Rudy Giuliani From Practicing Law Over Trump Lies

The court pointed to "demonstrably false and misleading" claims of voter fraud made by former President Donald Trump's lawyer.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


State Court Ruling Called 'Big Step' Toward Holding ExxonMobil Accountable

"By clearing this hurdle, the people of Massachusetts are now one step closer to finally having their rightful day in court, where Exxon will have to answer for its campaign of deception."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Progressives Say 30-Day Eviction Moratorium Extension 'Not Enough'

"This only puts more pressure on our country to find a permanent solution to the housing crisis," said Rep. Ro Khanna. "We can't keep kicking the can down the road."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


'Sounds Like Fascism': DeSantis Signs Law to Collect Political Views of Professors

The law bars universities from "shielding" students from "offensive" views, raising questions about retaliation for professors who enforce respectful classroom conduct.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


EPA Inaction Blamed as US Bees Suffer Second Highest Colony Losses on Record

Beekeepers lost nearly half of their colonies between April 2020 and April 2021, according to the Bee Informed Partnership survey.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·