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Gabriel Boric

Chilean President Gabriel Boric delivers a speech in Santiago on September 4, 2022 after voters resoundingly rejected a proposed new constitution in a referendum. (Photo: Chilean Presidency Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'We'll Come Back Stronger,' Vows Chilean Left After Visionary Constitution Rejected

"We will continue fighting more than ever to live in fairer, more egalitarian, and more humane Chile," said one prominent rights group.

Brett Wilkins

Proponents of Chile's new progressive constitution pledged to keep fighting Sunday following their crushing defeat in a plebiscite whose outcome was cheered by the oligarchs and corporations who spent heavily on the "no" campaign.

"We resisted for 500 years and will continue to do so."

With nearly all votes counted Sunday evening, the reject, or "rechazo," campaign was leading the approve, or "apruebo," effort, 60% to 40%.

The proposed document would have replaced a charter imposed during the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet with what proponents called the "world's most progressive constitution," replete with extensive rights for Indigenous peoples, women, and the environment. The proposal also guaranteed free healthcare, housing, and education.

Gabriel Boric, Chile's recently inaugurated democratic socialist president, acknowledged in a Sunday evening address to the nation that "the Chilean people were not satisfied with the constitutional proposal that the convention produced."

Boric added that "Chile trusts in its democracy."

"I will do all I can to build a new constitutional itinerary alongside the Congress and the civil society that will give us a text that, collecting the learnings of the process, aims to achieve a big majority," he added.

"Apruebo" advocates said the fight for a more just constitution is not over.

Rosa Catrileo, a constitutional delegate representing the Mapuche people, said that "it is never easy to move major transformations."

But, she added, "we resisted for 500 years and will continue to do so."

Bárbara Sepúlveda Hales, a constitutional attorney, tweeted: "Today we lost, but the fight to transform Chile continues. Thanks to the thousands who participated and debated to have an egalitarian constitution. Especially to the women who paved the way to advance for our rights."

"The horizon is one of change and it is inevitable," she added.

"The fears, the lies, were stronger," human rights activist Trinidad Lathrop tweeted. "How powerful is the power of money. But we're going to make it. Give yourselves some time to lick your wounds and then we'll come back stronger. For all and all... we are going to get ahead."

Amnesty International Chile tweeted that "today is a sad day. We have missed the historical opportunity to have a new constitution."

"But although the result of the plebiscite was not as expected," the group added, "we will continue fighting more than ever to live in fairer, more egalitarian, and more humane Chile."

While there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that Chile's constitution must change, it is not known how the process—which is expected to be highly contentious—will move forward.

Boric said he is confident that Chileans can work toward a constitutional consensus. 

"When we act in unity," the president in his speech, "we get the best of us."

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