Seattle Journal for Social Justice

Chile at the Crossroads: From the 2019 Social Explosion to a New Constitution


Hugo Rojas


The dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet imposed the 1980 Constitution and the neoliberal economic model, the two main beams that have shaped socio-political life in Chile for the last four decades. Various factors have led to a profound questioning of the current institutionalism. These factors include dissatisfaction with the political-economic model, social inequality, and a lack of opportunities and social mobility for broad sectors of the population. This document explains the social causes and political consequences of the October 2019 social explosion. A year later, a referendum was held in which most voters agreed with the idea of creating a Constitutional Convention to draft a new constitution. In May 2021, the 155 members of the Convention were elected, with gender parity and seats reserved for Indigenous peoples. The ongoing Chilean experience shows how social mobilization can undo straitjackets as tightly bound as a neoliberal economic model and a constitution imposed during a dictatorship that did not represent most citizens. Thanks to the mobilizations and pressures from the grassroots of society, there is a concrete opportunity to redesign the Republic of Chile through broad political consensus. Keywords: Authoritarian enclaves, social explosion, constituent assembly, Chile.