A rural town’s river vanished. Is Chile’s constitution to blame?
“The current Constitution will be abolished in a few years. It’s time to change the constitution,” reads one of the banners hanging outside the town hall in Colina, a remote Chilean fishing community about 100 miles north of the capital, Santiago. “I came up with the idea for this demonstration because after five years of the current Constitution, we have been waiting for a new one.”
For a brief moment after the 1992 constitutional crisis that ushered in two presidents, Pinochet’s era, Colina was the best of good times. This was a town of 4,000 at the end of a dirt road where fishermen were hard at work and the women were out of sight.
Today, despite a recent boom in development, the economy is stagnating. Crime and violence are pervasive. There are almost no jobs. The town of 1,500 people now has a population of about 6,500 and is only a few minutes drive from the port and tourist beach of La Serena, where the world’s second largest ice block went down in June.
One by one, the townspeople are getting tired of waiting for a new constitution to replace the one that was first established in 1833. Each time a referendum is held, they vote no. At the town meeting Tuesday, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of voting out the current Constitution.
There are only two votes against: One was from a local congressman who was supporting the current Constitution. He’s already been a congressman for 15 years, six of them as president of the republic from 1992 to 1996. The other was from a local businessman who lives in the country’s most populous city and represents the local district. He voted no.
When he spoke, he spoke of his hope for a constitution that would allow for greater autonomy in rural areas and the protection of the environment while still protecting economic growth.
Colina’s other option is an election in 2018 when voters will elect a regional deputy who will be appointed to the national parliament. The current constitution could then be amended, and the new constitution could be drafted without the participation