Chileans go to the polls in September for what will be the most important election of their lives. They will vote on the adoption or rejection of a proposed constitution drawn up by a socialist-controlled assembly. The document, composed of 388 articles, would create an unequal justice system and grant more rights to those who claim indigenous ancestry. It would effectively end private health and education and allow Congress to confiscate Chileans’ pension savings. The September 4 referendum is the last chance for citizens to prevent Chile from becoming a socialist country, as Venezuela became more than two decades ago.
Chile is and has been the biggest success story in Latin America. Ravaged by extreme poverty, scarcity of goods and hyperinflation at the beginning of the years 1970, today it is the richest country in Latin America. Extreme poverty has been almost eradicated and intergenerational socio-economic mobility is greater than in Germany, France and even the United States.
The Chilean miracle was the result of the current Constitution, ratified in a referendum in 1980, and the reforms that followed under the guidance of Milton Friedman and his protégés. At the beginning of the decade 1970, Chile was the least free economy in Latin America and Venezuela the freest. Chile overtook Venezuela in 1990, and today the roles are reversed: Venezuela embarked on the socialist project that Chile left behind, resulting in nearly half a million Venezuelan immigrants choosing Chile as their new home. Free markets lead to prosperity. Socialism leads to poverty.
But Chile’s progress is at risk.
In 2019, Chile it was one of many Latin American countries affected by a regional wave of leftist protests aimed at overthrowing moderate and conservative governments. Thousands of Chileans took to the streets in 2019 to protest, riot and even loot companies, supposedly because of the economic inequality they saw. Unlike many of its neighbors, the conservative Chilean establishment, led by then-President Sebastián Piñera, gave in to the troublemakers. Piñera agreed to a referendum on changing the Constitution and jeopardized the rule of law and democracy in the name of the whims of the voters of the moment. The following year, in the midst of the pandemic, Chileans voted by a large majority for a new Constitution to be written and, in 2021, they elected an assembly to do so. This assembly was controlled by extreme left parties of all stripes, including socialists, woken progressives and indigenous groups.
The result is not surprising. The proposed Chilean Constitution seems like a longer, more woke and even more socialist version of Venezuela’s Constitution. Like the one in Venezuela, it uses both masculine and feminine pronouns in all sentences, with the aim of being inclusive, although the masculine plural is traditionally understood to refer to women as well. What differentiates the proposed Chilean Constitution from the US Constitution is that it is not a framework for organizing the government and limiting its powers. It is a wish list of socialist politics.
Chile would no longer be a democratic republic, but a “plurinational and parity” republic. This is just the beginning of a legal construction that will divide Chileans by sex and ethnic heritage.
The article ) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on race, religion or sex, but also on political opinions, “social class” and other “beliefs”. Demands that the government make amends for all forms of past discrimination. I have no doubt that this will be used to force Chilean Catholic schools to hire atheists or people with lifestyles contrary to Church teachings, and as a weapon to censor speeches.
would legalize abortion until the moment of birth, in a deeply Catholic country that currently prohibits abortion with exceptions only in cases of rape and risk to the mother’s life. Abortions in government hospitals would also be paid for with taxpayers’ money. As if that were not enough, the articles 40 and 40 would declare that the Chileans have the right to sex education and recognition of their sexual identity. The government is also obliged to implement policies to end gender stereotypes. Would this result in fines or imprisonment for Chileans who refuse to call others by their preferred pronouns?
The proposed Constitution would abolish the free-market protections that allowed Chile to become an extremely prosperous country . Currently, in education and health, Chileans can choose between the private sector and the government system. Only those who pay a health insurance tax can turn to public hospitals. The proposed Constitution would allow everyone to be treated in state hospitals. This would raise taxes for everyone, leading many Chileans to give up private coverage as compensation and, ultimately, increasing the wait time for health care. The proposal prohibits any for-profit educational enterprise at all levels, which would result in the closure of many private schools.
Chile’s famous private retirement savings system, which consists of mandatory private savings supplemented by government subsidies to the poor, would be abolished. The proposed new charter would authorize the government to confiscate accumulated private retirement savings and income tax funds from active workers to pay the pensions of others, as Americans do with their unsustainable Social Security system.
Perhaps the most worrying part of the Chilean Constitution proposal is the implosion of the division between powers and the legal inequality that it would create in the name of social justice. The Senate would be replaced by a quasi-protocol “chamber of regions” and Congress would establish its own method of election by simple majority. Seats in all legislative bodies would be reserved for indigenous groups according to their proportion in the population. Those enrolled in a public electoral register of indigenous people could vote for these representatives in addition to voting for non-indigenous representatives. In other words, a segment of the population would have dual representation.
This deeply unjust Constitution would cause Chileans who self-identify as indigenous to be prosecuted and tried under a separate set of laws, regardless of whether they live or not in an indigenous community. A Chilean citizen could claim to be indigenous and argue that the crime he committed was due to his traditional culture. To paraphrase George Orwell, all Chileans are equal, but some Chileans are more equal than others.
Chileans have a choice to make in September. Will they vote no to the proposed Constitution and keep Chile free and prosperous, or will they vote yes and follow Venezuela’s socialist path? The half a million Venezuelan immigrants in Chile should serve as a reminder to voters that when they vote the wrong way, there is sometimes no turning back.
Daniel Di Martino is a Venezuelan citizen, doctoral candidate in economics at Columbia University, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the Job Creators Network and founder of the Dissident Project.
© 2022 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English.