Chile: “The Secret is Not to Leave the Streets”

Carlos Aznarez
https://oge.cl/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/FRANCISCA-FERNADEZ_FOTO3-otra.jpgThe victory of the Approval in Chile has provoked satisfaction and enthusiasm in wide sectors of the population but nobody ignores that now a difficult and complex stage is beginning. To discuss the present and what the future of the struggle in that country might look like, we interviewed Francisca “Pancha” Fernández, a feminist militant of the Coordinadora 8M and also a protagonist in the battle for the deprivatization of water.

As you said, we are happy. Celebrating this triumph, which we must not forget is the triumph of the people. Beyond the fact that many sectors that are part of the problem have wanted to appropriate it. It is the historic mobilization, the political mobilization of the revolt of the different peoples that made possible the things we experienced this past Sunday.

Then, can we summarize this victory of El Apruebo as the result of this whole year of struggle, since the high school students broke through the subway checkpoints until the present time of this revolt that has resulted in death, imprisonment and many sacrifices made on the streets by the young people?

Yes, absolutely, but I would expand on that. I have said it on several occasions, it is certain that what we are seeing with an overwhelming approval, for a new Constitution, is the product of two tracks that were interwoven. On the one hand, there is no doubt that the revolt of October 18, 2019, which we cannot forget, generated in a very powerful way by the students jumping the turnstiles of the subway because of a $30 increase. Then there is the corporalized rage of 30 years, even more, of 45 years of consolidation of neoliberal policies that exploded justifiably. It was the outbreak of a popularized rage, arising from the different powers that be. However, I am emphatic in pointing out that there were routes and paths already established by the people in the territories and the social movements. We cannot forget the Mapuche people who have resisted for more than 500 years against an oppressive state and who have generated proposals for self-determination, they are great references. It is not by chance that the Mapuche flag has been an icon of this mobilization. Just as feminists have had a program of struggle for two years now, against patriarchalization, against violence and structural precarization, we have a comprehensive program of struggle for water, too. Then historical struggles were interwoven with a current revolt. We must remember that if today we can speak of a new Constitution, it is exclusively the product of the mobilizations that were generated in the light of October and of this historical project, of this political horizon that we have been able to sustain with our peoples.

There is an issue that we need to clarify, especially for those who are not in Chile. What difficulties are involved in this process? We have heard some voices saying: “let’s hope they don’t take away what we have fought for”. What are the complexities for you?

The complexities must be understood through perhaps three processes. The constituent has three phases. The first is the moment of destitution, of overthrowing the prevailing order, specifically neo-liberal policies that have perpetuated the precarization of all things. Like the privatization of Chile’s waters, for example. We are the only country in the world where water is private. So the destitute has been configured through expressions in the street. It is not by chance that another important moment of the revolt is the dismantling of the monuments that represent all these hegemonic, colonial, patriarchal values. In addition to the destitution of our memory of resistance. It is like this: in La Serena a colonial figure is destroyed and the figure of the Cacica Millanca is placed. What is destitute is also “Renunciation Piñera”, “Out Piñera”, as you had the process “to get rid of all”. Here the typical thing is to abide by the logic of the political parties, even the so-called progressive ones or the most critical leftists, like the Frente Amplio. The problem is how the hegemonic power that has configured the neo-liberal model has been given.

Where is the second phase?

A second moment is constitutive, but with an understanding of other possible horizons. Then the constituent aspect is the territorial assemblies, these are the programs that I referred to from the feminist movement, from the original peoples, Afro-descendants, migrants, those mobilized from the countryside and the city. There we are constantly building a constituent horizon. I insist again, both from previous political figures and formations, and from the territorial assemblies that emerged with force. Then there is the constituent as a constitutional key. It has another corporeality, provided by a subsidiary, privatizing, centralist State, and precisely there comes complicity. What happens? The constituent from the territories has its own timing, the timing of the peoples. And we are in the process of building them. However, the constituent, in addition to having an institutional time has become a time shaped by an agreement that was generated in November 2019. Where parties from the institutional left to the right sign an agreement that finally makes it possible for us to vote. However, it limits us. What is the modality of exit? We have always said that we want a plurinational Constituent Assembly, understanding that we are different peoples that include native, African, migrant, peasant, and urban peoples, as well as feminist assemblies that fight for processes of depatriarchalization and a socio-environmental assembly, where we place the rights of nature as a priority.

What happened, was that possibility limited?

Indeed, we were restricted to two sides. On the one hand, the mixed commission, which was a possibility that was lost, 50% congressional people, 50% citizenship, and the constitutional Congress as supposedly the most progressive, 100% elected congressmen. But what is the problem? The electoral system is under the logic of district deputation. So the same people who are there are still being favored. They are part of the problem, the political parties. There is also Law 21200, which follows another axis: that during the constitutional process, free trade agreements cannot be altered. And from the socio-environmental struggle, from the feminist struggle, we have said, “Watch out, this is a priority,” that one of the most important aspects of this is neoliberal, because the free trade agreements have tended to make our labor conditions more precarious, but they also tend towards territorial outsourcing with the logic of commodification and privatization. So, we have difficulties, and that has to do with this second very important moment. The framework of impunity. Here there have been murders, torture, political-sexual violence, mutilations and we have thousands of prisoners of revolt. We have Mapuche political prisoners. These are the conditions that we have called impunity. So there is the first complex moment. The second is that we are struggling with the construction of this Constituent Assembly and furthermore this morning I saw how sectors of the ex-Concertación, of the New Majority, are appropriating everything, not to mention that they are part of the problem. For example, in Chile, water was privatized in 1981, but the sanitary facilities were privatized with the Concertación. Therefore, it seems fundamental that the struggle in the streets, and the demand for the freedom of the prisoners continue to be fundamental criteria to continue this process on two fronts, the constitutional on the one hand and on the other hand to continue deepening the constituent processes of our peoples from a territorial point of view and from the point of view of the self-determination of the peoples. These are complex times. How do we dispute? There is a sector already mobilized that said “well, let’s overflow the constitutional process,” other sectors say “no, it overflows in the street,” “it overflows breaking structures”. So, I think that there we have different readings of the process that is coming. But without a doubt we have the absolute clarity that times of mobilization are coming where we have to continue sustaining all these proposals that we have been talking about.

Because of all that you have said so far, there is a question that is not very clear. In some Latin American processes, this time of a constituent assembly was done with more or less revolutionary or progressive governments, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, with a constituent process that was oriented from above, but with the consensus of the base. In Chile we are in trouble, because there is a neo-liberal capitalist, fascist, dictatorial government that has not been replaced and now this victory has been achieved. How can this not be provisional? As you were saying, we have already seen that the whole group is linked to Bachelet, to Washington DC, to Ominami and Isabel Allende, to cite only a few, who will try to take over the victory. Is the street sufficient to stop them? Wouldn’t an organization that brings together the street be necessary? Because the street itself, and the territorial organizations are a compendium of many ideas and many proposals, and the problem is how to fight against these resurrected characters, who are going to push you with the institutional needs day and night.

It is important, on the Sunday of the vote at 7 pm the Plaza de La Dignidad was absolutely packed. At that time, the polling booths were still open, because of the pandemic. Historically, the plebiscite tables are always closed at 5pm, but this year it was extended to 8pm to ensure better sanitary and protective conditions. But people were in the Square at 7 pm. We were not celebrating the result at that time, we were celebrating the process. Because we knew that by having this process, we had already won. It is exciting to see the overflow of the streets. Nobody was interested in the results of the election. Obviously we were looking at the percentage of the results afterwards. Also, the voting population increased, but there were people who didn’t vote. There was a critical scrutiny of the institutional process with no participation. But those who did participate in some way, approving and voting for constitutional reforms were present nonetheless. I think it is very important. Second, what was said in the first part of Sunday’s mobilization: “Renounce Piñera, out Piñera”. We cannot think of a constituent process, a democratizing process with a new constitution, if that implies broadening the frameworks of democracy, because we know the law, that violence and extractivism could continue to be perpetuated. That is also true. We have not exhausted everything in the new constitution but we need justice and not the civic-military dictatorship. To continue with the Constitution within the framework of a civic-military dictatorship means to continue politically and institutionally within those frameworks. But we are not going to put an end to liberalism with the new Constitution. It is extremely important and we have said so. It is part of the path. It is part of the construction. Some have spoken of participating, some have said no, that we should continue to support and politicize as was done in October, that a new vote could be generated. On the other hand, we have to press for Piñera’s resignation. The fact that he finally received the Constitution is very dramatic. So, we are facing this great challenge. On the other hand, we must be aware that the Concertación, the New Majority, and those who have called themselves progressive, who have nothing to do with progressives because they have perpetuated neoliberalism, are not part of this story. It is not their struggle, in 30 years they have done nothing. They were in power and that power did not generate transformation. So “Piñera out”. We have to get the prisoners out and continue this incessant struggle so that Piñera leaves, the secret is not to let go of the street.

On the other hand, Piñera affirmed, as soon as the election was over, that “this is just a triumph of peace and of all Chileans, of unity”, the height of cynicism or autism. He can see it, he knows it, it is clear that he is wagering on whether he can survive until 2022, the moment of the elections. That is why it seems logical what you are proposing, that Piñera at least leave to begin to discuss how this new Constitution is carried out.

Moreover, with two policies, one is the policy of dissent. The social movements are capable of articulating in spite of the differences and there is a debate on the Constituent Assembly, which, it should be noted, there are now several fights going on. The Citizens’ Constituent Assembly has been created, of people who called for not participating in the constitutional convention, there have been at least two meetings. On the other hand, this Social Unity that is calling for a Constitutional Assembly is also something to think about, because now from the Coordinadora 8 de Marzo we are concerned with education, with water. What is the challenge, in spite of our differences in interpretation, there are common shared meanings, such as how to construct a plurinational constituent process proper to the organizations, where we can converse, meet and dissent. On the other hand, we have to accept the politics of uncertainty, that things are constantly changing. We are evaluating day by day the different conditions that are occurring, to stop these processes. This is important, that we are part of what we are understanding as a political process.

Looking at the percentage of voters, it seemed that it was under 50%, however, you said that it was a historical percentage. This means that before nobody went, so how many people voted?

The universe of voters is 14 million. Those who voted were 7 million, however with respect to the No vote, the election of the President with respect to 2017, both the first and second rounds, this is the highest. Many older people did not go to vote. This is a clear vote of the youth. And that’s absolutely historic. A sector that did not tend to vote. We cannot forget that we are voting in the midst of a pandemic. I think that’s important. On the other hand, to realize that there are people who don’t vote because they are critical of these constitutional cadres and although they have thought that this could be the way, they don’t participate. Three emblematic communities that voted for the Rejection are upper class communities. Here we are talking about being inserted in the class struggle. Here there is classism. In the upper classes, the vote for the Rejection is overwhelming. In another place, the militarized zone, which is linked to the armed forces, there has always been military intervention, and there the Rejection also won. But where Approval wins, they are all places of sacrifice. Here it is interesting to do different readings with respect to percentages, to attendance. This is an interesting lesson that we will be carrying with us in the coming days, and I hope that we will meet and discuss it. I think this is the important thing, we will be defining lines of action, day by day.

Translation by Internationalist 360°