Chile Constituent: We Will Not Abandon the Streets

Carlos Aznárez and María Torrellas
In the context of the latest elections to the constituent convention to create a new Constitution in Chile, we spoke with Nuriluz Hermosilla Osorio, archaeologist and one of the three spokespersons of the Coordinadora Feminista 8M, participant of the Comité Socioambiental and the Comité de Derechos Humanos y Memoria Feminista (Human Rights and Feminist Memory Committee).

What does this triumph of the Constituents, of feminist women, native women and ecologists mean?

This represents another milestone, within what has been a long and hard road. Above all, harsh, with many dead and mutilated. It is a struggle that the Mapuche peoples have been waging for a long time, opposing institutionalization and fighting for the return of their lands, with greater force now that the extractivists are installed with energy, salmon farming and forestry projects. These extractivists are installed in an environment of pauperization of the Mapuche people and the mestizo peasantry in the Wallmapu territories.

We have been a people in revolt since October 19, 2019. We are in permanent revolt. We have been affected by a government that has repressed us and invented this convention to change the constitution. Pinochet’s constitution, which we have had for 40 years.

Within this context, among the people who are constantly being repressed, we are fighting for hundreds of young people who are still in prison, under precautionary measures, for having raised stones against carabineros, and women who have been raped, more than 600 cases of ocular trauma, with loss of one or both eyes. In this environment, our decision to participate in the constituent process was not easy.

According to our decision-making system, which is to make decisions in assemblies, the assemblies were not collectively in favor of going to a constituent process, however, we chose to follow the two paths. To continue in the struggle, to not abandon the street and at the same time to be in this constituent process.

How many feminist women were present?

We participated as the Feminist Coordinating Committee with five candidates, plus a group of 15 feminist candidates from all over the country who came from the indigenous movement or ecological, anti-capitalist and anti-extractivist movements. In that sense, the triumph was not only in the results, but in the process of constructing this discourse to affirm who we are and what struggle we are waging.

They are anti-racist struggles, in favor of migration, we are with the invisibilized work of women, care work, affirming life over precarization to which we have been subjected. We are all subjected, as women and as sexual dissidents as well.

The pandemic exacerbated this situation and reinforced that the only way to advance was through the slogan heard in the streets: “Only the people can help the people”. Also, women’s work, which we have always defended, is care work.

During this period there was a lot of work, we had to carry on in parallel with these campaigns of the comrades and continue the struggle in the street, with the vulnerable groups. This caused many tensions. But in my assessment, it was a great triumph. As for the people who woke up a year and a half ago, it meant a strengthening. This was demonstrated not only by our results, which were moderate, because five out of the 15 candidates that we have in the constituents were elected.

The gap was not only narrowed, but there is a center party, the yellow party of the Christian groups, which is disappearing, it is flapping its wings in death throes. Besides, the independent movements achieved more than 40 seats, they are movements like the people’s lists, they are lists that have no connection with political parties.

On the other hand, there are the seats for the indigenous communities, where 17 people are elected, 15 of whom are women and are in themselves true symbolic bulwarks of the struggles. We know them, they are reliable, incorruptible people, who sustain this struggle from the territories.

Elisa Loncon is a Mapuche activist, a professor of linguistics and a champion of the linguistic rights of the Mapuche peoples. There is Machi Francisca Linconao who has been the only woman who has won an international lawsuit against the government which meant her imprisonment and persecution. There are many people of great courage. Adolfo Millabur, long-time mayor of Tirúa, is very much loved by his people. This battle is just beginning.

The right wing brought out some constituents who are from the hardest core of the right wing government, such as Marcela Cubillos, who was with the rejection vote. She wants to keep Pinochet’s constitution and she will be fighting for that. We are facing an explosion which has to do with the feminine. There were many more women than we could accommodate, so we had to give way to men. There were eight men who were promoted because of the parity quota and four women who changed the quota.

We know that parity does not mean that all women agree. You named one from the right and we have examples such as Michelle Bachelet, who is the symbol of betrayal as a woman and for human rights, especially if you think about where she came from. The question is: Is it going to be possible to promote a popular Constitution, taking into account the presence in the Convention of people from the right and also some from the left who supported the Concertación all these years?

I trust so. To what extent are we going to be able to fulfill these anti-capitalist yearnings, we want everything to go up in flames, we want this terrible oppressive system to come to an end. It is important not to be confident, not to be triumphalist. Here, as you say, betrayal is behind every tree. There are leftist parties that are riding on this triumph and have brought out beautiful people, young people, women from the Frente Amplio, Socialists, Communist Party, they have been successful. They are people who represent a change, they are not the corrupt of the past, like Lago or Bachelet. But the pressure from the installed government and from the business community is very strong, we have to be on alert.

I highlighted the indigenous constituents, they are trustworthy people and some of the Mapuches who were right-wing were left behind. But as for the rest of the range, we know that the patriarchal mechanisms operate strongly in the Socialist Party. Anyone who reaches the party order in a vertical way, those women are likely to be left by the wayside.

They are raising candidacies whom one does not trust. The woman who supports Bachelet to be a candidate for the Presidency, I have no doubt that she is a nice person, but she will not be able to govern if she is elected, but the old structures of the party will rule, those linked to the businessmen, they are part of the boards of directors of the companies.

We have to maintain the lucidity and clarity that the struggle gives us. It is provided by the defense of human rights and by the detainees, the disappeared, that urges us not only not to be naive, but to keep our eyes focused on how politics develops on all sides. Those sides that have their vocation in business, in the stock market, that is their vocation and their work 24 hours a day, have many people, among them career politicians that if they have their businesses, they are not going to let them go.

That has to be clear, they will not leave out of good will and they will not let go of their business, whether they have to send carabineros to gouge out our eyes, whether they have to send tanks to the street. In that sense, this game requires a lot of restraint, but we do trust our candidates.

What about the enormous number of people who did not vote, 60 percent, I suppose there are positions of rejection of bourgeois politics and electoralism, are there people who no longer believe in anything and are indifferent? how do you see that?

People are wanting to develop their struggle as we have always developed it. We are a people with clean hands, we don’t mess with arms dealers, we engage in war with stones and scribbles, we insult them and that’s all there is to it. There are many people who have suffered a lot with the pandemic, with this health administration and believe that things are not going to change. They are convinced that we are all the same. Even when we go out with the candidates we feel rejected, “ah, you are a candidate, ah, I don’t have time, bye”.

It was very hard to demonstrate in the streets, with the conversations that we had to come to power, not to appropriate power, but to return it to the people and to represent what the people need. This is a very important paradigm shift, progress is being made, but it is slow. Every time there is a new betrayal, again the people end up in pain, they end up distrusting.

And in this they are right, many people have died in their families, despite the efforts of the health personnel, the numbers of people dying are exorbitant. You cannot ask them to trust. You have the media telling all the time only one version, their version, that we are violent. Then, there is the fear of what could happen, so they withdraw.

On the other hand, we have seen many fascist aggressions in the streets.

Yes, there are fascist movements in the streets. They are very good at confusing the people, they come out with their anti-political discourse and they make people angry, they come out with anti-Venezuelan discourse and people get confused. So, this fascism failed to reach the Constituent Assembly, but it does have power within the current Government. This influence is silent and dark, because they are people who were leftists, who fell into the hands of the dictatorship, then they were agents of the security services and now they are part of the image consultancies of the right-wing governments and they are circulating there. It is a very bad environment. There are the visible faces of fascism and the inviible ones that have plenty of money.

There are multiple factors. We cannot definitely rejoice. But we are happy to have found each other and to have been able to form coalitions, to hold hands and support each other in the face of this painful situation.

I am going to a protest at the Israeli Embassy this afternoon against the damage they are doing in Palestine. Tomorrow I have to be at the national library because I have to support the families of the children who are imprisoned. This continues, we are not going to let go of the streets. We are going to do what is asked for and we are going to support the comrades who are going to be drafting the Constitution.

There are important absences in the convention: the Afro-descendants are not there, the migrants are not there, even when you were talking about how Venezuelans are treated, the high school students are not there, the prisoners are not there, I would say that many fighters of the First Line are not there, those who were fighting for an entire year and were being beaten.

The high school students are not here, but there are young people, those who remained in the Constituent Assembly. I should tell you that at least two people are from the First Line, maybe three. One is Aunt Pikachu, one who is an assistant, who wears a yellow Pikachu costume. She is very clear, and she is from the First Line.

The other one is a man we know as Pelao Vade, he has cancer, he was not treated because he had no money and yet he was in the First Line. And the third first line present is María Rivera. She is a lawyer. She has always been with the children in the street, Primera Línea.

There was a legal front line, as well as more than 80 medical groups and nurses attending in the places of the revolt. There were more than 800 lawyers distributed in police stations and health centers, it is the silent First Line there alongside our supporters in the struggles.

We are on the front line, in the street and speaking out. I believe that we have to be there, we have to stay strong, not to rely too much on schematic resolutions about who is there and who is not there, to move forward. There are the people, the decent, hardy people, who prefer to migrate from the countryside to the city and the mothers who work as domestic servants all their lives so that they can give their children an education. I rescue these people of good will who want a good future. They have already been swindled on many occasions and this is where we want to be.