August 2023 | President Boric presents National Search Plan for victims of enforced disappearances during dictatorship
A national plan to search for victims of enforced disappearances during the Pinochet dictatorship was launched by President Gabriel Boric on 30 August, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The Plan aims to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and whereabouts of victims, their recovery and identification, as well as to guarantee the rights of victims and their families to truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. The plan will have an assigned budget for its implementation, and is part of the initiatives launched in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973. Over 3,200 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship.
May 2023 | Far-right becomes majority in new constitutional assembly
On 7 May, Chileans voted to elect the members of the body entrusted with drafting a new constitution. The new constitution will replace the current one, which dates to the Pinochet dictatorship. A draft prepared by a previous constitutional assembly, which was dominated by the left, was criticised as too progressive and rejected in a September 2022 referendum.
25 women and 26 men were elected as members, as per the constitutional requirement guaranteeing gender parity. The country’s right-wing parties will make up the majority of the new constitutional assembly, with the far-right Republican Party obtaining the most seats, 22 out of 51. Due to the latter’s conservative views, including its opposition to abortion, the assembly’s configuration has implications for how rights will be addressed in the new draft. Analysts consider this result as a reflection of President Boric’s declining approval. Around 15.1 million Chileans participated in the election, in a process where voting was mandatory.
April 2023 | Congress approves law that establishes a special self-defence regime for police
Congress has approved the “Nain-Retamal” Act, a piece of legislation that introduces the concept of “privileged legitimate defence”. Such a concept entails a presumption that police or members of the armed forces have rightly used or discharged their service weapons when acting in self-defence or in defence of a third person. It also increases sanctions for the commission of crimes against security forces. The new law was introduced in the context of increasing violent crime in Chile, including homicide, as well as the homicide of members of security forces in the past months. Human rights organizations and activists have criticised the new provisions as contrary to standards of proportionality in the use of force.
September 2022 | Chileans reject new constitution
On 4 September a majority of Chileans rejected a new constitutional text that would have replaced the existing one that dates to the Pinochet dictatorship. With mandatory vote and 85.8 per cent participation, 61.9 per cent of voters rejected the new constitution, with just 38.1 per cent favouring its adoption. Electors were seemingly unconvinced by profound modifications that would have impacted indigenous rights, the environment, pensions and education, among other issues. While the result had been foreseeable, the margin of defeat was unexpected, and taken as a poll on the performance of President Boric’s administration - so much so, that a reshuffling of his cabinet has already taken place, six months into his presidency.
The new constitutional drafting process was triggered by social discontent and mass protests in 2019 against inequality associated with the legacy of the Pinochet regime and neoliberalism, thought to be enabled by the current constitution’s terms. After the referendum results, President Boric directed Congress to establish a new timetable for the drafting of a proposal that satisfies the majority of the population.