Catalina Balla is the Head of Communications of Ciudadanía Inteligente, a Latin American organization based in Chile with 10 years of experience
in developing digital tools to strengthen democracies. Catalina is a Journalist, holding a master’s in Cultural Journalism from University of Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) and Co-founder of the Network of Communicators Táctica. Catalina talks with Saccam on the process of formation of new constitution in Chile.
Saccam: Why does Chile want a new constitution?
Catalina: First, because of a need for legitimacy of origin. The current constitution was written by a small number of men, behind the back of the public and in the context of the Pinochet dictatorship. Where not only was the capitalist system dramatically perpetuated, but human rights were systematically violated. In ways that seem implausible to us to this day. Rapes, torture, murders, and a huge number of disappearances.
Second, the distribution of political power. Today we have a presidential system. With the new constitution the construction of more space for citizen participation in decision-making is expected.
This process can be a new beginning to change the current subsidiary model of the state and extreme capitalism. With this, we hope to move towards a model that guarantees social, cultural, and environmental rights. It is also very important to discuss environmental justice. Currently, natural resources, such as water, are in private hands. It is essential to consider water as a human right and the maintenance of its ecosystem functions over economic or privatization considerations.
Saccam: What is the space created in the constitution for people’s participation for governance?
Catalina: It is not yet defined how citizens will be able to participate in the constituent process. From civil society, we created “the network for participation” to press for a budget for this and what would be the most effective way to do it.
Saccam: How is the political literacy in Chile?
Catalina: In Chile we have a big problem of lack of legitimacy for public institutions. There is a significant disaffection of the system, especially of the political parties (only 5% of the population trusts them). Today this has changed a little, mainly due to the social demonstrations of 2019 and this year’s referendum. More and more projects and initiatives are being born that seek to bring citizens closer to politics and their discussions. Many questions remain, and we hope that participation can be effectively binding.
Saccam: There is a suggestion of 50% women’s participation in the Assembly and what is the role played by women in the governance right now, and are women ready to take the challenge and are they prepared?
Catalina: Of course. Women are as qualified as men to carry out any task. Now the problem is that we are not represented, not because of our abilities, but because the patriarchy system has been perpetuated in our system.
This issue does not have to do with capacities, but with promoting, with inclusive measures, the real participation of women (who make up 50% of the population) and who have historically been attacked and silenced.
This is a great opportunity to be the world’s first constitution written on parity
Saccam: Is there an opposition to the new constitution, if so what are groups opposed to the new constitution and why.
Catalina: Yes, the groups that dominate the system to maintain the status quo. For the more affluent sector of Chile, the constitution of Pinochet has allowed economic growth and good positioning with respect to the rest of the countries of the Latin American region. On the other hand, there was a talk of the vote against violence. Many campaigns tried to impose that approving a new constitution meant agreeing with the growing violence that the country has experienced in recent months. There may be more points of view, but in short, it was shown that 80% of citizens demand new changes and maintaining the current one is to perpetuate inequality in Chile.