International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Chile’s Transition to a Just Constitution

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Brutal, dictatorial regimes leave behind numerous legacies.  Paramount among them is a deep and emotional national trauma that future generations must cope with.  Truth commissions, among other reconciliation programs, are meant to help societies deal with the violence of their pasts.  Much time, effort, and money is put into systems of national recovery.  But, another, more practical, legacy is often overlooked, or is perhaps less focused on.  A country’s governing legal framework post-regime change is of the utmost importance for the generations following the transitional justice process.  Legal frameworks are so important because they bleed into systems of governance for years to come, and often affect individuals completely separated from the violent years.

Chile’s constitution was written under the Pinochet dictatorship.  It deeply entrenched free-market economics, right wing power, and high inequality in Chile’s government, despite the 200+ amendments that have been made since the constitution’s 1980 inception. Chile’s new, socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, is now faced with the task of “fixing” the constitution to reflect the values and interests of her constituency. The initiative to do so, however, was brought to light by the constituency itself.  Chile is currently undergoing a massive grassroots organizing effort to rid itself of the most deeply entrenched legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The grassroots nature of this organizing initiative cannot be undervalued or belittled.  Chile was largely transformed after a long and thorough process of transitional justice– one that is still playing out today.  However, there exists a gap in the ground covered by Chile’s transitional justice mechanisms if Pinochet’s constitution, the very basis of legal governance, was never significantly transformed or replaced. It is the people of Chile who’ve had to push their government to enact the change they desire.  The beginning of Bachelet’s second term as president will hopefully force her to push forward change, helping to erase a vestige of her country’s traumatic past. 

Watch the initiative’s promotional video here or click on the photo above!

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