Within the aftermath of the lethal magnitude 8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile in February 2010, US columnist Bret Stephens – whose model of conservative zealotry instructions a regrettably profitable market within the imperial commentariat – took to the Wall Avenue Journal’s opinion web page to explain “How Milton Friedman Saved Chile”.
In Stephens’ view, the late free-market fundamentalist was to thank for the truth that the catastrophe didn’t trigger extra injury – and for giving Chileans the “mental wherewithal first to outlive the quake, and now to construct their lives anew”. By no means thoughts that Friedman’s “mental” contributions to the South American nation include offering the neoliberal ideology that underpinned the bloody US-backed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), which hundreds of Chileans didn’t survive. Tens of hundreds extra had been tortured by the state.
By no means thoughts, too, that the strict Chilean constructing codes referenced by Stephens hailed from 1972, i.e. from the pre-dictatorship presidency of democratically elected Salvador Allende – whose perception in financial equality, social justice, and different diabolical issues had necessitated the deadly 1973 coup in opposition to him by the guardians of hemispheric order. Following Allende’s election, US President Richard Nixon famously ordered the CIA to “make the [Chilean] financial system scream”. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s nationwide safety adviser and secretary of state, busied himself setting the stage for the coup.
Quick ahead 49 years and the foundations of order are as soon as once more being shaken – however not by an earthquake. In a obligatory nationwide plebiscite on Sunday, September 4, Chileans will vote on whether or not to approve a brand new draft structure to switch the present one, which dates from 1980 and the Pinochet heyday.
The draft happened in accordance with an October 2020 referendum through which 78 % of voters expressed help for a brand new nationwide structure. This was one 12 months after large, heavily-repressed protests in Chile had shone yet one more gentle on the nation’s devastating ranges of inequality and social disintegration – and on the willful obtuseness of anybody who calls Milton Friedman a “saviour”.
By way of equality, the draft structure doesn’t fail to ship. For starters, it’s the first structure on the earth to be drawn up by an equal variety of ladies and men, with important illustration from Indigenous communities, as effectively.
As CNN’s Spanish web site notes, the doc racks up quite a few different firsts, too. It will be the primary Chilean structure to enshrine rights for, inter alia, ladies, kids, and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming folks. In an unprecedented stand on behalf of Indigenous rights, the textual content defines Chile as a “plurinational” state, proposing better autonomy for Indigenous territories and the popularity of Indigenous authorized techniques.
The brand new structure would moreover guarantee a girl’s proper to terminate a being pregnant – a progressive step certainly in a rustic the place abortion was completely banned till 2017. Additionally proposed are measures to restrict the well-established potential for abuse by state safety forces. In distinction to the 1980 structure, the brand new 178-page draft doesn’t as soon as point out the phrase “terrorism”, which, as elsewhere in Latin America, lengthy served as a helpful excuse for inflicting corporate-friendly state terror – all, in fact, with the blessing and assist of the US.
Plus, the brand new textual content consists of numerous protections for organised labour and ensures fundamental rights like well being, schooling, shelter, meals, and water – which, nevertheless fundamental they could be, nonetheless spell sacrilege from a neoliberal perspective.
In different phrases, voting “sure” on September 4 is likely to be a reasonably good option to purge the ghost of Pinochet as soon as and for all. And but a right-wing disinformation marketing campaign has achieved its greatest to maintain the ghost alive, by propagating such fearsome tales as that – within the occasion the draft structure is accepted – non-public property will probably be abolished, abortions will probably be carried out at 9 months of gestation, and the nation will probably be spontaneously transformed into an Indigenous tyranny incorporating parts of Venezuela and Cuba.
Granted, there are additionally loads of Chilean leftists who argue that the brand new doc doesn’t go far sufficient. But it surely’s nonetheless a breath of recent air in a world asphyxiated by capitalism – notably given its emphasis on Chile as an “ecological” entity, the place the state should play an lively function in safeguarding the rights of nature together with human environmental rights.
It’s all actually extra inspiring than the structure of the USA, which has been compelled down the throat of many a growing nation as a mannequin – even if the nation was based on the genocide of Indigenous people and the institutionalised inequality of human beings. Whereas the correct to bear arms is enshrined within the US structure, the correct to extra basic issues will not be, and, because the New York-based Pure Assets Defence Council (NRDC) points out, “the phrase water seems solely as soon as within the Structure, in a provision that allows Congress to public sale off enemy warships”.
Now, half a century after the US undertook to derail Chilean democracy, Chile has paved the way in which for extra inclusive and participatory governance than ever: a novel contract between state, citizen, and surroundings that has no place for Milton Friedman’s neoliberal earthquake. And whereas it stays to be seen whether or not the constitutional vote constitutes a tectonic shift, the entire course of is at the least shaking issues up within the meantime.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.