After decades of organizing, pro-democracy activists in Chile are finally seeing the fruits of their labor with the release of a historical document that sets in motion the legislative process to redraft the constitution. Since 1980, when the country’s former military dictatorship established the current constitution, activists have launched dozens of campaigns, spent hundreds of hours lobbying, and rallied thousands to march. Now, with the unveiling of The Citizens Guidelines for a New Constitution on Monday, it is clear that their relentless efforts are going to set the country’s political course.
On September 11, 1973, Chile was shaken when socialist President Salvador Allende died as the air force bombed the Presidential Palace. In the context of the Cold War, the Chilean armed forces, with the support of the U.S. government, had staged a coup. These events were followed by 17 years under a military dictatorship, led by General Augusto Pinochet. During this period, the regime committed systematic human rights violations, with at least 28,000 people unlawfully imprisoned and tortured, 2,298 executed and 1,209 disappeared.