March 20, 2021 #ChileDemocratic

A constitutional convention in Chile could forge a new social contract

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General Manuel Baquedano is, or was, one of Chile's national heroes, recognized for being the commander of the army that defeated Peru in the War of the Pacific. For nearly a century, his bronze equestrian statue has stood out in the plaza that represents the emotional heart of Santiago, a gathering place for soccer fans and protesters alike.

Despite this, when Chile was plunged in late 2019 into an explosion of violent vandalism and mass peaceful protests, the statue became a target, as the symbol of an established order maintained by some that had become intolerable. After being covered with spray paint and repeatedly set on fire, on the night of March 12 army troops removed it from the square to restore it.

For conservatives, their retreat represented the defeat of Sebastián Piñera's center-right government at the hands of the mob. However, perhaps the most powerful symbol is the empty stone pedestal left by the soldiers. Chile is embarking on a potentially constructive process of redefinition, and on April 10-11 it will elect a convention to draft a new constitution. Many hope this will isolate the "violent" and forge a new social contract that will create a more just country, but still under the wing of capitalism.

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