Chile starts debate of new Constitution that could impact mining industry
Chile’s constituent assembly began considering motions for a new Constitution that could reshape the nation, including its copper industry which is the largest in the world.
Among the initial plans being discussed are plans that could nationalize mining and create a one-chamber Congress. The assembly will also examine water rights and protections for indigenous territories. The assembly will discuss these and other issues and vote on in more 20 plenary sessions, Reuters reported.
“In this period we are going to see what is really going to remain in the proposed Constitution,” said constituent assembly president Maria Elisa Quinteros, noting that the text would face a nationwide referendum planned for September.
The new Constitution comes as Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old leftist former student protest leader, is set to take office as president in March. It could mark Chile’s most dramatic political and social shift since its return to democracy in 1990.
The new Constitution has sparked jitters among investors and mining firms, raising a challenge to the country’s market-oriented economic model, which dates back to the so-called Chicago Boys economists during the time of former president Augusto Pinochet’s bloody military rule.
On the discussion list are water and property rights, central bank independence, and labor practices. Other themes include animal rights, feminist education, protection of the natural world, and the legalization of cannabis.
The proposals will be debated in coming months and will need approval by two-thirds of delegates, some 103 votes. If approved they would face a process of modifications before a second definitive vote to be included in the final text. If rejected they would go back to the commission to be revised or discarded.
The potential for sharp shifts in the country has caused some alarm among conservatives, though Quinteros sought to allay fears, saying there had been lots of "misinformation" around the process and that the motions were at an early stage.
But those fears have seen some loss of support for the process, with a survey from private pollster Cadem showing that the proportion of people who currently intended to vote to approve the new Constitution had fallen to 47 from 56 percent.
The constitutional body, elected last year, is dominated by independent and left-leaning representatives, some with roots in the 2019 protest movement that broke out over inequality in one of the region's wealthiest countries.