Constituent Chile: This Continues, But We Will Not Let Go of the Streets

By Carlos Aznárez and María Torrellas

Nuriluz Hermosilla Osorio

In the context of the latest elections to the constituent convention in Chile, to make a new Constitution in the country, we spoke with Nuriluz Hermosilla Osorio, archaeologist and one of the three spokespersons of the Coordinadora Feminista 8M, participant of the Comité Socioambiental and the Comité de Derechos Humanos y Memoria Feminista (Human Rights and Feminist Memory Committee).

-What does this triumph of the Constituent Women, of feminist women, of native women and also of ecologists mean, what will this mean?

– This is another milestone in what has been a long and hard road. Above all, hard, with many dead and mutilated. It is a struggle that the Mapuche peoples have been carrying out since before, opposing institutionalization and fighting for the return of their lands, with greater force now that the extractivists are installed with energy projects, salmon farming projects and forestry projects. These extractivists are installing an environment of pauperization of the Mapuche people and the mestizo peasantry in the Wallmapu territories.

We are a people in revolt since October 19, 2019. We are in permanent revolt. We have been affected by a government that has repressed us and continues where it is and that invented this system of the convention, to change the constitution; Pinochet’s constitution, which we have had for 40 years.

In this framework, with the people who are constantly being repressed, we are fighting for hundreds of young people who are still in prison, with precautionary measures, for having raised stones against carabineros, and raped women and for the more than 600 cases of ocular trauma, with the loss of one or two eyes. In this environment, our decision to participate in the constituent process was not easy.

Within our system of decision making, which is to make decisions in assemblies, the assemblies did not have a collective opinion about going to a constituent process, however, it was decided to follow the two paths. To continue in the struggle, not to let go of the street and at the same time to be in this constituent process.

-How many feminist women showed up?

– We participated as the Feminist Coordinating Committee with five candidates, plus a group of 15 feminist candidates from all over the country who came from the indigenous movement or environmental, anti-capitalist and anti-extractivist movements. In that sense, the triumph was not only in the results, but in the process of building this discourse to affirm who we are and what struggle we are giving.

They are anti-racist struggles, in favor of migration, we are with the invisibilized work of women, with care work, affirming life over the precariousness to which we have been subjected. We are all subjected, as women and sexual dissidences as well.

The pandemic came to exacerbate this situation and to reinforce that the only way to get ahead is with the phrases that were said in the street: “Only the people help the people”. Also, in the sense of women’s work, which we have always defended: care work.

This was a period of hard work; we had to carry out these campaigns in parallel with the comrades’ campaigns and continue the struggle in the street, with the vulnerable groups. This caused a lot of tensions. But in my balance, it was a great triumph. As for the people who woke up a year and a half ago, it means a strengthening. This was demonstrated not only with our results, which were not so great, because five out of 15 that we have in the constituents got in.

The gap has not only narrowed, but there is a center party, the yellow party of the Christian groups, which is disappearing, it is fluttering to death. In addition, the independent movements achieved more than 40 seats, they are movements such as the people’s lists, they are lists that do not have any connection with political parties.

On the other hand, there are the seats of the indigenous communities, where 17 people are elected, 15 of whom are women and are in themselves true symbolic bulwarks of the struggles. We know them, they are reliable, incorruptible people, who support this struggle from the territories.

Elisa Loncon is a Mapuche activist, a professor of linguistics and a fighter for the linguistic rights of the Mapuche peoples. There is Machi Francisca Linconao who has been the only woman who has won an international lawsuit against the government and that meant her imprisonment and persecution. There are many people of great courage. Adolfo Millabur, mayor of Tirúa for a long time, is very loved by his people. There is a battle that is just beginning.

The right wing brought out some constituents who are from the hardest core of the right wing government, such as Marcela Cubillos, who was with the rejection vote. She wants to keep Pinochet’s constitution and she will be fighting there. Here we are facing a kind of explosion that has to do with the feminine. It meant that there were many more women than we could, so we had to give way to men. There were eight men who went up because of the parity quota and four women who changed the quota.

-We know that parity does not mean that all women agree. You named one from the right and we have examples such as Michelle Bachelet, who is the symbol of betrayal as a woman and for human rights, especially if you think about where she came from. The question is: Is it going to be possible to promote a popular Constitution, taking into account the presence in the Convention of people from the right and also some from the left who supported the Concertación all these years?  

– I trust so. To what extent are we going to be able to fulfill these anti-capitalist yearnings, we want everything to go up in flames, we want this terrible oppressive system to end. It is important not to be confident, not to be triumphalist. Here, as you say, betrayal is behind every tree. There are leftist parties that are riding on this triumph and have brought out beautiful people, young people, and women from the Frente Amplio, Socialists, Communist Party, they have been successful. They are people who come from a change, they are not the corrupt of before, Lago or Bachelet. But the pressure from the installed government and the businessmen is very strong; we have to be on alert.

I was highlighting the indigenous constituents, they are very reliable people and some of the Mapuches who were right-wing were left behind. But in the rest of the range, we know that patriarchal mechanisms work strongly in the Socialist Party. Whoever reaches the party order in a vertical way, it is likely that these women will be left by the wayside.

They are raising candidacies in which one does not trust. The one who leaves Bachelet to be a candidate for the Presidency, I have no doubt that she is a nice person, but she will not be able to govern if she is elected, but the old structures of the party that are linked to businessmen, they are part of the boards of directors of the companies, will do it.

We have to maintain the lucidity and clarity that the struggle gives us. It is given to us by the defense of human rights and it is given to us by the detainees, the disappeared, that pushes us not only not to be naïve, but to keep our eyes on how politics develops on all sides. Those sides that have their vocation in business, in the stock market, that is their vocation and their work 24 hours a day, have many people, among them career politicians that if they have their business, they are not going to let go of it.

That has to be clear, they will not leave out of good will and they will not give up their business, whether they have to send carabineros to gouge out our eyes, or whether they have to throw tanks on the street. In that sense, this game requires a lot of restraint, but we do trust our candidates.

-What about the enormous number of people who did not vote, 60 percent, I suppose there are positions of rejection of bourgeois politics and electoralism, are there people who no longer believe in anything and are indifferent? how do you see that?

-People are wanting to develop their struggle as we have always developed it. We are a people with clean hands, we don’t mess with arms dealers, we play war with stones and scribbles, we insult them and that’s all there is to it. There are many people who have suffered a lot with the pandemic, with this health administration and believe that things are not going to change. They are convinced that we are all the same. Even when we go out with the candidates we feel rejected, “ah you are a candidate, ah I don’t have time, bye”.

It cost a lot to demonstrate in the streets, with the conversations that it was necessary to come to power, not to appropriate, but to give back the hand to the people and to represent what the people need. This is a very important paradigm shift, progress is being made, but it is slow. Every time there is a new betrayal, again the people end up in pain, they end up distrusting.

And in this they are right, people have died in the family, apart from the efforts of the health personnel, people are dying, and there are exorbitant numbers. You cannot ask them to trust. You have the media telling the entire time only one version, their version, that we are violent. So, you have the fear of what might happen, and then they withdraw.

-On the other hand, we have seen many fascist aggressions in the streets.

-Yes, there is a situation of fascism circulating in the streets. They are very good at confusing the people, they come out with their anti-political discourse and they make people confused, they come out with an anti-Venezuelan discourse and people get confused. So, this fascism did not manage to get a constituent assembly, but it does have power within the current government. This influence is quite silent and gloomy, because they are people who were leftists, who fell into the hands of the dictatorship, then they were agents of the security services and now they are part of the image consultancies of these right-wing governments and they are circulating there. It is a very bad environment.

There are those visible faces of fascism and there are the invisible faces that have a lot of money. It has multiple aspects. We can’t rejoice in that. But we can rejoice that we have found each other, that we have made coalitions, that we have been able to hold hands and support each other in the face of pain.

Suppose now in the afternoon I go to a protest at the Israeli Embassy against the damage they are doing in Palestine. Tomorrow I have to be at the national library because I have to support the families of the children who are imprisoned. This continues, we are not going to let go of the streets. We are going to do what is asked for and we are going to support the comrades who are going to be drafting the Constitution.

-There are important absences in the convention: the Afro-descendants are not there, the migrants are not there, even when you were talking about how Venezuelans are treated, the high school students are not there, the prisoners are not there, I would say that many fighters of the First Line are not there, those who were fighting for a whole year and receiving blows.

-There are no high school students, but the age level is young, from the people who were left in the constituent. I should tell you that at least two people are from the First Line, I would say three. One is Aunt Pikachu, one who is an auxiliary, who dresses up in that yellow Pikachu costume. She is very clear, and she is from the First Line.

The other one is a gentleman we know as Pelao Vade, he has cancer, he was not treated because he had no money and yet he was in the First Line. And the third first line present is María Rivera. She is a lawyer. She was always with the kids in the street, Primera Línea Legal.

There was a legal front line, there were also more than 80 medical groups and nurses attending in the places of the revolt. There were more than 800 lawyers distributed in the police stations and health centers, it is the silent First Line that is there with our sentipensares in the struggles.

We are on the front line, in the street and giving voice. I think we have to be there, we have to stay strong, not to believe too much in these kind of schematic resolutions about who are there and who are not there, in order to move forward. There is the people, it is a decent, hardy people, who prefer to migrate from the countryside to the city and that mothers work as domestic servants all their lives so that they can educate their children. That is what I rescue, this people that of good will wants a good destiny. They have already been swindled on many occasions and that is where we want to be.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano