CHILE: PINOCHET'S ANNIVERSARY SPEECH AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONTROVERSY

Created: 9/28/1978

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

In hia apcech narking the fifth anniversary o: overthrow of the Allende government oneptember. President Pinochet outlined the latest and, aa yet, most definite plana for the transition from military togovernment. According toewprepared under his guidance,ubmitted to voters next year, but elections would not be heldS. Initial reaction to the epeech haa focused on the long interval before civilian rule. Probably of greater significance, however, is the developing controversy over the Pinochet constitution, which differs markedly fromS constitution. Pinochet intends to submit the new constitution for approvalationalaome possible outcomes of which could produce serious, even critical problems for the regime. Whether Chileans accept or reject the new charter, the Pinochet constitution and the opposition to it disclose once again the political consequences of the regime's perception of the profound cleavage in Chilean politics.

The Approachew Constitution

In hie lengthy speech, often polemical ln tone, Pinochet dealt with more than the transition to civilian rule. As he has in the past, he defended the legitimacy of the coup and the moral mandate of his military regime, reviewed its progress, highly praiaed ite economicandide range of domestic andissues. He met head-on many of the past and present criticisms of his administration and Its policies

8

o *Wk*WifH'or, coup

and boldly raised soma thorny matters, most notably the Letelier case. All in all, Itong and strongly worded defense of his estbattled regime in its continuing struggle against the forces and ideologies allegedly manifested in the overthrown Allende administration. In that struggle, Pinochet claims to enjoy majoritygainst his opponents. Bis claim will be put to antest when Chilean voters are given the chance to accept or reject the regime's cons ti tutdocument, one of whose major purposes is to prevent legally another Allcnde-type government.

According to Pinochet, the vote on the newwillhree-stage process leading to civilian rule i

ln stage one, the Chilean people next year will ! be asked to approve the new constitution,

drafted by experts chosen by the junta andunder Pinochet's guidance.

n stage two, lasting six yeara, Chile will be ruledransitional government in which political power will be shared with legislators appointed by the junta.

eptember8

In stage three, reachedivilian eminent will be elected under tho rules of the new constitution.

About the return to civilian rule, the regimetwo imperatives: it mustivilian political system, and secondly, that system must beto the political assaults of the forces and ideologies that caused the "trauma"

ThfRt'ornol work

8

The strong emotion behind the viewsafe" constitutionritical necessity was displayed in Pinochet's anniversary speech by his characterization of the Allende regime and his description of thesurrounding its removal: otalitarian Marxist-Leninist oppression aimed atommunisthose who tried to annihilate forever the basic principles of Chilean nationality." This harsh rhetoric, which included the phrase "civils meant to remind regime supporters of the irreconciliablebetween those who still support tne deposedand those who approve ita overthrow. In thia "we" and "they" division, "they" cannot be simply regarded as an opposition partyemocratichey" are the enemy,onstitutional system must .be constructed that will prevent them from coming to power.

onsequence, the military regime has giventime and thought to the writing of the new For nearly fiveonstitutional Reformby the junta and guided by Pinochet--has laboredraft. Many Chileans, including members of the opposition, would agree that the constitution5 had serious weaknesses and needed revision,to prevent the electionresidentinority and to make it impossiblehief executive to impose unconstitutional acts. Although there is littleto the writingew constitution, there has been considerable questioning of its specific terms. This controversy sharpened when the reform commission finally presentedage draft to the military junta end details began to leak out. It is this basic document--with somewill be submitted to Chilean voters next year. As yet, the regime has refused tothe complete text, but some copies have evidently moved outaide the inner circles, and sketchy newspaper accounts have appeared.

The Content of the Constitution

Although only general conclusions are now possible, the Pinochet constitution seems toixed document, prepared with an eye to its acceptability by the Chilean people. Itreat deal of the constitutionnd it makes some unobjectionable revisions of former weaknesses. But it also goes beyond this to new concepts that are not likely to meet universal approval in Chile, it does not eliminate political parties in favor of corporatiot representation, and it does notfor the indirect election of the president--tvo rightwing possibilities that have been rejected, in the definitional jungle where these terms serve polemical purposes, it will certainly be labeled "democratic" andoth inside and outside Chile.

At the national level, the new constitution providesovernment of limited powers separated between president, congress,onstitutional Tribunal. ourth, specialized power alsonew institution called the Council of Nstional Security, composed of the president, selected military leaders, and the presidents of the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Central Bank.

8

ystem of universal suffrage, thewhose position ia greatly strengthenedis theto be directly electedajority vote (made neceasary by the provisionsingle term of eight years. icameral legislature, the Chamber of Deputies willj with tlie probable but still-undecided abolition of the old proportional representation Bystem, eacn deputy willingle-member district. The Senate will haveembers,irectly elected nationwide and IS appointed by the president or given automatic membership as ex-officeholders of high rank. The third branch of government, the Constitutional Tribunal, will haveand important powers including declaring laws unconstitutional! mediating conflicts between theand congress; and judging whether words or deeds fall into one of theto be proscribed by the constitution. Host of itsall lawyers, will be appointed by the Supreme Court, but aomr will be named by the president and the Senate. ncil of Nationalind of watchdog body, seems to have che power to investigate any individual, group, or authority whose actions it believeshreat to the security of the

Opposition may develop to some of these provisions, but it certainly will not be fundamental in nature. Sure to provoke strong controversy, however, is the new catchall provision that could be widely used to limit speech and action. Explicitly noting that it differs here froa the more permissive constitutionha regime'i new document forbids "any act by persons oroupato propagate doctrines aimed against the family, advocate violenceotalitarian conception of society or of ther is founded in class war, or is against the dignity or the rights that emanate from human nature." Specific prohibitions of behavior under this provision would follow decisions of the Constitutional Tribunal. This extraordinarily broad language seems sure to enlarge the focus of the constitutional debate. Those who wrote thia provision certainly intended it to proscribe the Chilean Communist and Socialist parties, but opponents can reasonably ask whether the provision

8

couldbe used to ban other parties as well. One argument to be made is thatrovision is simply not workable.

Further hostility to the new constitution willhe engendered by the rights it grants to private property and to the free enterprise system as well as the limitations it imposes on the rights of unions. The Pinochet regime is quite explicit in its disdain for the?*ed BtatiBt economic failures of the two previous administrations and in its conviction thatarket economy canrosperous Chile. It obviously intends toonstitutional advantage to its preferred economic system, in Chile, where leftist parties polled almostercent of the vote in3 congressional election, there are many partisans of strongly opposing viewpoints.

Although the right to form unions is clearly granted, they may not intervene in politics, and the right to strike is prohibited in public employment and in certain vital industries. In the rest of the private sector, labor unions must first go to compulsory bargaining and arbitration, and the right to strike does not seem to be unambiguously granted. This still seems toatter to be decidedupplementary labor law or byinterpretation. umber ofthe constitution tries to prevent tbe influence of political parties or other organizations, especially unions and professional groups.

Constitutional Controversy

This brief selectionew elements of thetext cannot adequately summarize or interpret adocument. What is politically significant is that parts of it have aroused considerable negative opinion. Complaints are being voiced not only about the substance of the regime's constitution but about the plebiscitary process to ratify it. roup of opposition experts, many of them Christian Democrats, has even begun to pre-psre an slternative constitution.

Taking note of the criticism, Pinochet has madethe regime's determination to stick to its stated

8

course. He pointed out that the present draft will be examinedonsultative body, the Council of State; following that, the junta willinal analysis, and with the technical help of the Constitutional Reform commiasion, it will approve the final product. to those "who are worried about the course of the draftinochet said the government would "welcome every idea or suggestion aimed at improvingevertheless, even if the regime is disposed to be fair and open to outside suggestions, it is extremelythat it will materially change the basic concepts of its constitution.

The regime willreat deal riding on the coming plebiscite. When speaking of the transition stages, Pinochet seemed to assume that the newwould be ratified. If It is not. it wouldreat source of embarrassment for the regime. Defeat of the carefully constructed "safe" constitution would imply approvalore liberal one. In Pinochet's view, this could only lead to the acquisition of power by the type of enemy the military was forced to overthrow Voter rejection of the regime's constitution could thusrisis for thei ent more severe than anything it has yet had to .

As yet, there are no signs the regime ? an/ great risk in permitting the plebiscite. Itbelieves it enjoys high civilianerception perhaps colored by the success of its plebiscite victory last January. Then,ercent voted against the UN resolution condemning the human rights lituation in Chile. Though the choice was forced upon the voters, the election seems to have been totally honest. It wasreat and unexpected victory for Pinochet, who spoke of the vo'i as "legitimizing" his regime. position in the forthcoming constitutionalwill not be assisted by the nationalistic bias of the earlier vote, however,egative outcome is possible.

Even if the regime wins the plebiscite, but onlymall margin, problems will remain. Given only slight approval, what kind of legitimacy will the Chilean people accord to the new constitution and its political system'

8

A big regimewelleave Pinochet with the fewest problems, although the country's basic ideological split would still remain.

somewhere in the voting process the regiae saythat it is going to lose; it may then call off the election or try to win by fraudulent weans. Either action would also cauce serious difficulties.

At present, there can only be speculation on the outcome of the plebiscite. Manymade about regime support; allolid, current basis. Thus, the vote will not onlya severe test for the junta, but will alsoreat deal about the basic attitudes of the Chilean people after five years of military rule.

6

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA