Stable but Unresponsive: The Rise and Demise of Pinochet's Constitution, by Dr. Rodrigo Espinoza

 Latin American Studies     Feb 18 2020 | 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM SST 220B

Chile has been recognized as one of the most stable democracies and economic systems in Latin America. However, since last October, the system has been suffering its biggest collapse of the last three decades: millions of citizens took
to the streets of Santiago demanding an end to corporate exploitation and politicians’ privileges. These protests forced political parties to open the path to constitutional change, which involves replacing Pinochet’s authoritarian constitution under the rule of a government committed to this system and the free market. Why did this sudden social explosion emerge? What explains this severe crisis of political representation? My argument points to Chile’s rigid constitutional system composed of multiple authoritarian enclaves and countermajoritarian institutions. This constitutional system was successful in neutralizing any attempt at effecting significant change on the part of social and political majorities. To be sure, this institutional architecture provided political stability, diminishing political polarization. Nevertheless, the rigidity of the system protected the interests of the minority that supported Pinochet’s regime, rendering the political system unresponsive to citizens’ demands, especially in crucial areas such as social rights and political participation. Fostered by
constitutional rigidity, the isolation of the political class and the exclusion of ordinary citizens forged the conditions for political disaffection towards representative institutions.

Dr. Rodrigo Espinoza is Professor and Researcher at Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile.