What Senators Are Saying About Chile’s Failed Constitutional Reform

Sep 9, 2022
10:55 AM

Chile President Gabriel Boric wears the presidential sash after his swearing-in ceremony at Congress in Valparaiso, Chile, Friday, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

WASHINGTON — Latino Rebels asked senators this week about last Sunday’s constitutional referendum in Chile, in which a new constitution backed by the country’s young leftist president was rejected in a mandatory vote by a 24-point margin.

“They’re thinking big,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “What they tried to do is something very, very bold. I supported it. I hoped it would succeed.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said he was surprised by the margin with which the referendum was defeated. Only 38 percent of Chileans voted for the proposed constitution meant to replace the 1980 document written during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, with 62 percent rejecting the proposal that would have made Chile one of the most inclusive countries in the world.

For Boric, 36, who accepted the defeat of his bold constitutional project on Sunday night, now the process for rewriting Chile’s constitution resets.

“President Boric has said they’ve gotta do it,” said Kaine of changing Chile’s constitution. “So they may need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do it.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) likened efforts by elected progressives in Latin America to “what happened in Cuba”—referring to the 1959 revolution that installed Fidel Castro as the island nation’s ruler for decades.

“There’s a real fight in Latin America for liberty and peace,” said Scott.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who serves on the foreign relations committee with Kaine, said that maybe Chileans bit off more than they could “chew all at one time” with Sunday’s vote. “I wouldn’t say that I was surprised because I’m not sure that I had a prediction,” said Sen. Murphy.

“I can’t say I know any more than the headlines,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said about the failed proposal, a sentiment echoed by Sen.Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM). Massachusetts’ two progressive Democratic senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, declined to comment on the vote.


Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports