By Stephen Carrier, missionary to Chile

Last night, in a resounding defeat that echoed throughout the country, the newly proposed Chilean constitution was voted down by a 62% to 38% margin. Nobody saw it coming, at least not by that much. How did this come to pass in a country that had previously voted 80-20 to rewrite the constitution?

In October 2020, when nearly 80% of Chilean voters voted to change the constitution, it seemed as if it would be almost certain that whatever was written would be approved, and Chile would move in a much more leftward direction. The people went to the polls to vote for whom they wanted to represent them at the Constitutional Convention, mainly nominating people of liberal persuasion. Those delegates began deliberating in July of 2021, rewriting the constitution. Then, this past December, the liberal trend continued when Chile elected its most liberal president in half a century, Gabriel Boric. 

All signs pointed to a new Chile that would’ve reflected a much more liberal worldview. But then, bit by bit, things started to unravel. For example, one delegate was elected to the assembly promising free healthcare, touting his own experience with leukemia. It later came out that he’d faked his illness. Articles the delegates were putting in the constitution began circulating on social media, and many were not well-received. It seemed to many that it placed a heavy emphasis on indigenous peoples and on separating Chile rather than bringing the country together. The Convention also went all in on many liberal ideals. From the Washington Post:

“The proposal would have enshrined certain civil rights that have never before been included in a constitution, emphasizing many of the priorities of the leftist social movements led by younger Chileans: Gender equality, environmental protections, Indigenous and LGBTQ rights, and legal access to abortion. It would have guaranteed access to high-quality education, health care and water. It would have granted rights to nature and animals and required the government to address the effects of climate change. It was thought to be the first constitution that would have required gender parity across government and public and public-private companies.”

Due to the uncertainty of what would happen if Chile became much more socialistic and businesses started pulling out, the Chilean peso began to fluctuate wildly. Inflation hit, and the liberal dream began to die.

Still, nobody could have predicted that what happened last night would come to pass. The message was clearly sent: “We want a new constitution, but not what you offered us.”