Mapuche leader Hector Llaitul and Chilean president Gabriel Boric (Photo: Pan Am Post)
Chilean president Gabriel Boric was hailed as a leftist leader. In fact, his administration has joined the U.S. in condemning Latin America's revolutionary leaders, and voters rejected his proposed constitutional changes, with 62% opposed. Boric is a reformer who acts in league with right wing forces.
Carlos Aznárez interviewed Marcelo Osses in Orinoco Tribune.
Marcelo Osses is one of the supporters of the communication project Radio Plaza de la Dignidad [Dignity Plaza Radio] born with the 2019 revolt [in Chile]. The station has lent its voice to that plaza that thousands of young people renamed and made their own every time they needed to demonstrate. With Osses, we spoke about the vote for rejection, about the highly devalued Boric government, and also about what is to come at the level of popular struggles, such as the ones that high school students are now waging.
Were you surprised by the margin of defeat for the new Constitution?
The amount of votes for the rejection was surprising. But it is necessary to consider, in this situation, that the number of votes that give it this overwhelming superiority is probably a consequence of the compulsory vote. There was an impressive amount of new voters, because if we consider the registration, there are four million new voters compared to the votes with the largest number of previous participants; that is, these are new voters and they are probably the ones that have generated this resounding result.
What are the reasons that this voter bloc has chosen the rejection?
The reasons must be studied more carefully. There are different reasons. Probably, [one is] the reformist vote of this progressive right wing that has been installed in recent years under the wing of the old traditional parties of the reformist left. They maintained the vote they have had in the last elections, both in the first plebiscite and in the presidential election. The surprising thing, I repeat, was that the huge new voting bloc voted for rejection. That’s the thing. And even more so, that these new voters comes from middle and working-class sectors. Because, as analyzed by the traditionally rich sectors of the metropolitan region, which is where half of the votes are concentrated. They already voted mostly for ultra-rightist positions, at an average of close to 80% of the vote. They didn’t have much room to grow there. The growth in votes was simply in the middle and working-class sectors. That is the first impression that I get. No one knew what was going to happen with this obligation [to vote] and the obligation worked effectively for them. This is the first time in history that we have a compulsory vote for the whole census. Therefore, it cannot be compared to with any previous vote, and it is not a great triumph for the democratic system either, because with threats, they managed to get more than 80% of the people to vote, with the usual threat of taking them to court, with fines, and that forced the majority to vote. The result is something that should be analyzed in more depth: why the popular vote led to rejection. Probably, much of that popular vote is a vote from people that have been fighting in the street all of this time. And there is a lot of expression of dissatisfaction there, of saying, “no, I don’t want to be part of this,” and they found that the best way was voting for the rejection. Not canceling the vote or approving it, this way of channeling it was through the vote for rejection. That is to say, here there is no gain for the right and the most conservative sectors, because the reality is as follows: they do not have a political–social structure in the territories that today are home to the rejection voters. Therefore, it has more to do with propaganda, with the ability to install anti-poor, anti-Mapuche, anti-migrant ideas, with certain degrees of ideological terrorism. Of course, the progressives played right into the game of the right, perfectly, making their policies for them. All these factors combined for this sector, we are talking about more than four million votes out of a total of the 13 million who voted.
Now, on the one hand, it could be that there is a sector of a fringe of the population that continues to be on the right, and on the Pinochet right, and on the other hand, from what you say, it suggests that this rejection vote is also a rejection of politicking, because evidently Boric’s campaign, and that of the parties that are in the coalition with Boric, did not end up convincing a significant number of people nor, above all, young people and people from working-class neighborhoods. It is clear that the rejection represents an incorrect decision, because it would have been better if they were null or blank votes, if they were rejecting the party. Something similar has also happened here in Argentina. Macri was voted in at the time to shake up the traditional parties. That is to say, that this demonstrates the lack of political conscience in that regard.
Absolutely, there is one, a lack of political awareness in certain popular sectors, about how to express their opinion of repudiation of what is happening. And of course, the null vote, that is, the one that was marginalized from the process, was quite scarce, very reduced, even less than in previous votes. We must be very self-critical of that situation, the invalid vote and the blank vote, the amount that was excluded from participating is really very low. In addition, we have a working-class sector, which voted against the government’s policies. What did this social democratic sector do during this entire period? He tried to hide the problems that this political, social, and economic crisis is bringing. During all this time, they hid the fact that there is a crisis, they hid that there are increasing problems of hunger and misery in many places, that the number of people who are living on the streets, especially immigrants from different countries, is enormous in Santiago and in other regions. And that issue was hidden. If one hears all their speeches, they seem like a happy copy of Eden, as our song says, and it was a propaganda narrative exclusively focused on the new Chile that was going to come as a result of the new Constitution, they did not take care of the problems…. In fact, Boric, who is the manager of this entire institutional process of rescuing the Piñerista dictatorship, was called a traitor, they denounced that he was reaching agreements between four walls with the right-wing parties, the coalition parties, and throughout this period they tried to ignore the manager of this process. They hid Boric, they hid the government. The government did not exist in the propagandistic language of approval. So they only cared for the new Chile, not for the problems, not for what was happening and what caused the rejection, this accentuated the problems. What they were interested in was vandalism, delinquency, migration, the anti-discourse, not the real problems of the people. And that penetrated deeply, that is to say, discourse arose along the lines of: “I need my money from the AFJP, because I am in economic straits, and if during the Piñera government, they gave me part of my money three times, during this new government they refused to do so.” In addition, state support to the most vulnerable sectors has been almost nil, miserly. The perception, now that we are six months into the Boric government, is absolutely negative, and probably a good part of the vote was expressed in rejection of the government and official policies. Not everything was only due to the issue of the new Constitution. Several factors were combined, and they are the ones that will begin to have significance during the coming period.
I fully agree with what you say about the speed with which this government has been devalued, showing both locals and foreigners that it is more of the same that governed Chile in recent decades. Now, what are they going to resort to in order to hide this fall from grace?
This is a government that is going to need the absolute rescue of the most fascistic sectors. It is not going to survive without the support of the right, without the agreement of the ultra-right sectors. In fact, today, the president of the PC said that they had to reach agreements, including with the Republican party, the most fascist of the whole spectrum that legally participates, because they know that the possibility of this government ending in six months has already ended. It already depends absolutely on the right, on what others do. It has no political or social strength to support a project that literally does not exist. We heard it in March of this year, a few days after the Boric government took office, in the voice of Manuel Vergara, father of the three Vergara Toledo brothers who were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. He clearly expressed that this government has had no political project since the beginning, and that today it is even worse. He [Boric] had to remove several of the key figures of the new reformist left who are part of the government, because they no longer resist. Who does he include? Well, the sectors of the old coalition, he has no choice but to rely on that and co-govern with Parliament. The discredited Chilean congress becomes the star again, because they need stability for a government that, from my point of view, ended last Sunday. Now it is beginning to be managed in this way absolutely, if before it had little room for maneuver and had clearly demonstrated its intention to maintain neoliberal policies in the economic sphere and to be repressive in the political sphere, now it has no choice but to be a total puppet of the conservative and fascist sectors.
Boric and several well-known leaders of Chilean progressivism talk as if there was an electoral defeat, but there was not a political defeat, and they say that he is going to convene another Constituent Assembly. Does that prediction make any real sense?
None. What is more feasible in this institutional process is that power will be handed over to the constituted powers, particularly the Parliament. Boric floated this idea long ago, that of calling a new election makes little sense. Most of the declarations point to Parliament being the space where the new constituent process is based. And we all understand that this is one of the most absolutely discredited spaces, probably the most discredited in Chilean politics, even more so than the institution of the presidency itself. But today, he’s emboldened by what happened to the fascist thugs of the ’60s. We’ve heard a lot of feedback. Of course, there have been days of quite intense analysis in the working-class sectors. They cannot intimidate us or make us fall into the trap of the anti-fascist bloc, led by social democracy, which is what we have seen on several occasions. It cannot happen that we once again fall into the caboose of reformism with the tale that fascism is upon us, thus aligning the forces, let’s say, to advance in this conventional process, because this constituency will ring hollow. The certain possibility of calling a new election, of a new round, is also almost nil. On the other hand, they are going to try to find certain mechanisms that allow them to legitimize this Parliament to some extent, since, according to the 1980 Constitution, it has constituent power, and now they have come back with the same argument.
How do you get out of this quagmire of needing to strengthen spaces for popular struggle?
I believe, according to everything we have been analyzing, that our task is precisely to try, with the forces that we have, which are not many to be effectively objective, to oppose this whole process that is about to start. I am referring to the new phase of this process that will try to transfer the power of these discredited institutions to this conventional process, and we must also oppose falling into the trap of reformism in this line. What is going to happen concretely? There is no more popular leadership. Now let us understand that this electoral process that we have been experiencing since 2020, first had the objective of demobilizing the sectors that had been in struggle since 2019, and on the other hand, installing a new institutionality, called the Convention, representing an ethereal entity, unknown in our political tradition and that came to be a kind of power that did not dispute the others, who were given a very limited task dependent on the other powers. Every time they had to do something, they had to ask Congress for permission. That is, to make a law that would give the Convention a certain power to do something. Suddenly we forget that it was always a power, an body dependent on the Constitutional powers, both the government and the Parliament, and this idea that they created, finally failed here. What we are seeing is the failure of the sectors of this quite disastrous progressivism. They failed in an attempt to install themselves as a force that provided confidence and stability to the sectors of economic power. They have been in it for a long time, and it has been their job to say: “we can be the determining factor in the political leadership to maintain stability, the neoliberal order,” and in that project, they are failing. They are being more effective, the right-wing sectors have been lifted again.
It caught my attention that in the midst of the electoral campaign, these sectors of the approval did not talk about what is happening in the South. In other words, the acute and brutal militarization by the Chilean army and the police against the Mapuche people, the arrest of the Llaitul, father and son. They hid all that, for the sake of a hypocritical progressive discourse, almost lying, because in reality, as you say, progressivism came to Latin America to flatten social and popular rebellions. Now, how do you see this issue of what is happening with the Mapuche progressing? Because it is clear that Boric has taken the side of Piñerismo, in the sense of repressing the Mapuche, and even upping the ante.
El apruebismo [approbationism] ceased to have a discourse a long time ago, not only on the Mapuche issue, but also as it lacks discourse founded in reality. Everything was propaganda for the new world of fish and bread. Everything was propaganda for what was to come. They totally detached themselves from any description of reality. All of its social and cultural bureaucracy, those that were deployed in the streets, nothing existed in reality. They went to impose, with their activities, a whole new world, but not describing what has been traditional in the world of the actual sectors, including social democrats. In that instance, everything meant in some way a criticism of Boric, of the government, and they clearly understood that the link between the government and the conventional process was very close, although they tried to separate it. Therefore, they chose not to speak during these last days about the arrest of Héctor Llaitul, they said nothing in the campaigns, and they had been doing so since the government, in March, put the state of emergency in place for the first time. It is seven times now that the Boric government has imposed a state of emergency in Wallmapu, and in four years Piñera had imposed it ten times. In other words, we are close to having the same amount of time that Piñera had the military controlling the territory. That is the reality, a military invasion of the territory. And they did not talk about that, nor did they talk about the arrest of Ernesto Llaitul, son of Héctor. They returned to the slogan of the flag of Mapuche folklore and of the original peoples represented in the convention. Without any real meaning. If one thinks the roots that those elected had is null, that is, they were elected with less than one thousand votes, very poor. So, one thinks that their possibility of representing something of the Mapuche people is very slim. The reality of that process and of what is to come is obviously going to be very complex. We are going to have progressive sectors, including those of the traditional social-democratic left, such as the PC and other sectors that were part of the former Popular Unity, which had deep social roots and which, moreover, were always closely linked to popular demands, have now fallen into completely empty narratives. They avoid any criticism, because all criticism at this minute is going to end up bouncing off the government. The economic issue, the issue of how the [price] increases are hitting the poorest families, they are going to try to deal with it, and they are going to do it the same as the right and the Coalition did, as an issue of state subsidies, that is how they are going to deal with it and try to solve it. A few days ago, in international publications, Chile was once again at the head of the level of inequality, wealth is already off the charts. The level of concentration of wealth is crazy for such a small country. Of course this is going to exacerbate this situation of contradictions, as the level of poverty has been increasing. The crisis is covered up, both by the right and by the de facto powers, by the business community, seeking and trying to insist that Chile is taking off again economically. It is very important that the most radicalized popular sectors that have a vision from below continue trying in Chile and Latin America, everywhere, to rearticulate and reorganize, because they are the only ones that are going to face up and are going to fight against this model of domination. So as not to decline, we must always insist that the struggle continues from below in all lands.
Carlos Aznarez is an Argentine journalist in written and digital media, radio and TV. Writer of several books on international politics. Director of the newspaper Resumen Latinoamericano. Coordinator of Bolivarian Chairs, field of reflection and debate on Latin America and the Third World.