Chileans Head to the Polls

On Sunday, Chileans voted on whether to reject the Pinochet-era constitution and replace it with a new one drawn up by citizens in line with a key demand in protests last year.

Fiery anti-government protests over the country’s longstanding dictatorial constitution that began last fall have ramped up in recent weeks.

Voters will also decide if an elected citizens’ body is an option and if it should comprise of an equal number of women to men, indigenous representatives, or be a mix of citizens and lawmakers.

Opinion polls suggest a new charter will win approved by a significant margin.

With special emphasis on equal political representation it’s obvious a new dawn waits for Chile although the violent nature of more recent protests suggests caution ahead.

Hooded protesters looted a Roman Catholic Church in Santiago Friday past, the main gathering site for three weeks of mass protests.

A journalist from Associated Press witnessed people dragging church pews, statues of Jesus and other religious iconography from La Asuncion church onto the street and setting them on fire in a flaming barricade, before clashing with police.

Smoke also billowed from the nearby headquarters of Pedro de Valdivia University, which was also looted, though it was not clear if protesters started the fire. Authorities said they were still investigating the cause.

Local TV reported attacks on businesses in some areas of the city and said a civil registry had caught fire.

Demonstrators say they are fed up with the so-called neoliberal economic model that has left Chile with region-topping prosperity along with a two-tiered health and education systems that blend the public and private, with better results for the minority who can afford to pay.

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has also announced economic measures in an effort to contain the protests, but many Chileans say they are not enough, with some demanding his resignation.

The fear is anarchists and their supporters will use the volatile political and social climate in Chile as cover for not only a political revolution but also a cultural one, in this traditional Portuguese speaking, Roman Catholic Country.

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Ann Carriage

Political animal, interested in the story behind the story. A concepts driven individual.