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What's next for Chile after voters rejected a new constitution

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now that voters in Chile have rejected a new constitution, where does the country go from here? The proposal was full of progressive ideals - universal health care, Indigenous rights, abortion protections. And voters shot it down on Sunday by a margin of more than 20 points. Antonia Laborde is a correspondent in Santiago for El Pais, and she's here to talk about the path forward. Welcome.

ANTONIA LABORDE: Hello. Thank you for inviting me.

SHAPIRO: President Gabriel Boric is already talking about a process that would lead to another constitutional proposal. And today he announced a new cabinet. How does he believe a second attempt to pass a new constitution would go differently from the first?

LABORDE: Well, President Boric has called the leaders of the political parties and Congress to define how they will continue the constitutional process that he obviously supports. But it will be the Congress that defines the rules of this new game. Now, Boric may stand out a bit and focus more on governing. Surely we will see the president more focused on security and economic issues now.

SHAPIRO: I'm curious what voters are telling you. When you talk to Chileans, what do they tell you about their reasons for rejecting the new constitution?

LABORDE: Well, I heard the most enlightening thing in a town called San Pedro de Melipilla. This was the municipality of the metropolitan region that had participated the least in the entry referendum in October 2020. On that occasion, the vote was voluntary. And the people had to answer whether or not they want any constitution. On Sunday, the vote was mandatory. I can say two things here. There was a huge lack of information. They knew little, and what they knew was often not true. And second, for many, it was a referendum on the management of Boric, not the constitutional proposal.

SHAPIRO: Two years ago, four out of five Chilean voters wanted to scrap the old constitution. So do you see a contradiction between that vote and this one? Is there a way to move forward and bridge those two realities?

LABORDE: Well, in my point of view, since the riot of 2019, the political class is much more polarized than the citizens. People took the streets massively to protest against the inequalities in this country. Later, they may simply choose to change the Constitution. For me, the division is in the elite and not in the streets. The people want changes, but they simply felt that the constitutional proposal didn't suit them.

SHAPIRO: How big of a factor was misinformation?

LABORDE: Well, it was undoubtedly an election marred by fake news. The people against the proposal say that the new constitution will eliminate the flag, that it will be possible to abort up to nine months of pregnancy. Another recurring falsehood was been the private property will be confiscated under the new constitution. You know that we're living in times when social media campaigns are full of fake news, and it's very difficult to stop them. But save that, I think that it's important to clarify that the 3 million-plus voters who reject the proposal can't be attributed to fake news alone only.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. This was a major blow to President Boric. Is he the man to lead the country into its next chapter? Do you think he can recover from this?

LABORDE: Well, I think that this is an opportunity for Gabriel Boric. He can become the president who leaves behind a new constitution. So we may see decisions that are not very popular for the hardest left but more helpful for agreements. So we will see.

SHAPIRO: That's Antonia Laborde, a journalist based in Santiago reporting for El Pais. Thank you very much.

LABORDE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLUM VILLAGE SONG, "FALL IN LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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