By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chileans will vote in a little over a month on a new constitution that would bring the most sweeping changes to the country since the end of the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship.
The proposed text focuses on social rights, the environment and gender parity, representing a sharp shift from the current 1980 constitution written during Pinochet's prime that focuses on private rights and free market principles.
The proposed new text was written by a 154-member body elected through a popular vote, the first time in Chile's history a constitution was drafted democratically.
The process started after violent protests against inequality rocked the world's top copper producer in 2019 and tarnished Chile's image as an oasis of stability in Latin America.
These are some of the changes the proposed 388-article constitution, completed in early July, would make.
POLITICAL SYSTEM AND LAWS
* The president remains the head of the government, butwould share the power to submit laws that involve publicspending with legislators, something currently exclusive to thepresident. * The president could be re-elected consecutively once.Chile's president's can currently only be re-electednon-consecutively. * Congress, which is a bicameral body with equal powers,would become an "asymmetric" one. The current Chamber ofDeputies would retain its legislative functions while the Senatewould be scaled back to a Chamber of Regions with limited powersand a focus on laws with a regional scope. * Direct democracy mechanisms like popular law initiativesand citizen consultations would become routine. * The Chamber of Deputies will need a simple majority tomodify or repeal certain laws, down from a maximum oftwo-thirds. Changes to autonomous entities like the central bankwill still require a supermajority.
* The proposed constitution would guarantee a wider slate ofsocial rights - a key demand during the violent 2019 protests -including housing, social security, health, work and access tofood. ENVIRONMENT * The current constitution has one article regarding theenvironment while the proposal has dedicated an entire chapterto it, stating that "nature has rights" and that animals are"subjects of special protection." * Fighting climate change would be a state duty as would beprotecting biodiversity, native species and natural spaces. * Wetlands are protected and glaciers are not explicitlyprotected in the current constitution, but would be "excludedfrom any mining activity" in the new proposal. Chile is theworld's largest producer of copper and one of the top lithiumproducers. * Water would be classified as a "non-appropriable" in thenew text, in contrast with the current constitution, whichallows for private rights.
* State bodies and public companies, among other entities,must have gender parity. * The state must take measures to eradicate and punishgender violence. * The proposal says every person is entitled to sexual andreproductive rights, including the voluntary interruption ofpregnancy, but leaves specifics regarding abortion up to futurelaws. Abortion in Chile is currently legal only in cases thatinvolve rape, unviable pregnancies or when the mother's life isin danger.
* The state must "respect, promote, protect and guarantee"self-determination, collective and individual rights, andparticipation of indigenous groups. * The text guarantees "the right of indigenous peoples andnations to their lands, territories and resources", reservesseats in representative bodies and establishes that groups mustbe consulted in matters that affect their rights. * The new constitution would establish parallel justicesystems for indigenous groups, but the country's supreme courtwill still have the final say.
(Report by Natalia Ramos; Editing by Alexander Villegas, Christian Plumb and Alistair Bell)