Home » Chile: Interview on the new constitutional process: “A setback on water”

Chile: Interview on the new constitutional process: “A setback on water”

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Chile: Interview on the new constitutional process: “A setback on water”


Manuela Royo Letelier is a lawyer, historian, activist and spokesperson for the Modatima movement, which campaigns for water and environmental protection in Chile. Photo: private

(Berlin, July 7, 2023, map/latin america news).- After the failed referendum on a new constitution in September 2022, a new constitutional process is currently underway in Chile. A commission of experts appointed by Parliament presented a draft for the new constitutional text at the end of May. This is now being discussed in the 51-strong Constitutional Council, which is occupied by a right-wing majority.

Manuela Royo is a lawyer and national spokesperson for the environmental and water movement Modatima. In the last constitutional process, she sat for the movement in the Constitutional Convention, or Constituent Assembly is a body that prepares or writes a new constitution. Since the 18th century there have been constitutional conventions in the USA, in European countries and in Israel, since 2000 also in Maghreb countries (Tunisia, Algeria), in Afghanistan and in South American countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and since 2021 in Chile. In Chile, the current constitutional process has been made possible by a broad protest movement since October 2019. In a referendum in October 2020, around 78% voted in favor of a new constitution. In the elections to the constitutional convention in May 2021, left-wing and non-partisan candidates won the majority of seats. The Mapuche representative Elisa Loncón Antileo was elected President on July 4th, 2021.

” href=” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>Verfassungskonvent. Im Interview spricht sie über den Entwurf der Expert*innenkommission und die Beteiligung ihrer Organisation am neuen Verfassungsprozess.

Frau Royo, wie stehen Sie zum Entwurf der Expert*innenkommission, insbesondere in Bezug auf das Thema Wasser?

Wir von Modatima sind sehr besorgt über den Vorschlag der Expert*innenkommission, denn er enthält grundlegende Widersprüchlichkeiten in Bezug auf das Thema Wasser. Im Artikel 24 des Entwurfs heißt es etwa, es sei „die Pflicht des Staates, dieses Recht [auf Wasser] for present and future generations” and that the water should be available primarily and in sufficient quantities “for adequate human and domestic use”.

On the other hand, there is Article 29, which relates to the right to property. The article states that water resources are “in any case national goods of public use. Therefore, they are the property of all residents of the country and can be used by everyone. Water usage rights are established in the public interest. The exercise of these rights may be restricted in accordance with the law (…).”

As for the transitional provisions, the ninth article states that “water use rights established, recognized or regulated since the entry into force of Law No. 21.435 are subject to the provisions of the Water Code” and that “water use rights established before the publication of said established, recognized or regulated by law are subject to the first transitional article thereof.”

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What does all this mean specifically?

If we take a close look at the articles in question, it can be assumed that the authors are concerned with preserving water as a strategic asset in the country. Particular attention is paid to ensuring the human right to water for “present and future generations”, as well as to its constitution as a “national good for public use”. However, upon deeper analysis, inconsistencies emerge that we should consider.

First, the wording just mentioned does not enshrine the human right to water as such. At the same time, however, rights of use are understood as real rights. This understanding can lead to the conflict between upholding the right to water and the right to use water, as we are witnessing in hundreds of legal disputes today. In other words, the water injustice could get worse in the future.

While the idea of ​​preserving water suggested in Article 24 is a step in the right direction, in practice retaining the right to use water as a property right (Article 29) means that private parties can continue to decide what to do with the water in the different catchment areas of the country happens. This favors the concentration and uneven distribution of the water.

Another obvious contradiction that the draft cannot resolve is how to deal with the water scarcity or lack of water that Chile has experienced in recent decades. Because water is so unevenly distributed, conflicts over water have increased over the years. In many cases it can be observed that the right to property is the fulfillment of the human right to water and even the right to food production through the opposite of industrial agriculture. Rural agriculture usually describes the production of food in a family business. Instead of short-term profit maximization, farmers are concerned with treating the land and animals with care in order to be able to use them across generations. Furthermore, internal cycles are formed in farms. This means that the liquid manure from animal husbandry is applied to the fields as fertilization in order to generate animal feed from our own cultivation. Around 70 percent of food worldwide currently comes from (small) farms.

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The Constitutional Council will discuss this draft constitution in the coming months. As in the last constitutional process, has your movement tried to get a foothold in the body?

The current constitutional process has deliberately excluded the social movements, as only people on party lists – be they government or opposition – could run for seats on the Constitutional Council. In our opinion, this was a very undemocratic decision, because it excludes us from people and movements that we have translated literally for a long time and in the first place "Good life", describes a harmonious and sustainable coexistence of people with all beings living on earth. It is based on indigenous ideas of the world (cosmovisions) from the Andes and the Amazon region, in which the human species does not stand above nature, but rather is part of it, like all others created by Mother Earth (Pachamama). creatures. Accordingly, the Buen Vivir obliges people to act in moderation: their civilizational growth plans must not be at the expense of natural goods and ecosystems (see: Imperial way of life). According to this view, nature is granted special rights, which are now also enshrined in the constitutions of countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia – but these guarantees are rarely implemented consistently.

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This situation is worrying because it means that politics is again being made from above: from traditional spheres that are very much being called into question today. Trading with your back to the people is exacerbating a political crisis that has led, among other things, to the rise of the far-right, as we can see in the makeup of the current Constitutional Council.

Nevertheless, Modatima has taken one of the paths of citizen participation in the new constitutional process and presented a proposal for a regulation on water. Why?

As a movement, we have decided that we do not accept a proposal that privatization is a central part of neoliberal policies in use since the 1980s: formerly state services are placed in the hands of private actors who have the intention of profiting from the market and have no obligation to Enforcement of universal rights for all. As a result, for example, indigenous territories, the landowning rural population as well as city dwellers come under pressure.

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We also see potential in public and municipal administration. Participation and decision-making could take place in community and territorial water organizations that provide fundamental mechanisms for the protection of water as a human right, as has been the case for decades with the management of rural water cooperatives and committees. We believe in planning and regulating water from a holistic, long-term perspective – not extractivist and short-term.

At Modatima, we are committed to ensuring that the human right to water is an indispensable guarantee of life in dignity. We believe that the state must guarantee an inclusive, democratic and community management of water that allows us to break with the logic of exploitation and dispossession of nature and people that has kept Chile in a deep social water crisis for years.
Even though we know that our proposal will most likely be rejected, we must continue to influence everywhere.

Recent surveys show that Chileans are very disinterested in the current constitutional process. What reasons do you see for this?

We see the reasons for this in the credibility crisis of traditional politics. There is also a lack of support for the government at grassroots level. The fact that Rechazo won is therefore more to be understood as a no to traditional politics.

Note: Five representatives of the water and environmental protection movement Modatima will visit cities in Germany and Switzerland in September and report on their fight for the right to water. Up-to-date information about the round trip will soon be available here in the news section, on latinamerican-news.de and on the social media channels of the NPLA and the Latin America News.

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