“Neither the left nor the right have defended the interests of Chileans”

Elisa Loncón, during her visit to Vitoria. / JESUS ANDRADE

Elisa Loncón – President of the Chilean Constitutional Convention

Considered the voice of the Mapuche people, the linguist and deputy has been awarded the René Cassin prize by the Basque Government

Elisa Loncón is the voice of the Mapuche people. The statement is literal and figurative. As a linguist, she works for the recognition of Mapudungun, the language of this indigenous community based in Chile, and, as a deputy, she participates in the convention that draws up a new Magna Carta for the southern republic. He has held the presidency of the Constitutional Convention that prepares the new text and has arrived in Bilbao to collect the René Cassin prize for human rights, awarded by the Basque Government.

– Can the extreme right, which controls the opposition, stop the constituent process?

– We want to believe not. They are a minority and we have reached all possible agreements to integrate them into the constituent debate in which all tendencies are involved. Nor is there a unified right, but rather a dialoguing current and a more conservative one. Now, in addition to the risk of approval and rejection, there is the danger that a disinformation strategy will be used, that false realities will be spread.

– Last year’s Regional Human Development Report, published by the United Nations Development Program, states that Chile is the most unequal country in terms of income distribution. The top 10% control 60% of the revenue. How to combat this flagrant injustice?

– We must fight with deep transformations. There is a centralization around the capital Santiago and the regions do not decide their planning or their future and we want them to be able to manage it. The problem is that the current Constitution, of Pinochet origin, which considers that the State is subsidiary because it gives the company the role of defining relations between the State and the individual. This text is neither participatory nor does it guarantee social rights.


  • The force of change.
    «The alternative in my country is in the native peoples, the young people or the feminists»

  • Plebiscite.
    “The new government must meet the expectations of citizens and collaborate with the constitutional project”

– A tsunami has passed and it has taken the traditional games. Chile is a polarized country between the left and the extreme right. Is there a risk of confrontation?

– I think the polarization is artificial. Neither the left nor the right have defended the interests of the population by implementing the Constitution of the dictatorship. The political sectors distanced themselves from the demands of the people by putting themselves at the service of such a discriminatory political and economic system. The force of change has been in the hands of the independents promoted by social movements, and if the traditional parties are not renewed, they will continue to weaken. The alternative in my country is in the native peoples, the youth or the feminists, and their proposals for a different coexistence.

Citizen expectations

– The outbreak of 2019 is a sword of Damocles, how to meet the challenge?

– The new Government must meet the expectations of the citizens and collaborate with the constitutional project by organizing the exit plebiscite. There are extremisms on the left and right that use gadgets for their own interest, and in the face of this, the new rulers have to seize the wisdom of the social movement and strengthen the responsibility of political institutions. We must build a democracy that recognizes nature. For example, water is a private good in Chile and this situation has caused a national crisis. It is necessary to respond to the social demand, which claims its public nature, against the rights of individuals.

– In such a divided country, there is a cause in which all the parties unite and which consists of the depletion and subjugation of the Mapuche people, even applying the Antiterrorist Law when they have raised their demands.

– We are facing a great opportunity. We have dialogued to achieve the transformations we deserve. There remains a discourse inherited from the colonial period that has remained in culture and politics and that defines us as backward beings. As a people we can contribute to the nation, expand democracy and live together based on mutual respect. Our aspiration is that the Constitution recognizes the right to be different.

– Is the Chilean initiative a new opportunity for the continental left after the fiasco in Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua?

– It was the failure of all those who thought that indigenous peoples are part of the delay and established the dilemma between progress and primitivism. They did not know how to see that the original peoples have the practice in the care of nature. The pandemic is the consequence of a life system that does not plan in balance with the environment. We must install a democracy with greater values ​​and, likewise, a different way of doing politics.

– Does Chile have the capacity to turn towards a different system? In the iconic film ‘Missing’, by director Costa Gavras, the ambassador of the Washington Government recognized the White House’s support for Pinochet’s coup because 3,000 US companies had interests in the southern territory.

– Currently there are also Chinese firms making extractive policies. Peoples have the right to autonomy regardless of what the USA or Europe say. There is no alternative life for society. The Mapuche people have been fighting for centuries and oppression cannot be exercised in perpetuity.


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