Mapuche leader Elisa Loncón, a Ph.D. in humanities holder from the Dutch University of Leiden, has been chosen Sunday to preside over the Constituent Convention which will re-write Chile's new Fundamental Law to replace the current text from 1980 passed under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
After being supported by leftwing delegates in the second round of voting, Loncón hailed the occasion as the start of a new Chile, plural, multilingual, with women, with territories.
Doning traditional Mapuche clothing, Loncón underlined that refounding Chile was “our dream, a dream of our ancestors. She also expressed her solidarity with the other peoples, especially the indigenous children of Canada after learning about the abuses committed in Catholic schools.
Loncón was a participant in the design of the Wenufoye flag of the Mapuche people, in 1992, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America.
Demonstrators of opposing political views clashed outside the National Congress building in Santiago during the opening ceremony of the Convention. Other incidents were reported to have involved Carabineros law enforcement officers.
Loncón was very critical of the Carabineros Special Forces: We cannot be calm if there is repression outside. It cannot be that the people are being repressed outside and that we are in an official scene, denying what is happening outside. We who are here cannot be calm while outside there is repression. This is a democratic act that the people of Chile wanted. Then democracy is not consistent with this repression, she stressed.
Once calm was restored, the Assembly took three rounds of votes to pick Law Professor Jaime Bassa from the University of Valparaíso as Conventional Vice President. Bassa said there was “hope to build a fairer, more egalitarian country; we have many multicultural challenges.
Today we have to travel a republican path, but also one of popular participation, the challenge is to rebuild that braid from respect, diversity. We have wounds that arise from the social process that led us here, he added.
Social peace has a cost and that is justice. We have to be able to generate the conditions for this to happen. Let us congratulate ourselves for what we have achieved today, having a Mapuche woman in the presidency, that is a great sign, he went on.
The convention also agreed to seek a presidential pardon for those imprisoned during the social and Mapuche revolts. Also among the first proposals to be discussed Monday is one from feminist groups.