World

Chile to amend constitution, a key demand of protesters

AFP-JIJI

Chile announced Sunday it will move to draft a new constitution and replace one dating back to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship — a key demand of protesters who have rocked the country for three weeks.

The new constitution will be drafted by a body called a constituent assembly and then put to a referendum for ratification, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said.

He made the announcement after a meeting with a coalition of center-right and right-wing parties which until now had been the most reluctant to change the Pinochet-era constitution.

The U.S.-backed general ruled with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990.

Chile has been stunned by three weeks of sometimes violent and deadly protests by people fed up with the status quo. They cite low wages, high costs for education and health care and a yawning gap between rich and poor in a country dominated politically and economically by a few old, elite families.

Unrest that began October 18 with protests against a rise in rush hour metro fares has mushroomed into a broader outcry, with burning, looting and daily clashes between demonstrators and police.

One of the protesters’ demands is changes to the constitution.

A survey by pollster Cadem published early this month said 87 percent of Chileans favored such reforms.