In recent days, it was disseminated on the Brazilian internet that the constituent party of Chile is supposed to extinguish the country’s armed forces. In an assertive tone, the statement was even reproduced in some media, supported by a file of two and a half pages in Castilian, with 10 subscriptions. The rumor, in addition to disregarding the political and geographical reality of Chile, is not substantiated. It is “fake news” or, in good old Portuguese, a lie.
The document is called “Fuerza de Paz, nuevo rol de la fuerzas armadas ” and proposes something similar to what happens in Costa Rica and Panama, the replacement of military armed forces by a civilian police force. It is a popular initiative by an environmental group called Movimiento Biocéntrico de Chile, whose social media profiles have not been updated for over a year and have only a few dozen followers. The group has no party affiliation. In short, it is a very small movement.
The proposal was sponsored by two constituents, lawyer and activist Vanessa Hoppe and university professor Carlos Calvo Muñoz. Other c constituents signed support for the text. Vanessa Hope’s role in the Constituent Assembly is, according to her, centered on “articulating the work of the constituents with civil society and independent organizations”. That is, precisely to take proposals from organizations such as the aforementioned environmental group to the constituent work.
Saying that Chile or the Constituent Assembly will abolish the armed forces, with the verb go in the imperative, is not true. . This is the plain and obvious lie, or, in the case of those who share the rumor without guile, deceit. It is a proposal, made by an inexpressive group, taken to the constituent assembly by a representative who governs her political activity through this type of articulation. In any national congress or constituent assembly, we will have unreasonable or radical proposals.
In the case of the Chilean Constituent Assembly, the work phase started on the 1st of February covers 1.266 proposals. Of these, 940 were made by constituents, 248 made by native peoples and 78 popular initiatives. The Constituent Assembly created an online platform where each citizen could submit up to seven proposals. Proposals that had more than 15 thousand signatures from at least four regions until the beginning of the month will be considered by the Constituent Committees.
All these 1.266 proposals will be analyzed by the different commissions of the constituent. They can be rejected, modified, merged and approved. Finally, if approved, when they go to the plenary vote, they need to be accepted by two-thirds of the constituents. Fifteen signatures are less than 10% of the entire Constituent Assembly, they are required 103 votes for a proposal to be included in the text, precisely to prevent proposals without broad consensus from being considered.
The column spoke of this in May of 2021, in the text The beginning of the end of Chile by Pinochet. At the time, the reader saw that the Chilean right and center-right will not get an “automatic veto” on issues such as pregnancy abortion. Still, the right-wing bloc is the largest political group in the constituency, with the various fragmented left groups smaller in number, not to mention independents and indigenous leaders. It is almost impossible for an obscure proposal by a small environmental group to be approved.
It is also important to make it clear to the reader that , even among the Chilean left, there is no monolithic posture on the proposals for the constituent, much less on the issue of the armed forces. This is a simplistic and ideological caricature, the result of a shallow thought of thinking that a person or a political group being on the right is equal to “unconditional support for the armed forces” and being on the left is “against the armed forces”. Are there people like that? Undoubtedly, but this is not the rule, nor should it be something present in the political comments of professionals.
This caricature, unfortunately, is the result of the last decades of Latin American politics, in which there was a ideologization of both citizens before a State institution such as the armed forces and members of these same institutions. In Brazil, for example, Ernesto Geisel stated that when the military entered politics, politics entered the barracks. Decades earlier, Marshal José Pessoa defended the need for separation between the two spheres.
Perhaps the best recent example to illustrate how this cleavage is a caricature is that of Lula’s presidential terms in Brazil. While many “warned” about an alleged “revanchism” of the Brazilian left against the armed forces, what was seen were some of the largest modernization projects of the Brazilian armed forces, such as the Submarine Development Program, of 2008, perhaps the biggest arms program in Brazilian history in corrected values.
Leaving the caricature, what is the Chilean reality, then? The Constitution of 940, of the Pinochet dictatorship, grants greater powers to the armed forces than other constitutions. This was partially modified by the constitutional reform of 2005 and obviously the subject returned to the agenda. Not only because of the constituent, but also because of the fact that the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship is still a sensitive topic in Chile. Which is not to say that there is unanimity on how to proceed.
There are political groups that defend from the maintenance of the armed forces as a proper chapter of the Constitution to those who wish to regulate it through ordinary laws, as in the USA outside the Constitution. And there are divergent proposals on both the left and the right. Issues such as the security of the military, the role and composition of the National Security Council, among others, are also discussed. Also discussed is the national military police, the Cabineros.
Including, when we mention the 2008 popular initiatives that will be appreciated by the Constituent Assembly for having received more than 15 thousand signatures , only one deals with the armed forces. And it rightly advocates that the current status be maintained, with a separate chapter in the Constitution. The number initiative 15.248, by the group In the Importan, it can be read in its entirety.
Internal and international political context
In other words, beyond the clear and obvious lie As mentioned, the Chilean internal political context is not unanimous and is more complex than it conveys a caricature that infantilizes the reader. The core of the work will undoubtedly be to strengthen the civilian and institutional command of the armed forces, but there is no room for a radical measure such as “extinguishing” the military. At most, a possible demilitarization of the Cabineros, who recently ceased to be part of the armed forces, in 2008.
The space for a measure such as the extinction of the armed forces is even smaller when we remember that the draft Constitution will have to be approved in an exit referendum, right after a presidential election with record turnout and 44, 1% of the votes for José Antonio Kast, from the right. In other words, a very radical constitution would hardly be approved. The caricature also hides how the constituent process works, there are no absolute powers in the hands of the constituents.
Neither of the president-elect, Gabriel Boric, of the radical left, who, on the last day 27 in January, he met with the three commanders of the Chilean forces. The future defense minister, Maya Fernández, granddaughter of Salvador Allende, was also present. She said the meeting “was good and appropriate, as we believe.” The future minister also declared that “more than history, we must obviously think about always having an Armed Forces for all Chileans”. There are no words of some grand conspiracy to abolish the armed forces.
Finally, there is also Chile’s international political context. The country has historic border disputes with all three of its neighbors. With Argentina, the dispute is over the Beagle Channel, and the two countries almost went to war in 1975. Recently, in September 2021, the two governments exchanged harsh statements on the subject. To the north, with Peru and Bolivia, the discussion is about the Atacama territories conquered by Chile in the 19th century, which has already ended up in the International Court of Justice.
In the end , the lie of saying that Chile is going to abolish its armed forces, or something similar, is nothing more than a caricature that ignores, or omits, the Chilean constituent procedures, its internal political context and the international context of its borders. It is about manipulating people to have an emotional and ideological reaction, projecting the same reaction to the Brazilian political scenario, precisely in a year of presidential elections. Information and the notion of the complexity of reality are more desirable.