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CHILE will hold a referendum on replacing the country’s constitution, it was announced today, meeting a key demand of protesters.
The current constitution came into force in 1980 under the former military dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Although amended to some degree over the years, the constitution still fails to establish the state’s responsibility to provide education and healthcare for its citizens — which are among the key demands of the millions of Chileans who have taken to the streets to demonstrate over the past month.
Chile’s Congress agreed to hold the referendum after hours of negotiations between the governing coalition and opposition parties.
The decision has been met with suspicion from the Communist Party, which decided not to participate in the negotiations and said there has been a lack consultation with social movements.
The referendum, due next April, will ask voters whether the constitution should be replaced and, if so, how a charter should be drafted.
Chileans have protested every Friday for a month against the government’s neoliberal policies and the economic damage they have caused to the country.
The demonstrations were begun by young people angry at an increase in Metro fares in the capital Santiago but were stoked by a desire for reforms to healthcare, education, pensions and the constitution.
Footage emerged today of protesters using lasers to disrupt the operations of the police and security forces.
In one instance, activists used lasers to bring down a police drone in Santiago.
Police have used shotgun pellets on protesters, resulting in the blinding of at least 230 people, according to Chile’s main medical body.
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