Outgoing president proposes new constitution for Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is ending her term with an ambitious proposal for a new constitution that would ensure equal pay for men and women and strengthen guarantees of the right to strike.

Bachelet sent the proposal to Congress on Tuesday, just five days before she leaves office.

The plan also calls for improved health care, education and social security. It would also recognize indigenous people under the constitution and give them congressional representation, increase the rights of all citizens to due process and guarantee the protection of private information.

“The Constitution project that I’m sending to Congress addresses the demands of citizens for a more egalitarian society that better protects the dignity of all,” Bachelet said. “It’s a constitution that brings Chile up to date with the cultural and social changes on a global and national level.”

The current constitution was drafted during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Although some changes have been made in the decades since Chile’s return to democracy, the core of the constitution remains intact.

The initiative is highly unlikely to prosper because Bachelet lacks a majority in Congress. But some say it might prod center-right Sebastian Pinera to tackle those issues after he takes over the presidency on Monday.

Bachelet had promised the constitutional reform during her campaign, but her government later said that it would not be debated or approved during her 2014-2018 presidency.

The timing of the announcement was criticized by some lawmakers, but others said it sets a positive precedent for the expanding social rights of Chileans.

“Even if it’s late, it’s a text that will help,” said Communist leader Guillermo Teillier.

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