This article was originally published on The Santiago Times in July 2013.

To protest this restriction on their voting rights, while the country held historic primary presidential elections over the weekend, Chileans living in cities around the world staged their own mock elections.

Organized via social networks, they posted pictures from cities including Paris , Buenos Aires, Sydney and Washington, along with the hashtag “Haztuvotovolar,” or “Make your vote fly,” as part of a long-running campaign to gain what they perceive as a basic democratic right.

Along the way they gained the support of various prominent politicians, including Christian Democratic (DC) presidential candidate Claudio Orrego — who came third in the left-leaning Concertación’s primary vote — and Manuel José Ossandon of the conservative National Renewal (RN) party. Both declared their support via Twitter.

Sergio Saavedra Rivera from the Make Your Vote Fly campaign told The Santiago Times that the movement enjoys widespread support in his home country.

“[The right to vote] is enshrined in the Chilean Constitution, however, no mechanism has been established for it to be respected,” Rivera said. “Our campaigns have been echoed by the hundreds of thousands of Chileans who live abroad for a number of reasons, to study, to work, to travel — people who, for a number of reasons, have been living away, be they political, economic, employment or artistic.“

The various campaign groups, present in more than 10 major cities abroad, hope they can obtain the right to vote before the next parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for Nov. 17.

Valeria Lübett, campaign coordinator in the United States, called on President Sebastián Piñera to honour his promise to give Chileans abroad the right to vote — but conceded the goal might not be reached before the next elections.

“Piñera has promised time and again, including in his May 21 [state of the nation] speech, as well as during his presidential campaign, that Chileans living abroad would get the right to vote, initially under certain conditions,” declared Lübett. “We hope this can be achieved before November, although we doubt it will.”

A 2007 report found that 16 nations across North and South America — including all three of Chile’s immediate neighbours, Argentina, Peru and Bolivia — allow residents living abroad to vote, leaving Chile in the minority. The report found that 115 countries worldwide allow external voting.

“We remain Chileans, entitled to the same rights as a resident, and as most countries allow this right, we want to participate and give our opinion in the social and political processes of Chile,” Saavedra Rivera said.

Copyright 2013 - The Santiago Times
Image via Facebook Haz Tu Voto Volar

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