Chileans waiting to vote.

Chileans waiting to vote. (AP/Luis Hidalgo)

LatAm in Focus: On the Ground during Chile's Year of Change

By Carin Zissis

Santiago-based journalist John Bartlett talks about covering the protests and a vote to rewrite the country’s constitution, even as a pandemic bore down. 

"I think more than anything what [the pandemic] did was give Chileans a vital moment of introspection."

For Bartlett, who covered the past year’s events for outlets such as The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post, shifting rules presented the hurdles that come with shifting quarantine zones. At one point, he says, “[In] the building I live in you could leave by one door and be free to do whatever you want and leave by the other door and be in full lockdown.”

The challenges aren’t over yet. Now Chile needs to elect members of a constituent assembly and draft the document for another 2022 referendum and, in the middle of it all, will hold a 2021 presidential vote. But, for Bartlett, there are reasons for optimism. “Chile is an incredibly divided country. It’s no secret that open proponents of the dictatorship are active in all spheres of life,” he says. But the process also allows the country to go through a type of “healing” and an exchange of ideas for what comes next. Says Bartlett: “I'm looking forward to covering it over the next couple of years and seeing what will happen.”

Subscribe to the Podcast

New to the podcast? Check out past episodes of Latin America in Focus and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Katie Hopkins produced this episode. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at