Campaigning for next month’s referendum on changing Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution began on Wednesday, more than four months after an outbreak of unrest that triggered the ballot.

More than 14 million Chileans will be eligible to vote on April 26 on changing a charter established in 1980, under the military rule of Augusto Pinochet (1973-90).

It has been changed before by referendum, following a 1988 vote that paved the way for a return to democracy.

“So many tears and so much blood have been spiled that we could have a different constitution,” Camilo Sanchez, the president of the Young Communists, told AFP.

On Monday, President Sebastian Pinera called on Chileans to unite in favour of a “major agreement for democracy, against violence and for peace,” amid ongoing social unrest.

Last year, in December, President Pinera announced the date of April 26, 2020, for a referendum on whether the country should draft a new constitution to replace the one imposed in 1980 by late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Pinera had introduced a law that will allow the South American country to hold a referendum on April 26 to change its military dictatorship-era constitution.

Earlier, thousands of demonstrators gathered onto the street of capital Santiago to pressurize President Pinera into taking “serious steps” to reduce inequality in the country battling a social upheaval for the last 50 days.

The violent protests that started in mid-October prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and the deployment of soldiers in the provinces of Santiago and Chacabuco, as well as in the Metropolitan municipalities of Puente Alto and San Bernardo.

Clashes broke out between the protesters and the police in several parts of the city throughout the day and the subway was shut after attacks on several stations.

The crisis is the worst in three decades of Chilean democracy and led to around 2,000 injuries, including some 280 people who suffered eye damage from shotgun pellets.

The movement, which brought 1.2 million people – more than 5 per cent of Chile’s population – into Santiago palace on October 25, has made adoption of a new constitution one of its signature demands.

(With inputs from agency)