Tuesday 22 June 2021

Opinion: Latin America’s upheaval tips towards chaos

At first glance, the protests in Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and most recently Colombia seem to have much in common. They were largely peaceful demonstrations, with occasional instances of violence and vandalism and security forces suppressing any mayhem with an iron fist.

Bolivians protest what they call a coup against Morales

The protests have also had far-reaching consequences. In Bolivia, President Evo Morales was forced to step down. In Ecuador, Chile and Colombia, protesters forced lawmakers to scrap various policies and plans.

- Advertisement -

Though the political and economic situations of these four countries differ, the protests have common roots: the blindness of elites to glaring injustice, the arrogance of those who hold power and the absence of economic systems that balance competition and profit with social equity. Chileans disagree over the best way forward. The same is true in Colombia. Bolivia is more politically divided than ever. Ecuador’s current calm is deceptive.

The protests are aimed not at dictators, but at democratically elected leaders. Even Bolivia, where ex-President Evo Morales sought to hold onto his power with quasi-autocratic determination, remains a far cry from a dictatorship. In fact, Bolivians initially took to the street to defend their democracy. However, Morales’ resignation spurred his supporters to protest. Both they and the counterprotesters have radicalized — and all while Bolivia’s interim government stands by idly.

Instead of calming tensions, interim President Jeanine Anez has broken off diplomatic relations with Venezuela and reestablished them with Israel — two symbolic moves that could have just as well been carried out at the behest of the US. She brandished a bible at her swearing-in-ceremony, which must have been taken as a deliberate show of cultural disdain by those indigenous groups that had turned against Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president.

DW’s Uta Thofern

- Advertisement -

Bolivia’s former opposition movement, which would have the best chances in fresh elections, is increasingly fragmented, and moderate forces are losing popularity as Bolivia grows ever more polarized.

Hidden problems emerge

The same can be said for Chile and Colombia, where the various opposition camps and governments are increasingly at loggerheads. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque have overcome their initial stubbornness and given in to many of the protesters’ demands, while also signaling an openness to engage in dialogue. Yet this has done nothing to placate protesters.

All trust in the Chilean and Colombian states dissolved after security forces used unnecessary brutality to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Yet some individuals have capitalized on every new demonstration to steal and vandalize property, which has provoked further violence and left ordinary citizens fearing for their safety.

In both countries, protesters and leaders seems to be talking past each other. In Chile, the country’s emergence from the Pinochet dictatorship in the 90s and its robust economic growth distracted from growing societal polarization. And in Colombia, decades of struggles against armed guerrillas overshadowed many of its societal problems.

Now, however, people are angry and fed up with lawmakers promising to engage in talks or honor the rule of law. The possibility of a constitutional referendum in Chile has not mollified protesters, who do not even have designated negotiator to talk to the government. And in Colombia, a strike committee comprised of union and student activists claims to represent the entirely of protesters and refuses to even talk to other societal groups, which makes serious negotiations impossible.

- Advertisement -

Too many disparate demands

The protesters also seem to want everything and want it fast: affordable education, less misygonist violence, higher pensions, less racism, better health care and more protection for environmental and social activists. But of course, the state is not able to fulfill all these demands, let alone over night. Not even a dictatorship would be able to do so.

Lawmakers have so far struggled to strike the right tone to engage with protesters. And the demonstrators, in turn, seem unwilling to reach some sort of compromise. For now, they are too enthralled by the feeling of finally having power, a feeling that inhibits rational thinking. Besides, a sense of deep distrust towards the violent state persists.

But for there to be progress, protesters and leaders will have to eventually come together for talks, and they must acknowledge that no one can claim to speak for all people. They can only ever represent a part of, never the entire populace.

Democracy needs time. It is the wearisome search for compromise and balance between differing interests. The South American protesters don’t seem to want to do this anymore. They’ve waited too long and been disappointed too often. This is understandable, yet there is no good alternative to democracy, either. Without it, there is chaos and then the rule of the strong man. And that is not justice.

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

Related Articles

Which countries could follow El Salvador by making it legal tender?

Q24N - El Salvador may be the first country to adopt...

Peru revises pandemic death toll, now worst in the world per capita

Q24N (Reuters) Peru on Monday almost tripled its official COVID-19 death...

MOST READ

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 19: only “ODDS” can circulate

Today, Saturday, June 19, only vehicles with "ODD" ending plates CAN circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm, save...

Despite investigation, construction of road works by H. Solís will continue

QCOSTARICA - Five major road works under the responsibility of the H. Solís company will continue in development despite investigations for alleged corruption involving...

Today’s Covid News: Less than 800 new cases for the first time in two months

QCOSTARICA - For the first time in two months, less than 800 new cases of covid-19 in a single day were registered on June...

The Best Sports To Play On A Beach

Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in the world. The coastline is blessed with golden sand, beautiful palm trees, and perfect blue...

American woman found lifeless in hotel bathroom in Sabana

QCOSTARICA - A sad discovery occurred this Thursday morning in a hotel located in La Sabana, in San José, the lifeless body of a...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 18: 9 & 0 CANNOT circulate

Today, Friday, June 18, vehicles with plates ending 9 & 0 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 20: only “EVENS” can circulate

Today, Sunday, June 20, only vehicles with "EVEN" ending plates CAN circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm, save...

Bribed with cars, sexual favors and money in exchange for road works contracts

QCOSTARICA - The OIJ uncovered a big pothole on Monday when it was announced that public officials had allied with construction companies that, apparently,...

Vaccination commission endorses J & J vaccine, says no to Sinovac

QCOSTARICA - The Comisión Nacional de Vacunación y Epidemiología (CNVE)  - National Vaccination and Epidemiology Commission - endorsed the use of Johnson and Johnson...

WANT TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST!

Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.