2019 Latin American protests
The 2019 Latin American protests, also called Primavera Latinoamericana ("Latin American Spring"), are a series of escalating examples of civil disobedience in various countries across Latin America protesting against austerity measures and political corruption in the region, described in several sources as a "wave".[a] The Guardian discussed different opinions on whether the wave of protests constituted a "Latin American spring"; by November 2019, media outlets were using the term more widely. It is a wave of the greater Latin American Spring that has been causing unrest around the region since 2014.
Protests were triggered by a build-up of perceived antisocial government actions negatively impacting citizens, particularly financially, during a period of austerity following early-2000s prosperity across Latin America. The influence to protest at such large scales has been suggested to come from a widespread fear of economic and social crises caused by government actions, and dissatisfaction at political responses. This fear may be influenced by the crisis in Venezuela.
Though developing separately throughout the year, by October large protests were occurring routinely across several Latin American countries.
Valeska Hesse, director of the Latin America office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, suggested that the "social trends" leading to protesting in certain areas of Latin America were consistent throughout many countries in the region. Deutsche Welle describes one of these risk factors as the "extreme inequality between rich and poor [that] can be seen in many countries across the continent", noting that Latin American countries occupy eight of the top ten spots in the list of most economically unequal.
Many observers, however, suggest that the strongest cause of protests, and a unifying element unique to Latin America, is a period of economic downturn and/or instability following a boom in the early years of the 21st century; they report that though Latin America comprises countries of varying wealth and political leanings, its shared regional history gives this protest-fueling background.
On another side, Mac Margolis, in an opinion piece for Bloomberg, suggests that many of the nations fall into this category but that Chile, with a reasonably stable economic history, does not, instead positing a different connecting factor in what he describes as a "willful technocracy" seen among all of Latin America's leaders; he explains that they use international economic advice to implement measures with short-term detriments, and respond negatively to public questioning. Margolis also discusses "[h]arsh fiscal measures and feckless management", and "a bum economy and a widening gap between poverty and plenty" as causes for protests across Latin America, exempting Chile.
Michael Alvarez, a spokesperson for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, also suggests that there was an improvement in social equality alongside that of the economy, and that this has equally slumped, saying that "people in Latin America are no longer willing to accept social inequality". An expert speaking to Deutsche Welle also suggested that an aim of the protests is more social destabilization than seeking any true improvements, a theory rejected by other experts.
Michael Reid proposed the economic nosedive as the cause of protests, but told The Guardian that the region was more complex, noting this as only the first of three catalysts; the others are "public rage against Latin America's political machine after a wave of corruption scandals that have discredited traditional political elites, sparked furious protests in countries including Peru and Haiti, and propelled a new generation of populists to power in Brazil and Mexico" and, for certain "radical" protestors emerging in Ecuador and Chile, the dedication of the yellow vests movement and the "frontliners", a group of 20 police fighters in Hong Kong.
The various commenters on the wave of protests also present the belief that while several of the protests were triggered for diverse and seemingly trivial reasons, these trigger points were considered the final straw in a build-up of small actions of perceived mismanagement and repression; Bloomberg appends in particular that "Latin America has a history of exploding unrest when prices go up for essential services and products, which are often subsidized and subject to price distortions".
Colombian experts criticize the statements from leaders in countries of protest which suggest that Venezuelan and Cuban meddling is deliberately sowing unrest across the region. In October, disputed Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro claimed that he influenced protests and that "the plan is going exactly as [they] hoped" to destabilize "all of Latin America and the Caribbean". Commenters describe this as an attempt to appear more powerful than he really is as Venezuela began mass protests again.
The Associated Press described protests within the wave as having the key signature of arson, as well as often being more violent than typical. Despite differing levels of economic and social security, the protests are the same in all countries.
Reports agree that protests in Haiti, Ecuador, and Bolivia are certainly within the Latin American wave.[b] The first incidence of violence was reported in Haiti on 11 February with 4 people getting killed on the first day of the anti government riots. Most also definitively include Chile; it is attached only tentatively by Mac Margolis. Margolis also lists 2019 protests in Honduras and Argentina as part of the wave; Valeska Hesse discounts Argentina prior to 27 October, though it is included by Bloomberg because of "voters revolt[ing] against President Mauricio Macri's budget-cutting agenda" in the summer. Within Latin American media, Peru, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala have been included in accounts of the wave.
Reports on the wave of protests sometimes exclude the 2019 protests in Venezuela.[c] Similarly, protests occurred in Brazil through 2019, but were mostly challenging the government's environmental policies during the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires. In light of the other nearby protests, Brazilian congressman David Miranda wrote in The Guardian in November that though people in the country have the same motivations, they recognize that protests would do harm in Brazil, as President Jair Bolsonaro would use unrest as justification to implement a military dictatorship. Before Mexico began protesting against unfair policies, it saw protests through the year, but these were part of the "Glitter Revolution" to denounce violence against women in the country.
Student protests broke out in Colombia after a September corruption scandal; in mid-November these protests grew into larger public strikes, influenced by the protests nearby. When hundreds of thousands of people began protesting in Chile and Colombia, generally peaceful and safe countries in Latin America, in October and November 2019, respectively, it was asserted that the protests across the continent are of the same mindset and triggered by each other; commenters suggested that after Chile, it was likely the entire region would soon follow.
- Conservative wave
- Latin American economy
- Pink tide
- List of protests in the 21st century
- Crisis in Venezuela
- Including Deutsche Welle, The Guardian, Mac Margolis writing for Bloomberg, and the Associated Press.
- As in [a] and other sources.
- For example, Venezuela's issues are mentioned in the Associated Press article about the wave of protests, but only as a direct source for issues in Haiti.
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- O'Boyle, Brendan (23 October 2019). "Why Uruguayans Are Also in the Streets". Americas Quarterly. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
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