Maria Camila Garcia, Johns Hopkins Foreign Affairs Review
There are many factors that contribute to the connection amongst Latin American countries: a similar culture, a strong passion for celebration, a love for soccer, essentially equal religious beliefs and a shared painful history of subjugation. However, in the past year, another aspect of these nations has become even more characteristic: massive movements that embody an enormous feeling of dissatisfaction, fear and anger resulting from inefficient governments and unfair policies.
One of the most broadcasted protests took place in Puerto Rico this past summer. United to demand a resignation from the governor, over 1 million citizens walked the streets San Juan, the capital, carrying signs with evidence of the inappropriate behavior of their public official. Throughout 7 days of manifestations, arguably more, the population argued that the amount of debt due to corruption, the lack of support to the victims of hurricane Maria, and misogynistic, racist, and homophobic comments were only some of the many economic, social and political reasons why a change of leadership was necessary. The outcome of this protest was in a way successful, as the governor resigned and the wishes of the people were met, however, the negative effects of his administration are ongoing. Another protest that, sadly, did not resonate globally, took place in Panama this past October. The main purpose of this movement was to reject constitutional reforms that promote discrimination, facilitate corruption and lessen punitive measures against dishonest government officials. After 2 days of public rallies, the protest ended due to increasing violence from the police and army, who fired several shots at citizens part of the movement. Additionally, the outcome wasn’t favorable for those unsatisfied with the government, as no change was made to the legislation or administration of Panama. Despite the clear differences between these two Latin American movements, one thing is clear; government structures in this region are unable to satisfy the needs of its population, forcing citizens to use different tools to demand and enact change, such as protests and media coverage.
As a matter of fact, in this very moment, 3 other nations are facing similar situations: citizens are collectively fighting for economic, political and social changes within their territories. In Chile, protests have received enormous attention. What sparked the demonstration was a series of actions taken by the government to raise the prices of public transportation and other basic needs such as living and public health. Inequity is worsening and prompt action is necessary for the well-being of thousands, especially those with the lowest monetary incomes. Despite it being an ongoing movement, Chilean protests have already achieved positive outcomes: the Congress and Senate agreed to start the process of making amendments to the constitution, which hasn’t been changed since 1980. The revolution in Bolivia started on the night of October 20th and is still present by the means of peaceful marches, along with other forms of protest. According to the citizens of this nation, the results of the presidential elections that took place that same day were fraudulent and manipulated in favor of Evo Morales, a president whose time in office has surpassed a dozen years. After the first 20 days of enormous protests, the population managed to force the president, Vice President, the president of the Senate, among others, to resign and called for new elections. On another note, Colombia has officially reached the 5th day of its national protest, that began the 21st of November as a way to demonstrate an overall discontent for the president, Ivan Duque, whose measures haven’t been able to target or ameliorate the corruption and inequity that are very present in the country. What started as a peaceful movement has recently turned into a dangerous and violent confrontation between public official and protesters, specially after the tragic death of a young high school student on the hands of the anti-disturbance squadron in Bogota, the capital. Currently, the strike has sent a strong message to government officials, who have started to propose new methods of dealing with important issues and have begun to demonstrate they accept and value public opinion. Still, most citizens believe it is important to continue manifesting their anger and displeasure, as a way to guarantee and achieve long run effects in the State.
Overall, the large trend for public manifestations, protests and strikes, among many other ways to express desires for change, that is currently prevalent among Latin American nations demonstrates that democracies in this region are unable to satisfy the needs and wants of the majority of the population. Therefore, they are essentially incapable of properly carrying out their duty and purpose. I believe that the only way to mitigate this recurring issue is through prompt restructuring of the social, economic and political facets of the individual nations through cooperation between the government and population, which is precisely what many of these mass movements strive for. Although many of the revolutions have certainly achieved important steps towards improving weak national institutions, further international media coverage is necessary to target leaders able to influence public and private opinion, thus allowing bigger changes to occur. In this manner, the blaring voices of Latin American citizens in need will be heard from all over the world.
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