2019 Latin American protests

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Original short description: "Latin American Spring"

This article was considered for deletion at Wikipedia on August 9 2020. This is a backup of Wikipedia:2019_Latin_American_protests. All of its AfDs can be found at Wikipedia:Special:PrefixIndex/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/2019_Latin_American_protests, the first at Wikipedia:Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/2019_Latin_American_protests. Purge

Template:Infobox civil conflict

The 2019 Latin American protests correspond to a series of protests all over Latin America that coincided in 2019, and that is part of a larger context of international contestation movements since the end of 2018. Some of these protests continued into 2020.

There are various reasons for the emergence of these waves of protests, but all were anti-governments protests aiming to pressuring leaders to respond to the common concerns of citizens.[1] 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.[2]

As a result, Venezuela kicked off uprisings in Haiti, followed by Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia mainly.[3] Though developing separately throughout the year, by October these protests were occurring routinely across several Latin American countries, in some cases widespread and riotous, like in Chile. All the protests also relied heavily on the utilisation of social networks to generate greater mobilisation, spread information and denounce abuses.[4]

The Guardian discussed different opinions on whether the wave of protests constituted a "Latin American spring".[5] By November 2019, media outlets were using the term more widely.[6][7][8] It is a wave of the greater Latin American Spring that has been causing unrest around the region since 2014.


There are two common interpretations regarding the protests. According to Brian Winter, policy vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, main characteristics of the movement are economic dissatisfaction following the commodities boom and the reliance on military might, with Winter saying that Latin Americans perceive that strongman politics leads to change.[8] Dr. Lupu of the Latin American Public Opinion Project agreed that as corruption and socioeconomic issues increased in Latin America, citizens turn towards strongmen and distanced themselves from supporting democracy.[8] Winter expressed concern with his assessment of Latin America in 2019, stating "My fear is that we’ve gone back to the battle days of coups and protests and instability ... I think all of these things play a role and the takeaway could be that we’re returning to a period ... where uprisings and coups and civil unrest were the rule of the day".[8]

However, that interpretation of the protests as a sign that Latin American countries are rejecting democracy is far from being common in the Spanish speaking countries, or even clearly majoritarian among scholars in English speaking countries. For many other experts, the main common characteristics of the protests are the opposite to the ones stated in the previous paragraph. This second line of experts claim that the main characteristics of the 2019 Latin American protests are the rejection of the current economic model and a desire to pressure for political reforms to make the governments of the region more democratic and representative, not less. Among other authors in this line, the following can be mentioned. Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, states that what is happening is a "rebellion against the elites in Latin America", motivated by a "widespread sentiment of dissatisfaction and lack of fairness".[9] Noam Chomsky calls the Chilean protests "very inspiring and very appropriate", because the "Neoliberal assault against much of the population of the world pretty much began in Chile".[10] Salim Vally, professor at the University of Johannesburg, remembers in an article about the role of educator that, though the protests were "heavily repressed, it did not stop two million people from flooding the streets. Their collective proclamation is best captured by the words on a popular placard – ‘Neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die in Chile’ ".[11] Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, senior lecturer in law at the University of London, states "The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn't from protesters. It's from Piñera and the 1%".[12] Enric González calls the protests "an insurrection of the youth" in the most online-read newspaper in Spanish, El País, and claims that "Chilean students are the stars of the movie in the insurrection against the social model inherited from Pinochet".[13] Jorge Castañeda Gutman, former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs and currently professor at New York University, claims that the protests are fueled by "economic and democratic hopes", because the protestors have "achieved a certain consumer status," but at the same time they find themselves in a situation regarding public services, healthcare, education costs, and democratic representation that, according to Castañeda, "sounds a lot like the United States.... what a lot of people in the United States are also clamoring for".[14]


Historically, Latin America has seen two such similar periods of unified protests: during severe austerity in the 1980s and again during economic and political crises from 1998 to 2002.[5]

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.[15] 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.[15]

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.[15][5][16][2]

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.[17] 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.[17]

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".[15] 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.[15]

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 also the dedication of the yellow vests movement and the "frontliners", a group of 20 police fighters in Hong Kong.[5]

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;[5][17][16][2] 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".[2]

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.[18] 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".[19] Commenters describe this as an attempt to appear more powerful than he really is as Venezuela began mass protests again.[19]

World context

One of the Latin American protests, the beginnings of the movement in Chile, has been linked by a commenter to contemporary protests around the world, such as the 2019 Arab protests and 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. Several of the protests around the world are fueled by austerity following the 2008 crisis (which did not affect South America), perceived corruption, lack of democratic representation, difficulties among the younger generations, a monopoly on resources by the elite, and increase in costs.[20]Template:Relevance inline

Protest actions

The Associated Press described protests within the wave as having the key signature of arson, as well as often being more violent than typical.[16] Despite differing levels of economic and social security, the protests are the same in all countries.[21]

Role of social media

Each of the protest movements that have shaken Latin America from 2019 onwards were different, but all had in common that they were popular uprisings without defined leaders or concrete political projects, relying on social networks to denounce, form, structure and spread the movements.[4][22][23][24]

Since the Arab springs, various protest movements have appropriated new communication technologies, facilitating the circulation of information among a growing number of unorganized individuals.[25][26] Social networks have thus become major actors in the emergence and sustainability of protest movements in recent years.[26][23]

The most obvious aspect of the usefulness of social networks in the wave of protests is their ability to broaden mobilisation to certain categories of the population that are not usually politicised. Thanks to social media, individuals who have doubts about their commitment can be comforted in their position and have more incentive to take part in the mobilisation. The widespread dissemination of hashtags and call for mobilisation contributes to a strong sense of national support. In Chile, and according to local authorities, 10,000 people gathered in the centre of the capital on 29 October, after an appeal launched on social networks.[27] From November 2019 in Colombia, "cacerolazos" (pot concerts), recitals and neighbourhood assemblies multiplied thanks to messages circulating on social networks.[28] This mobilisation capacity also contributes to overcome the free-rider effect. Indeed, every rational individual is tempted to take advantage of certain situations without having to pay the price. In such cases, citizens staying at home will be able to take advantage of the measures granted after demonstrations, as much as those who have demonstrated, without having the disadvantages (loss of a day's pay, participation in the strike, etc.)

Social networks have also provided an alternative to traditional media that have remained silent or corrupted by the government.[4] As an example, The Financial Times reported that when a Chilean television journalist tried to interview protesters on their way to a meeting point in Santiago, a young girl pushed him away by shouting to the camera: "Turn off your television, the media is lying! Get your information on social networks!”.[22] In Ecuador, the general media blackout was also exposed on Twitter through several hashtags such as #EcuadorSOS, #CercoMediatico or #paroenecuador. Some also said: "The revolution will not be televised. We must broadcast it as widely as possible and be the voice of the Ecuadorian people".[29]Template:Better source

The strength of social networks in protest movements can also be explained by the possibility of sending and sharing videos and photos, powerful vectors of emotion and mobilization. In Colombia, for example, a few days after the demonstrations began, the death of an 18-year-old demonstrator who had been shot in the head by the police became one of the symbols of police repression.[30] Several videos showing the young boy falling to the ground went viral and prompted many citizens to join the movements.[30] In Chile, as protests against the government measure intensified, and just before a strong crackdown was carried out, President Pinera was seen eating a pizza in a wealthy area of the capital.[31] This event quickly provoked a tidal wave of reactions on Twitter, where images of police brutality and the hashtags #RenunciaPinera (Pinera's resignation) have swept.[31] According to Margaret Tucker, this illustrates the effectiveness and speed with which social media disseminate "protest slang" shaping movements.[31]

However, some observers object to the importance given to social networks in the emergence of protest movements in Latin America.[32] Journalists and scholars underlined the insidious character of social media also, declaring that "protests that organise on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly".[23] Social media are also accused of participating to the spread of misinformation and enabling to governmental manipulations. For others, social networks, far from being only democratic tools for purely positive purposes, have also contributed to the failure and extinction of movements over time. If they have helped to evacuate frustrations during the wave of demonstrations in Latin America, they do not seem to have contributed to the fluidity of social dialogue, nor to circumventing possible institutional blockages to finally revitalize democratic life according to a report on the year of unrest on the continent.[23] On the contrary, social networks seem to have added to the political instability of these countries, contributing to the persistence of blockages and undermining the credibility of institutions.[23] In Colombia, as in Chile and Ecuador, social networks have mainly contributed to highlighting the country's structural problems without providing credible alternative solutions.[23]

Affected countries

Map of Latin American countries

Reports agree that protests in Haiti, Ecuador, and Bolivia are certainly within the Latin American wave.Template:Efn 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.[33] Most also definitively include Chile; it is attached only tentatively by Mac Margolis.[17] Margolis also lists 2019 protests in Honduras and Argentina as part of the wave;[17] Valeska Hesse discounts Argentina prior to 27 October,[15] though it is included by Bloomberg because of "voters revolt[ing] against President Mauricio Macri's budget-cutting agenda" in the summer.[2] Within Latin American media,[34] Peru, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala[35] have been included in accounts of the wave.

Reports on the wave of protests sometimes exclude the 2019 protests in Venezuela.Template:Efn Similarly, protests occurred in Brazil through 2019, but were mostly challenging the government's environmental policies during the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires.[36] 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.[37] 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.[38][39][40]

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.[41] 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.[8][19][42]

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Puerto Rico

See also




  1. Jenner, Frances (2019-12-12). "2019: A year in protests" (in en-US). https://latinamericareports.com/2019-a-year-in-protests/3953/. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Spinetto, Juan Pablo (20 October 2019). "Political Risk Is Revived in Latin America as Protests Spread". https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-20/political-risk-revived-in-latin-america-as-protests-spread. 
  3. "2019: Protests and disruptive changes in Latin America" (in en). https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/2019-movilizaciones-ciudadanas-y-cambios-disruptivos-en-am%C3%A9rica-latina-en/. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Alimonti, Veridiana (2019-12-24). "Protests and Technology in Latin America: 2019 in Review" (in en). https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/12/protests-and-technology-latin-america-2019-review-0. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Phillips, Tom (24 October 2019). "An explosion of protest, a howl of rage – but not a Latin American spring". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/24/latin-american-spring-protests-chile-ecuador-bolivia-haiti. 
  6. Faiola, Anthony. "How to make sense of the many protests raging across South America" (in en). https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/a-government-chased-from-its-capital-a-president-forced-into-exile-a-storm-of-protest-rages-in-south-america/2019/11/14/897f85ba-0651-11ea-9118-25d6bd37dfb1_story.html. 
  7. "Morales' exit stymies comeback for Latin America's left". 2019-11-12. https://apnews.com/41bd23fa9bb74ce5a1d3529ac3354e52. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "If Chile Can Erupt Over Inequality, Anywhere Can". https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28290/if-chile-can-erupt-over-inequality-anywhere-can. 
  9. Shifter, Michael (2020-01-21). "Opinion | The Rebellion Against the Elites in Latin America" (in en-US). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/21/opinion/international-world/latin-america-elites-protests.html. 
  10. Chomsky, Noam (3 Jan 2020). "Chomsky on Chile's demonstrations". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qy4Df28ohU. 
  11. "The role of educators in the fight against neoliberalism". https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20191209120619834. 
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  13. González, Enric (2019-11-24). "La revolución de los muchachos" (in es). El País. ISSN 1134-6582. https://elpais.com/internacional/2019/11/23/actualidad/1574543096_923129.html. 
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  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 "South America's protests fueled by 'extreme' social inequality". 26 October 2019. https://www.dw.com/en/south-americas-protests-fueled-by-extreme-social-inequality/a-50977566. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Is boom, then slump, behind fiery Latin American protests?". 24 October 2019. https://apnews.com/957b27f2ca9441bda64e60a441517a5a. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Margolis, Mac (23 October 2019). "Opinion | Chile's Protests Aren't Like Other Latin American Protests". In Gibney, James. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-10-23/chile-s-protests-aren-t-like-other-latin-american-protests. 
  18. "Venezuela has no role in Latin America protests: expert". https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/venezuela-has-no-role-in-latin-america-protests-expert/1626472. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Naím, Moisés; Winter, Brian (2019-11-13). "Why Latin America Was Primed to Explode" (in en-US). Foreign Affairs : America and the World. ISSN 0015-7120. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/central-america-caribbean/2019-10-29/why-latin-america-was-primed-explode. 
  20. Walsh, Declan; Fisher, Max (2019-10-23). "From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues" (in en-US). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/23/world/middleeast/global-protests.html. 
  21. "Latin America faces a second 'lost decade'" (in en-GB). https://www.ft.com/content/07f0e09e-0795-11ea-9afa-d9e2401fa7ca. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Rachman, Gideon; Mander, Benedict; Dombey, Daniel; Wong, Sue-Lin; Saleh, Heba (25 October 2019). "Leaderless rebellion: how social media enables global protests". The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/19dc5dfe-f67b-11e9-a79c-bc9acae3b654. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Solace Global. (2019). "2019: A Year of Unrest Powered by Social Media", https://www.solaceglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Solace-Global-Civil-Unrest-Powered-by-Social-Media-2019-.pdf
  24. Faiola, Anthony; Krygier, Rachelle (14 November 2019). "How to make sense of the many protests raging across South America". The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/a-government-chased-from-its-capital-a-president-forced-into-exile-a-storm-of-protest-rages-in-south-america/2019/11/14/897f85ba-0651-11ea-9118-25d6bd37dfb1_story.html. 
  25. Garrett, R. Kelly (2006-04-01). "Protest in an Information Society: a review of literature on social movements and new ICTs". Information, Communication & Society 9 (2): 202–224. Template:Citation error. ISSN 1369-118X. 
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  27. "Protesters take to the streets in Santiago, other Chilean cities" (in English). 2019-10-30. http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/581239/World/America/Protesters-take-to-the-streets-in-Santiago-other-Chilean-cities. 
  28. "Pots and pans 'cacerolazo' protests echo across Latin America". https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/pots-pans-cacerolazo-protests-echo-latin-america-191202014429978.html. 
  29. "Ecuador Protests Enter 7th Day Against Pro-IMF Economic Reforms". https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Ecuador-Protests-Enter-7th-Day-Against-Pro-IMF-Economic-reforms-20191009-0008.html. 
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  36. Phillips, Dom (2019-08-24). "Brazilian protesters rail against Bolsonaro as Amazon fires rage on" (in en-GB). The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/24/brazilian-protesters-bolsonaro-amazon-fires. 
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  41. Bhaumik, Sanoja (2019-11-18). "As Colombia faces nationwide strike Nov.21, why are students protesting?" (in en-US). https://thecitypaperbogota.com/bogota/as-colombia-faces-a-nationwide-strike-nov-21-why-are-students-protesting/23208. 
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