Anti-Government Protests Sweep Across South America

By Ana Chalmers ’22

As media struggles to cover the attacks and uprisings in various Latin-American countries, rebellions continue to appear. In Ecuador, protesters surrounded the capital and government employees were forced to flee. In Bolivia, violence erupted as police stations were attacked, homes of politicians were destroyed, and Latin-America’s longest-serving president was driven to exile. In Chile, there were 2,500 injured in these weeks of unrest and at least 20 dead.

Some people might be wondering: why now? The “commodities boom,” where prices of goods dropped drastically and economic growth became abundant, helped lift millions of people out of poverty. With this boom came expectations of revenue and economic security. Now, half a dozen years later, these expectations are left unmet and political leaders continue to corrupt governments. Recently in Argentina, the first democratically elected, non-Peronist president since 1916 was replaced by someone whose vice president is the same, controversial leader who had been president before. In Venezuela, protests have mainly been centered around the socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro. Juan Guaido, opposition leader, continues to call for demonstrations as his starving country tries to fight against a power-crazed autocrat. These problems create strains in neighboring countries like Colombia as Venezuelan refugees flee. As displayed in this graph created by the Washington Post, reasons for protests vary from economic unrest to corruption in the government.

So, why aren’t we talking about this? At some point, we as Americans must realize the impact we have on the world and its politics. Americans have the privilege of freedom of speech, and using it is critical. With a few clicks of an iPhone, a news story can become so viral that leaders are forced to listen. While many people refuse to look at news stories because they are negative or sad, these are human lives. While we have the privilege to protest peacefully or say what is on our mind with few detrimental consequences, others are not so lucky. The ability to change the mind of leaders and save innocent lives always overrides the desire to stray from sad information. It is imperative that we, as the people of the world’s leading democracy, fight to spread the word to save real lives.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019-20 Print Edition, the full version can be viewed here