Category Archives: Activism in Latin America

A Turning Tide? Grassroots Movements and a New Political Context in South America

By Marcos Perez

For the last decade and a half, the influence of grassroots movements in South America has expanded substantially. Organizations that emerged as localized reactions to neoliberal policies in the 1980s and 90s managed to force changes of government, accumulate resources, and access strategic positions within the state bureaucracy at the local, provincial, and national level. Continue reading

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Activism in Latin America

Political protesters in Rio de Janiero have used the global spotlight of the Olympics to highlight social issues in their cities and countries, notably extinguishing the Olympic torch at one point in time to bring attention to the high cost of hosting the games while other problems are ignored. Mobilizing Ideas would like to take this time to focus on activism in the broader region of Latin America. We invite contributors to consider particular topics that may include the relationship of activists to organized crime, state impunity and societal accountability, legacies of authoritarian governments, land rights and indigenous movements, and more.

Many thanks to our contributors.

Daniel Burridge, University of Pittsburgh (essay)
Nicholas Barnes, University of Wisconsin-Madison (essay)
Lucas ChristelDaniel Torunczyk, National University of San Martín & CONICET (essay)
Stefanie Israel, University of Notre Dame  (essay)
Angela Lederach, University of Notre Dame  (essay)
Marcos Perez, Colby College (essay)
Adam Talbot, University of Brighton (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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The Long Road Ahead: Social Movement Activism and Prospects for Peace in Colombia

By Angela Lederach

For the Spanish text of this article see here.

On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that they had reached a final peace agreement, marking a significant step towards a political end to 52 years of war. As Colombia and the international community turn towards the implementation of postaccord peacebuilding processes, close attention to the discourse and actions of rural, grassroots communities that have experienced the greatest impact of the internal armed conflict is particularly important. Although nearly half of all negotiated peace accords revert to armed conflict within five years, empirical evidence demonstrates that peace accords inclusive of local actors are more durable (Paffenholz 2010; Richmond 2011). In this essay, I draw on ethnographic research with the Peaceful Process of Reconciliation and Integration of the Alta Montaña, a nonviolent social movement comprised of campesinos (peasant farmers), to outline the challenges and possibilities of peace in Colombia. Continue reading

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Critical Collaboration and Silent Movements: Reinventing the Left in El Salvador and Nicaragua

By Daniel Burridge

W.B. Gallie and John Markoff remind us that many of humanity’s most important and transcendental concepts are essentially contested across space and time. In my recent life and research in El Salvador and Nicaragua, terms like the left, revolution, and democracy have become deeply contested in discourse and practice. This is the case in no small measure because the left has actually attained state power, throwing into sharp relief the tensions between revolutionary ideals and political, economic, and social realities. But these tensions are also impelling some social movement activists to reinvent democracy, the left, and their revolutionary dreams. Continue reading

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Between Fora Temer and Fora UPP: On the White Middle-Class Left and its Attempts to “Include” Favela Militants

By Stefanie Israel

Three years after the June protests, Brazil finds itself in a political and economic crisis that no one would have imagined. Since the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate voted in favor of impeachment, suspending Dilma Rousseff’s presidency pending up to 180 days of investigation and trial, and Vice-President Michel Temer (PMDB) acts as interim president, the Left has proclaimed a “golpe” or coup and united behind the slogan, “Primeiramente, Fora Temer” (“First, Out with Temer.”) Meanwhile, as Rio de Janeiro prepared to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, state budget shortfalls left many public employees without receiving salaries in the midst of across-the-board cuts in education, healthcare, and security. When the state received federal bailout funds, which were dedicated to security for the Games, rather than to education or healthcare, many who were already critical of investment “pra gringo / inglês ver” (for the gringo / English to see) were further outraged at the money spent to put on a spectacle for foreigners. They see this as a mere “maquiagem” (cosmetic make-up) over dire social problems that they will continue to live with once the international gaze turns away. This frustration with the prioritization of putting on a show over meeting basic needs (nothing new to Rio) led some to join a movement to put out the Olympic torch, a powerful symbolic action of protest against the dirty side of spectacle. Continue reading

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Mobilization in the Wake of Rio’s Olympics

By Nicholas Barnes

Over the last few months, we have been inundated with news articles and reports on the disastrous impacts that the Olympics have had on Rio de Janeiro. In particular, Rio’s working class poor, many of whom live in the city’s 1,100 favelas, representing nearly 25% of the population, have shouldered the biggest burden. The current situation in many of the city’s favelas is bleak. Many low-wage public employees’ salaries have gone unpaid and had their benefits cut. More than 4,000 residents have been evicted from their homes to make room for Olympic infrastructure. Even the once heralded Police Pacification Units (UPPs), a program intended to take back territorial control of favelas from powerful drug trafficking gangs and reduce violent crime in Rio in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics, are faltering. The news is not all bad, however, as the Olympics and other mega-events have also created opportunities for activists and social movements to call attention to misguided and irresponsible public policies. Much of Brazilian society has mobilized as a result. And yet, favela communities have largely been unable to capitalize on these opportunities due to continuing problems related to public security. Continue reading

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The Cycle of Socio-Environmental Mobilization Against Transnational Mining in Argentina: Assessment and Challenges (2003-2016)

By Lucas Christel and Daniel Torunczyk

In April 2003, a story ran in the New York Times Newspaper entitled “A Town’s Protests Threaten Argentina’s Mining Future”[1]. Though they couldn’t have known it at the time, the title was essentially premonitory of the advance of mining development activities in Esquel, Chubut province, as well as other provinces in Argentina. The Asamblea de Vecinos Autoconvocados de Esquel por el No a la mina (AVAE: in English, the Self-Appointed Neighbors’ Assembly Saying No to Mining against Looting and Pollution) burst into the conflict in the middle of 2002. Using a variety of repertoire of contention that combined direct action with institutional elements, such as judicial relief and a successful local referendum, AVAE successfully stopped a gold and silver mining project by Canadian-based company Meridian Gold (Svampa & Antonellli 2009; Walter y Alier 2010; Torunczyk 2015). More than a decade later, this essay seeks to assess the cycle of socio-environmental mobilization against transnational mining in Argentina, and to bring to light the actual challenges to environmental mobilization. Continue reading

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