This post and its companion piece by Rebecca Abers draw heavily upon an ongoing email conversation about the Brazilian protests between Rebecca Abers, Kathryn Hochstetler, Margaret Keck, and Marisa von Bülow, and these essays have benefited from all of their suggestions.
At its height, the surprising wave of street demonstrations that rocked Brazil in June reached over 100 cities and involved well over a million people. Among foreign observers, it seemed to invite comparison with the almost concurrent demonstrations in Turkey, triggered by urban renewal plans for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, the Occupy movement in the US, Chilean student protests, and Argentina’s gigantic panelaços, to say nothing of the Arab Spring. In almost all of these protest events, young people played a prominent—even predominant—role, and social media was widely used to mobilize people to come out onto the streets and provide information and images. There has clearly been diffusion of symbols, styles, and to some extent a rejection of traditional rally repertoires involving podiums, speakers, loudspeakers, and the like. On a host of social network sites, participants have condemned leaders and hierarchy, embraced horizontality and self-representation, and disavowed representative institutions and organizations. Continue reading
This post and its companion piece by Margaret Keck draw heavily upon an ongoing email conversation about the Brazilian protests between Rebecca Abers, Kathryn Hochstetler, Margaret Keck, and Marisa von Bülow, and these essays have benefited from all of their suggestions.
Brazilian blogs, talk shows, and op-ed sections have been flooded in recent weeks with attempts to make sense of the sudden wave of protests that swept the country in June. Most commentators interpret the protests as an outpouring of frustration on the part of ordinary Brazilians with the political system that has emerged since the transition from authoritarian rule in late 1980s. That interpretation is certainly correct. But the protests are also a message from organized civil society, which has undergone important changes in the last decade. Continue reading
In Benjamin Dangl’s 2010 book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, he analyzes the tense interplay between social movements and elected left leaders. In countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela, we observe a growing trend of presidents elected with major support from social movements, but once in office, both movement and the president awkwardly struggle to master unfamiliar roles on this new dance floor. Presidents accustomed to taking uncompromising stances abruptly find themselves in pursuit of re-election, and the choices they make alienate segments of the base that elected them. Continue reading
A few months away from the 40th anniversary of the 1973 U.S.-sponsored coup that led to the bloody overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, the coming presidential election of November 2013 in Chile has opened the deep wounds of nearly two decades of military dictatorship. As is well known—and has been amply documented—its sequels were brutal repression, suppression of political freedoms, exile, illegal imprisonment, assassination, torture, and state-sponsored terrorism whose reach led to the assassination of Pinochet’s opponents not only in Chile itself but as far away as Argentina, Italy, and Washington DC. The 1973 coup also inaugurated a neoconservative economic experiment, more popularly known as neoliberalism whose sequel was twofold: it brought about the most acute levels of social inequality in the country’s history, and it became the template used by world capital to restructure itself and its periphery so as to serve the narrowest of interests.[ii] Continue reading
Thirty years after the crisis in Central America, the region has once again appeared on the political agenda. However, it is now some time since intellectuals travelled to the Isthmus interested in seeing the outcome of civil wars in which the logic of mobilisation was black or white: a fight between insurgency and the status quo.
At that time, the social movements (called Organizaciones de Masas – Organisations of the Masses) held a closed loyalty towards the guerrilla groups: the FSLN in Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador, and the URNG in Guatemala. For their part, the more low-key social movements in Honduras and Costa Rica showed solidarity towards the insurgents. Nevertheless, in each country the relationship between movements and guerrillas was different. In Nicaragua, from the second half of the 1970s and throughout the revolutionary period, the movements always obeyed the FSLN, which served as the vanguard. However, in Guatemala and El Salvador, the movements were more autonomous and had a greater capacity for negotiation with the guerrilla groups. Continue reading