By: Gabriela Valentín Díaz, 2L
Civil unrest in Latin American and Caribbean countries over the past year share many similarities. Perhaps most notably, Latin American constituents expressed their discontent with government actions that perpetuate corruption and inequality. Puerto Rican citizens took to the streets for the second time in less than eight months, demanding the resignation of its current governor, Wanda Vasquez, after warehouses full of undistributed aid supplied after Hurricane Maria were discovered. Puerto Ricans were outraged to learn the government allegedly knew of the warehouses for years and did not share the resources. This sparked accusations of corruption and inhumane treatment from the government and is the most recent event in a wave of political participation in Latin American and Caribbean countries over inequality and corruption. Countries like Chile, Brazil, and Colombia, and Ecuador share similar experiences that are likely to continue in 2020. Governments must take accountability and layout specific steps to regain the trust of the people.
Business Insider identified the conditions present in so many Latin American countries that are likely to generate protests. Countries with anti-system populist governments and new administrations are particularly susceptible to instability. One country that has experienced public outcry but has been less present in the media than others like Chile or Brazil is Ecuador. In October 2019, the President of Ecuador ended government subsidies that incentivized the compliance with an International Monetary Fund program that has largely benefitted multinational corporations and banks. Affected groups protested with outrage, resulting in over $140 million in damage. The citizens’ reaction to this austerity measure caused the President to flee the nation’s capital. Indigenous people in Ecuador—who were most affected by this change—protested, attempting to reclaim the government that has often forgotten and marginalized this group. The Ecuadorian protests were resolved after eleven days of protests that left seven dead and over 1,000 injured. The government struck a deal with protesters to remove the austerity measures that initially incited the protests. Citizens in these countries demand more equitable treatment and continue to protest for as long as it takes to force change in their government.
The 2019 civil uprisings shows other Latin American governments which issues are important to their people. Citizens want honesty, efficiency, and equality. Conversely, citizens of other Latin American countries have seen what they have the ability to accomplish as a united people. To encourage stability while changing the status quo, governments must increase transparency with their people, listen, and act on their concerns, as Ecuador did in 2019. If not, the year 2020 will be riddled with further loss of opportunity for progress and life in Latin America.