Latin America Notes

November 25, 2020

From the November-December 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

Chile—On Oct. 25, the Chilean masses delivered a decisive “No” to one of the last vestiges of the Augusto Pinochet era. They voting overwhelmingly—80%—to get rid of the 1980 Constitution and begin the process of writing a new one. The drafting of the new Constitution is to be done by a citizen-elected, citizen-led group—not by political parties. On one level this is a great advance from the dark night of neoliberalism that has characterized Chile in the decades of post-Pinochet rule. But on another level, it is a containment of the creative protests and aspiration of the youth, women, the Indigenous Mapuche and much of the urban masses within narrow, electoral, “safe” parameters.

In October 2019, a refusal to accept a small increase in transportation fares began a year of massive protests and demonstrations against the reactionary government of Sebastián Piñera. His administration met these protests with vicious repression time and time again. The demonstrators’ demands were no mere protest against a fare increase, but were also for a different society, a different way of life. Whether any of this can occur within the confines of constitutionalism remains to be seen.

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Bolivia—The presidential election held this past October delivered a massive repudiation of the right-wing forces that had taken over the government when Evo Morales was forced to flee last year after a contested election. The overwhelming victory of MAS (Movement for Socialism) candidate Luis Arce must be credited to the powerful social movements that refused to bend under the attacks of the government of Jeanine Áñez. Evo Morales and his former Vice President Garcia Linera have rightfully returned to the country. However, sharp rejection of the Right does not necessarily mean a return to the Andean-Amazonian capitalism that Garcia Linera was promoting. Many of Bolivia’s Indigenous population were questioning the direction of Morales’ administration in his last period of rule. Can Bolivia’s social movements forge a more fully liberatory direction?

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Colombia—Thousands upon thousands of Indigenous people marched hundreds of miles from the Cauca region, through Cali to the capital Bogotá. They were demanding a meeting with President Iván Duque to protest the extreme violence being used against their peoples. They called their march “minga Indígena.” Minga is a word used for communal work in pre-Conquest times. Now it has taken on an additional significance: “a collective act of protest, a call to recover what a community believes it has lost: territory, peace, lives.” Duque refused to meet with the protesters.

The decomposition of Colombian society continues unabated, even after the “peace accords” were signed to end the decades-long war with the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Former FARC militants are being assassinated, as are human rights activists and Indigenous peoples. On the other hand, former rightist President Álvaro Uribe, who has been charged with various human rights crimes, has now been released from house arrest.

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