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CWA # 175, 27 October 2019

Latin America on fire
Protests rock Chile, Bolivia and Haiti

  Nidhi Dalal

Corruption, economic slowdown, problems of governance and transparency in elections appear to be to common denominators for the protests across Latin America

Corruption, economic slowdown, problems of governance and transparency in elections appear to be to common denominators for the protests across Latin America

What happened?
A state of emergency has been declared in Chile. Facing the worst unrest in almost thirty years, Chile is under the grip of violent protests and curfew. Most of the deaths happened during the loot and burning in Santiago city. In six days of protests, the police have made more than two thousand arrests. Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has apologized and promised of economic reforms. Considering the violence and number of causalities, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has decided to send a team to Chile to investigate human rights abuses against the demonstrators. A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate charges of homicide and sexual abuse by the police in thirteen districts of Santiago. 
 
In Bolivia, suspecting fraud in the recently held elections, there have been protests against the incumbent President Evo Morales. Protestors have burned several buildings including electoral offices, and there have been reports of civilian deaths over the week. The President has rejected all allegations, while the second-placed candidate Carlos Mesa has demanded a second round of voting. Mesa’s demands have been supported by the US, Argentina, Columbia and Brazil. 
 
Haiti has been facing protest, demanding that President Jovenel Moïse step down because of corruption. Protestors have clashed with the police, that has left about twenty civilians dead. A Haitian senator opened fire on the protestors gathered around the Parliament building, injuring a journalist in the process. Catholic leaders have taken to streets calling for a solution to the crisis that has gripped Haiti. 

What is the background?
In Chile, the movement started with a students’ protest against the hike in subway fares. Since then, the protests have engulfed the country with people joining protests to express their dissatisfaction. Chile is one of the wealthiest in South America; it also has the most significant divide between the rich and the poor. The hike in subway fares was just an opening of a deep wound of economic inequality in the country. Protestors have targeted markets, petrol pumps, and metro turnstiles; they have more also resorted to looting and burning. 
 
In Bolivia, polling for the Presidential election of the President had closed on Sunday, and the results of quick count predicted a second-round vote. The official website had stopped operating for almost 24 hours, and when it resumed, there was a lead of ten per cent in the votes for Evo Morales. Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU had called for re-count to restore the faith of the people in the legitimacy of the electoral process. Morales has rejected complaints of rigging. He has been at the helm President since 2006 and has been criticized for trying to alter the presidential term limits. 
 
In Haiti, there has been intense corruption and economic slowdown during the past few years. Inflation has been rampant. People have been protesting since February 2019; however, this has been the longest one, lasting for more than six weeks. The security situation had declined after the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers. The democratic process has been under attack by a breakdown of social order and recurring military coups. 
 
What does it mean?
In Chile, the President’s plans for economic reformation have been rejected by the protestors. People want a proactive government role in managing the rich-poor divide. Government’s attitude is not addressing the unrest. Though the resignation of President seems unlikely, the government will have to pursue better social policies. It will also have to make decision making accessible to people to maintain order. 
 
In Bolivia, people’s trust in the democratic electoral process has dwindled after the discrepancies in the process. Not only has the process of the election been questioned, but also the credibility of the institutions are under threat. The unrest is likely to continue until the popular trust in the institutions and the government are restored. 
 
In Haiti, the unrest will not decline until there is a solution to political dysfunction. The anti-government protests will continue until there is an agreement between the government and the people. The government has to take measures to close the divide between political elites and the common masses. The government will have to provide long term solutions for the crisis in educational, social, medical and economic sectors.

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