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“Latin America Spring” - its causes and implications

The serious outbreak of demonstrations and riots in a series of countries has pushed the Western Hemisphere into the worst political “earthquake” of ever that has been called “Latin America Spring” by many political analysts. People around the world are very concerned with this wave’s causes and its implications.

In 2019, while Venezuela was in a protracted political crisis, a series of other Latin America countries, from major, developed to small, poor ones were confronted with severe political and social instabilities. The wave of protests spread across Paraguay, Peru and Chile. In many places, demonstrations were transformed into riots and conflicts between demonstrators and armed police, together with hundreds of civilians and police being killed or wounded. In Bolivia, demonstrations and riots led President Evo Morales, who had served three consecutive terms, to announce his resignation. In the U.S., the wave of demonstrations and riots broke out and spread across more than 140 cities, which was seen as the largest one in the last few decades. Many of the state governments of the U.S. had to impose curfews and mobilised tens of thousands of armed police in response to demonstrations and riots.

Political and social instabilities are overshadowing Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, Colombia and many other countries, presenting those states with a large number of difficulties and thorny issues. Many politicians across the globe believe that the Western Hemisphere is undergoing the worst political “earthquake” of ever and they call it “Latin America Spring.”

What are reasons for the outbreak of “Latin America Spring”?

According to international political analysts, similar to the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East and North Africa in 2010 and the “Yellow Vests” Movement in the Europe in 2018, the wave of demonstrations and riots in Latin America, which broke out amidst the complex developments of COVID-19 pandemic, was the unavoidable result of serious disagreements and differences within those countries. The following are main reasons.

Citizens are dissatisfied with authorities due to the expanding gap between poor and rich and the increasingly serious social inequality. Latin America is considered as a “Promising Land” of the world. However, countries in this region are facing a lot of inequalities and injustices which have become a “chronic problem” stirring up anger amongst their citizens. International surveys conducted in many Latin America nations have shown a gloomy “socio-economic picture”; the income by 10% of the richest is 40 times higher than 10% of the poorest while 1% of the richest acquire more than 35% of the national wealth. The U.S. always proclaims itself a “Liberal World.” However, in fact, it is a “hub” of systematic racism. The recent killing of an African American has once again raised the “alarm” on the shameful discrimination and caused “consternation, anger and sorrow” among black people in the United States.

The people are “disappointed” with corruption and “unacceptable” policies from authorities. A large number of protesters in many countries think that their governments are just “Mafia” powerhouses. These governments are condemned to only consolidate their power, reap individual benefits, and sell the “national interests” cheaply instead of fulfilling their commitments to voters. According to protesters, “chronic” corruption among government officials is the reason for increasing crimes of all types and social instability. Demonstrators in Chile opposed their government’s decision to reduce social welfare and increase the price of public utilities and essential goods, believing that it was the reason why the working class and even the middle class were impoverished while they were struggling with economic recession, increasing unemployment and impacts made by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The intense conflict between oppositional forces and incumbent authorities leads to domestic chaos. The degree of conflict between these forces in each country is different, but it poses threats to political stability in many Latin America countries. The conflict between the opposition led by the “Self-Proclaimed” President Juan Guaido and the government led by the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro became a battle for survival on all political, legal, diplomatic, and military fronts, putting this country’s politics into the state of chaos. President Evo Morales, who was Bolivia's first indigenous president, was believed to make the deepest mark in the national history as he had managed to transform a poor, backward, underdeveloped Bolivia into a “pattern” of sustainable development in Latin America. However, Evo Morales’ third consecutive term went against the country’s Constitution, according to which presidents would be allowed to serve only consecutive terms. The President’s “fatal weakness” was exploited by  the oppositional forces to topple him immediately after he announced his election victory for a fourth consecutive term, officially ending the “confrontation” in the past two decades between his government and the oppositional group of “white colonialists.”

The U.S. intervention policy “disrupts” regional countries’ domestic situation. According to political analysts all over the world, in recent years, Washington has determined to implement the policy on intervening in regional countries in order to rule the region and the world. In response to the rise of left-wing parties in regional countries, the U.S. has provided assistance for oppositional parties in those countries to conduct the so-called “colour” and “street” revolutions, while directly imposing economic sanctions on them so as to establish “U.S.-backed” governments. Washington has also increased pressure on the Latin America countries which are thought to be on the side of Russia and China with a view to lessening the influence of the two major powers on the U.S. “backyard.” As for other countries, Washington has adopted the “divide and rule” policy, increased economic and political dependence, and forced these countries to follow the U.S. “orbit.”

It is believed that amongst main reasons mentioned above for the “Latin America Spring,” inequality and injustice within regional countries together with poor leadership and management from governments represent the most basic and important ones which have given “chance” for others to emerge and develop. In return, competition for power from political forces and parties and external intervention as well have made social inequality and injustice more serious and dangerous.

Latin America Spring’s implications

According to political analysts, Latin America is suffering from both “pandemics,” namely the COVID-19 and “Latin America Spring.” Reports by regional and international organisations reveal that economic indicators of Latin America have been reduced from minus 14.1 points to minus 60.4 points in the beginning of 2020; economic growth is estimated to witness a decrease of over 5.3%, which has been a record since 1930; the rate of unemployment will increase from 8.1% in 2019 to 11.5% in 2020, with nearly 50 million unemployed people. The rate of poverty and hunger will increase by 4.4% while the percentage of population living in extreme poverty and hunger will grow by 2.6%.  With a population of about 650 million, there will be about 215 million people and over 32 million citizens living in poverty and extreme poverty respectively. Besides, the wave of protests will certainly lead to the rapid spread of COVID-19 within communities regardless of governments’ efforts to prevent and combat this epidemic. According to statistics, in Latin America, there have been over 600,000 cases and more than 33,000 deaths due to the COVID-19. Many officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are concerned that the countless number of protesters in a series of regional countries will make Latin America unable to control the COVID-19 and it will be a tragedy for this region and the world.

The wave of protests has “intensified” social disagreements and conflicts. It is the conflicts between governments and citizens, between the upper class and the labouring people, between ethnic and religious groups, and between natives and immigrants that have undermined social cohesion and national order. A series of factories, shopping centres, services, parks, cultural and social institutions, and entertainment places have been forced to close, which has caused a loss of hundreds of billions of USD and seriously impacted on national economies and social order. More dangerously, criminal gangs, oppositional parties, and extreme ethnic elements have taken advantage of demonstrations to provoke violence, plunder, purge one another and conflict with authorities, thereby pushing many cities and neighbourhoods into chaos. Many governments have mobilised a large number of armed police and modern equipment to suppress demonstrations, thus greatly complicating the situation as a “vicious cycle.” Rigid attitudes and deterrent actions against protesters by US President Donald Trump are no longer “effective.” Many people think that Donald Trump has made it difficult for himself in the 2020 presidential race.

Political “earthquake” in the Western Hemisphere not only continues to rage in Latin America countries, but also has a domino effect on other regions across the globe, together with the wave of protests shaking a series of countries. Demonstrations and riots named after G. Floyd in the U.S. are thought to inspire the wave of protests against racism in Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and many other countries. Although those demonstrations are peaceful, governments are extremely concerned about the spread of COVID-19 amongst protesters, which would possibly make their efforts for epidemic prevention and control become “pointless.”

It will take us more time to answer the questions about the future and ending of “Latin America Spring.” However, it is certain that in the upcoming time, the situation in Latin America will experience complex developments. There is a fact that Latin America has been undergoing the “vicissitudes” of history. The wave of protests in a series of Latin America countries serves as a strong warning to all governments of the regional countries. Amidst the complicated developments of the world situation, governments regardless of political tendency should be clever enough to formulate proper policies so that their countries will be able to overcome challenges and thrive while their citizens will be equally treated and will enjoy well-being, freedom and happiness. Only by doing so does “Latin America Spring” make sense literally and will Latin America become an engine of growth in the world economy.

DONG DUC - DUC MANH

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