THE ‘GREAT REGRESSION’ : PROTESTS IN LATIN AMERICA
Latin America was in turmoil in 2019. Protests raged across different countries and against governments from across the political spectrum. Widespread mobilization by social organizations denounced corruption and voiced various demands, including greater political freedoms, better and affordable public services, and the urgent need to tackle corruption and inequality, in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil. The region ended the year with unfulfilled promises of a new social pact, and the promise of intensified mobilizations. The increase in social mobilization may be puzzling, since poverty and extreme poverty declined, in conjunction with positive economic growth in the region.
As the region in 2020 grapples with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its amplifying effect, which has exacerbated inequalities, it is crucial to revisit the protests that took place at the turn of the year, as they spoke of ‘ the enormous costs of mass inequality: inept governance, social distrust, and a huge population of vulnerable people unable to protect themselves from encroaching harms’ (Sachs, 2020). Such is the dire reality in the region, a pre-existing condition of vulnerability exacerbated by the current pandemic, which is likely to worsen and fuel social unrest if the responses from governments continue to protect the privileges of a few.