The Rebellion Against the Elites in Latin America

Protesters in Chile in 2019. Mass demonstrations are likely to continue in 2020. Mauricio Arriagada / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Street protests roiled cities across the world in 2019. Latin America in particular experienced greater social unrest than at any time in recent memory. Political crises and mass mobilizations broke out in Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and elsewhere. In recent weeks, protests have subsided but not ceased, and 2020 may well bring more turmoil.

The upheaval stems from many of the region’s persistent problems, more salient in some countries than others: economic stagnation, politicized judiciaries, corruption, crime and, in a few cases, authoritarian rule. Latin America is the second most unequal region in the world. The failure to address these problems — and to fulfill promises made — has caused governments to lose legitimacy in the eyes of their people. These citizens are increasingly dissatisfied with how democracy works — or doesn’t work — in their countries.

But just as germane to the current moment is the widespread perception of a lack of fairness — that economic and political elites enjoy a set of privileges and prerogatives denied to most citizens. Some of the region’s pent-up resentments are aimed at the sense of entitlement exhibited by those who hold the most power and influence and who too often do not give others the respect and dignity they deserve.

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Read the full article in The New York Times