Common Dreams - November 8, 2019
"There are common themes running throughout this widespread global uprising. The unrest is marked by a deep dissatisfaction with an economic order that benefits elites over others, combined with outrage against authoritarianism and the use of force to quell dissent."
Lately there seem to be an unusually large number of mass resistance movements unfolding in countries all over the world. Here in the U.S., Puerto Rico’s recent political turmoil upended the entire local government structure. In Latin America, there have been upheavals over the past few weeks in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. In the Caribbean, Haiti is experiencing its worst political turmoil since the 2004 ouster of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. On the other side of the planet, Arab nations like Iraq and Lebanon have erupted into mass upheavals. Sudan just a few months ago toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir and now wants his party disbanded. And in Hong Kong, months of mass sustained protests have brought the nation to a standstill. What is happening?
There are common themes running throughout this widespread global uprising. The unrest is marked by a deep dissatisfaction with an economic order that benefits elites over others, combined with outrage against authoritarianism and the use of force to quell dissent. Often these are intertwined, as regimes use force to maintain the unequal economic order and demand public subservience and obedience. Then, a new proposed rule or law— seemingly innocuous at first—lights the spark of protest over long-simmering issues. In the internet age, activists organize with greater ease than before and are highly educated about their plight, giving them a greater ability to document and share abuses far and wide.
I spoke with three people to try to understand the common threads of protest in Chile, Lebanon and Hong Kong, and to explore why and how people have been rising up and organizing in the face of inequality and repression. Mia Dragnic is a sociologist from Chile and a doctoral candidate in Latin American studies at the University of Chile. Dragnic considers herself a “feminist militant” and, in the midst of her current tenure as a visiting scholar at University of California at San Diego, she explained to me in an interview that Chilean President Sebastián Piñera “has not attempted to dialogue with social movements nor changed any of the type of structural factors that have given rise to the current crisis.” Chileans rose up after the announcement of a hike in subway fares, but as is often the case, their response to the fare hike was symptomatic of a broader economic resentment. In fact, although Chile has been lauded for being an economic miracle, it experiences the highest level of inequality among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations.
According to Dragnic, the protesters “are demanding social rights because the Chilean state has privatized those rights and converted itself into a guarantor of the rights of the private sector.” Those “social rights,” she says, include “education, health and housing.” Dragnic recently authored a statement titled “International Community Against the Militarization of Chile,” which was signed by thousands of academics, activists and others. The statement demands Piñera’s resignation and denounces his militarized response to the protests. So far, Piñera’s response has been to oust eight ministers, but he has resolutely refused to resign from his own position. Dragnic pointed out Piñera has “handed power to a military general to handle the protests.” Many fear that such a move is reminiscent of Chile’s violent past, when the U.S. backed a brutal 1973 coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and helped install the notorious dictator Augusto Pinochet. ...Read full report at Commons Dreams