Friday, 9 March 2012

Social Movements and Leftist Governments in Latin America

by Gary Prevost, Critical Studies Seminar Series

The last decade in Latin America has witnessed two important simultaneous and interrelated developments: the rise in prominence of social movements, and the election of a number of left and center-left governments. The social movements have ranged from the broad, community organized “piqueteros” of Argentina that brought down three governments in the space of one month in 2001 to the indigenous-based movements of Ecuador and Bolivia that have been instrumental in toppling five governments in the two countries within the last decade, the Landless Movement in Brazil (MST), Afro-Colombians resisting displacement in a region coveted by investors, the Cocalaros and the mobilizations against water privatizations and gas pipeline investments in Bolivia, to the Zapatistas in Mexico, who burst on the scene to challenge the formation of NAFTA and the marginalization of the mostly indigenous peasants in Chiapas. The social movements of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia are complemented across the region by a myriad of organizations that engage on a range of issues from land rights to women’s rights to environmental concerns.  

These groups have been studied in detail under the rubric of “new social movements,” but they are equally a continuation of a long history of social movements in Latin American history that have resisted the domination of the continent by colonialism, neo-colonialism and native elites for centuries and more recently have engaged in vigorous forms of collective action that have reinvigorated the political struggle for economic and social justice in the context of globalized resistance. They have also continued to develop ever wider repertoires of contentious actions and ever stronger and more dynamic forms of participatory democracy.  

Click here to download the full paper.