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What's with the wave of protests in Latin America?

What's with the wave of protests in Latin America?

Across the globe, people are hitting the streets to demand changes from their governments. But one region where discontent with current leaders seems particularly widespread at the moment is Latin America. Consider the following:


Chile: One of the region's most prosperous and stable nations is also one of the most unequal countries on earth by some measures. That's why a recent 3 percent metro fare increase in the capital, Santiago, touched off massive ongoing (and spectacularly musical) protests across the country that threaten the survival of center-right president Sebastian Pinera's government.

Bolivia: Protesters and general strikers are demanding a recount of last week's presidential election, in which stalwart left-winger Evo Morales skirted term limits and won a fourth term under apparently fishy circumstances.

Argentina: Voters on Sunday booted market-friendly President Mauricio Macri after just one term, giving a fresh chance to the left-populist Peronists who had run the country until Macri's own upstart victory in 2015.

Honduras: Protesters want the ouster of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose brother was just convicted in a US court of "state sponsored drug trafficking." Hernandez was already on thin ice with his own people: in 2015 he maneuvered around term limits and last year won re-election in a controversial vote marred by fraud allegations and violent protests.

Haiti: Violent protests calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, who is implicated in a corruption scandal, have paralyzed the country and threatened to unleash a humanitarian disaster in what is already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

Ecuador: Hundreds of thousands took to the streets recently in anger at a fuel subsidy cut meant to help balance the budget and reduce emissions. While the subsidies have been restored and the protests have ended, the government is in the same difficult position as before: how to balance its books without angering a population reluctant to make fresh sacrifices while elites live in luxury.

Uruguay: The progressive Broad Front coalition has governed since 2005, but with the economy flagging and crime rising, their presidential candidate Daniel Martinez on Sunday failed to win outright in the first round of the country's presidential elections. As a result, the youthful center-right candidate Luis Alberto Lacalle is positioned to pull off an upset in the November 24 runoff.

Why so mad? In the first decade and a half of the 21st century, Latin America had it pretty good. A commodity boom lifted all boats, bringing tens of millions of people out of poverty. But as people's horizons began to expand, so did their expectations: of continually rising living standards, cleaner governments, safer cities, improved schools, and better roads.

The end of the commodity boom left a lot of ill-prepared governments high and dry, while a rash of corruption scandals rocked the region. And although inequality has fallen over the past twenty years, it's still stubbornly high.

This isn't about left vs right, it's about outsiders vs insiders. Nearly 80 percent of Latin Americans say existing parties don't govern in the popular interest, up from about 60 percent ten years ago, according to the pollster Latinobarometro. In just the past two years, for example, Brazil has elected an upstart from the radical right as president, while Mexico voted in a leftwing nationalist.

Things aren't going to get any easier. People's expectations and grievances are high, but governments have less money to spread around. Expect the social rumblings in the region to get worse before they get better.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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