This week’s lecture is also the main subject my groups video project, so there have been several main aspects that we’ve looked at together that I found to be particularly interesting. The first one which I found to be really compelling was history of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. The story in itself is an amazing one of the mothers of kidnapped children coming together to protest the violence that had swept through in the 1960s and 70s. However, perhaps even more interestingly, was the international attention that this captured. It pointed towards a future trend of the globalization of inter-regional protests that took place later in Latin America, including the likes of the ‘No’ campaign in Chile. The story of the Madres is an important one also because it brings up the question of whether change is only really accessible when there is a real worldwide focus towards that subject, bringing global attention to topics such as the drug wars in Mexico has certainly enhanced the number of efforts to combat it.
Personally, I found that the most shocking aspect of the corruption and violence that erupted from the 1960s in large parts of Latin America to be the involvement of state governments and political individuals. As Dawson highlights in this chapter, there were many examples of the government being involved in killing and kidnapping their own citizens. Moreover, it certainly makes sense as to how all of this was able to be kept under wraps to an extent, and it was not until major events like the Madres protests would come up that the government was forced to face these questions. Its one thing to fight against corruption and violence in the form of separate groups, but when the country’s own government is the one behind these acts, its an entirely different prospect altogether.
I think the subject of the war on drugs is one that can be related to the aforementioned role of the government in corruption and violence. This is because there has been a huge disillusionment with the way that the war on drugs is being combated, particularly on the part of the USA and their huge intervention in Mexico. Whilst one could commend the nation for giving seemingly generous amounts of money to combat the war, and helping the government to stop the huge rise in killings and kidnappings, it is also very easy to question their methods and intentions. Is it to end the production of dangerous drugs? Why would the USA want to end an affair that has been so profitable for them? They have and continue to make tons of profit from lending Latin American countries money in exchange for them using this to buy US made weaponry! Moreover, the role of the Mexican government has been called into question on numerous occasions in the last 20 years. How deep does this corruption go? And is it even plausible that the war on drugs can reach a suitable conclusion? These are just some of the questions that arise in my mind when thinking about this subject.
Thanks for reading,
This week’s lecture topic focuses mainly on the violence that erupted within Latin America during the 1960s, through to the 80s. One of the things I found most interesting after reading about this period, is the level of blurriness that was clearly evident in politics and society at that time. Whilst it is easier to point towards the level of violence coming from one direction or the other, in this case, there seemed to be violence and chaos protruding from all different directions. I think an aspect of this that Dawson touches on that I find really compelling, is the influence that the Cold War had on the region and how this global context was the backdrop for the violence and chaos that ensued in Latin America. As Dawson himself points out in the chapter, Latin America was the region most used as a proxy for the Cold War. Following the Cuban revolution, the United States was irrationally fearful of further communist revolutions in the region, and so they subsequently tried to repress further revolutions in places like Uruguay, Guatemala, and El Salvador, amongst others. This is also something that has come across consistently in my research for my group’s video project, with many people seemingly blaming America’s anti-communist intervention for creating an environment that led to the drug epidemic across Latin America.
Reading when Dawson states that “Latin Americans typically believed their governments were exceptionally corrupt”, brought my thoughts to the current socio-political climate in Latin America. Would it be fair enough to say that many Latin Americans would still stand by that same belief today? I think it’s an interesting question to ask, particularly seeing as this course has seen many moments of evidence when history seems to repeat itself. Specifically, the violence and chaos of this time is being replicated in the form of the war on drugs and gang violence.
Thanks for reading,
Lauren Villagran (2013). The Victims’ Movement in Mexico. Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, San Diego.
This source is an excerpt from a book by Lauren Villagran that focuses on how important the public activist groups will be in finding the solution to the drug war in Latin America. The main argument that is presented is that the drug war has created a problem whereby the states in Latin America have proven unable to guarantee a right to human security, leaving individuals and groups to their own devices. As a result of this, it has meant that it has become more important for activist groups to rise up and attract global attention on these regional issues. This source is particularly valuable because it is directly related to the discussion of activist groups in Latin America. The author suggests that activist groups in the most affected regions in Latin America have begun to concentrate on reforming their respective justice systems and laws, in order to reach their ultimate goal of real justice.
The most essential reason for why this source is valuable for our group’s research is that it gives a thorough historical background for the activist movements, beginning with the 1997 founding of the MUCD in Mexico. Although the focus is primarily on the region of Mexico, this is nonetheless an important aspect of the source. Not least of all because Mexico is a key aspect in the topic of the Latin American drug war. The source details how the MUCD drew in international attention after a 2004 march dubbed “Let’s rescue Mexico” that drew hundreds of thousands of citizens dressed in white onto the streets and central plaza of Mexico City. Moreover stating how important this international media coverage was in implementing stricter laws against drug trafficking and violence in Mexico. In more recent years, the source details how the use of social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter) have been prime tools in new victims’ movements that aim to bring people together. Villagran suggests that this shows a growing consciousness and engagement among crime victims in Latin America, which is promising. And those activists appear to be moving beyond fear or fatalism to create mechanisms to pressure the state for justice.
I believe that the observations made in this source about how activist groups have become a force of civil society with which the government (particularly in Mexico) must reckon, are important in strengthening our own research and arguments about activist groups in Latin America. Furthermore, the specific examples of activist movements in the region of Mexico, as well as the detailed historical context provided for victims’ movements in Latin America, contribute substantial background knowledge.
Russell Crandall & Savannah Haeger (2016) Latin America’s Invisible War, Survival, 58:5, 159-166, DOI: 10.1080/00396338.2016.1231537.
For our group project, we decided to concentrate on the way that Latin American activist groups are portrayed in the media, and how this contributes to the overall outlook on activism in Latin America today. Together we chose to focus our scope of research on three specific examples of activism related to this topic. The particular topic that I am concentrating on is the activist opposition to the drugs and violence that escalated within Latin America into the early 21st century.
The first source that I found on this topic is a scholarly article written by Russell Crandall and Savannah Haeger titled, “Latin America’s Invisible War”. This source is very useful for the research of this topic because it focuses on the context of the evolution of Latin American criminal gangs and drug-related violence. The main argument made by the source is that Latin American crime has become more organised than ever before, having been able to take advantage, either through extortion or corruption, of weak states and their inability to control violence and criminal activity. I think this source is incredibly important to this topic because it gives a lot of background knowledge on how the drug wars were allowed to come about in Latin America, as well as how the drug war has been combated and opposed by activist groups and the United States. Furthermore, I also believe that this source is valuable because it will allow for a stronger argument to be made when discussing the evolution of activism in Latin America, from the Madres all the way to the drug war portrayed in the media today.
Interestingly, this source also discusses how activist efforts in relation to the drug war only began to gain real traction after the fall of Pablo Escobar. In other words, it describes how much of a relatively new group it is in comparison to the activist groups that stood up to political leaders or female inclusion from the 1970s. I think this is a good perspective for our overall argument, precisely because it provides a logical pathway to the media portrayal of activist groups in Latin America has possibly changed over time as well. Lastly, I think this source offers much in the way of its interesting statements made about the drug war in Latin America. One of the arguments put forward is that the attempts to democratize the region of Latin America only helped to further the unstable atmosphere that created the intense drug war that we know today. This is an interesting perspective because it collides with the often-held association between democracy and activism and freedom of speech, instead suggesting that the attempts to infuse this into Latin America resulted in helping the drug war come about.
One thing that I thought most interesting about this week’s lecture was the emphasis on the new technologies that had come about, and how politics during this time was heavily influenced by it. The wave of populists that emerged in Latin American politics were able to reach so many people through the use of technology in mass media. This meant that with the utilization of radio, political figures such as Juan and Eva Perón were able to mass market their voices and create an aspect of direct dialogue that made the people feel as though they were being spoken to on an individual basis. In a sense, it meant that politicians who dominated this era were the ones who proved most effective at taking advantage of the opportunities these new technologies afforded. Moreover, I think that it’s interesting to reconsider the relationship that politics has with the media nowadays, with it being a delicate balance between utilizing and manipulating the media for political benefit, to the media often being the downfall of a political figure or party.
As discussed earlier in the week, the populist leaders of this time would utilize idealist views to gain popularity and support from the masses. By promising them the world, they would be able to gain a strong following and create a discourse that involved a ‘us versus them’ notion. This method was used by the Mexican president Cárdenas and Argentinian President Perón, to establish a relationship of trust between the government and the people. I think a question that can be asked in relation to this aspect is to what extent are all political figures populists? I would argue that the very nature of politics itself is inherently populist, with leaders such as Julius Caesar being populist in their nature.
Finally, another interesting aspect of this week’s lecture was the role of Eva Perón (affectionately known as Evita). Prior to her name, it was very rare to come across such a powerful female figure in Latin America, particularly in politics. After reading the excerpt of Evita’s speech, I was struck by the pure affection and emotional attachment she seemed to have when speaking to the masses. I think that excerpt acts as a signifier of what it would have taken to be such a popularly supported figure in a quite volatile political environment in Latin America.
Thanks for reading,