Tag Archives: violence

Week 12 – Speaking Truth to Power

When reading about the perils of Latin America, I sometimes sit back and think to myself, “how do we end this?” There are so many layers of trauma, corruption, and power imbalance that it seems an impossible struggle to fix. The interventions from more powerful countries (the United States, predominantly) seems to be only in the interest of those more powerful countries, although sometimes that backfires, as in the case of the US militarizing anti-drug efforts. Often, because of a weak state, poverty, intimidation, or the promise of wealth, anti-drug actors end up joining the drug trade, and so both sides are now heavily militarized to devastating ends. And because of a weak economy, drug money brings power and stability. So cartels and kingpins are the most powerful and have the most devastating weapons. Those who lose the most in this situation are the poor, without a strong state to protect them, and always fighting against the lure of drug money to feed their families. Cartels will resist any efforts to strengthen the state, and anyone who attempts to contain their corruption often walks straight into death. With these stats, the future seems bleak.

So how do you fight something so powerful? The cartels rule by intimidation, and even the media almost uniformly refuses to publish anything about the drug war. Perhaps personal testimonies broadcast through social media would bring attention, similar to the Madres de la Plaza do Mayo, in Argentina in the 1970s. In 1976, the junta ended all political opposition and began abducting youth. The mothers of these youths gathered peacefully in the Plaza, eventually drawing enough media attention that the events that would lead to a return to civilian rule were set in place. Without the wide circulation of these testimonials, the Argentinian juntas would not have been pressured to release control. But this is risky. Especially when dealing with heavily armed cartels. Even a peaceful act of protest could end in death.

From here in Canada, we can help in the unraveling of this corruption by being mindful of where we put our money, what are we funding? And we can have discussions, in person and online, drawing attention to these injustices so that hopefully awareness will spread, putting pressure on those responsible.


Filed under Argentina, war on drugs, Week 12

Week 11 – The Terror

I was unfamiliar with the term “dirty war” before this week’s readings. But it does make sense that if there are vague terms, a lack of cohesion, and if the enemy is within your own nation, that the only way to describe this type of war is with a word like “dirty.” Sure, there were reasons for war thrown around, the threat of communism, that democracy was just another way for elites to control the masses, but ultimately there were no clear, defined, reasons for the brutal killings of this time. Personal agendas played into these wars, and whole groups were targeted because they were thought to be against whatever agenda was in play at the moment. In fact, in many cases, if you weren’t actively supporting the regime, or the players with power, you were seen as a threat to be removed. Economic crises in Latin America further strengthened these tensions, as well as a sort of spillover of the Cold War: the United States and the Soviet Union offered military support to parts of Latin America attempting to establish dominance in the area.

What I thought was most interesting about this week’s readings is the role that students and youth played in the unrest. Young people had been without a voice up until the mid twentieth century, and now that they were discovering their power, they used it aggressively. Che Guevara was a prominent rallying figure for youth during this time. Protesting the authoritarianism that was ubiquitous both in the political sphere and in the home, Latin American youths often used violence and fear to get their message across. While this unified them as a powerful group, it often alienated them from those who were older and more conservative. Not only that but even those who desired change were afraid of these young idealists and the terror they left in their wake. In response, governments tightened their own security measures in an attempt to subdue these left-wing idealists. The outcome was horrible violence, distrust, and fear.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the cocaine thing. Dawson mentioned that some people consider the violence of Latin America to be uninterrupted since colonization. It’s hard sometimes to disagree.


Filed under Week 11