This week we looked at the various forms of protest and “speaking truth to power” that took place in Latin America in the later half of the twentieth century and the early 2000s. I was particularly interested in two components of this weeks reading: the effect of media and modern technology on protests and reformation as well as the degree of influence that the drug trade and cartels have had and still have in the age of the war on drugs.
In terms of the media and technology shaping the effect of protest, I thought it was cool to read about how this began as today the ability of the media to shed light on corruption or change public opinion is very evident and powerful. The effect of international media attention in bringing the human rights violators to justice in many parts of Latin America was juxtaposed with concurrent attempts by various international governments (particularly the US) to influence these corrupt leaders to suit their needs. This was an interesting era in which, for the first time, technology allowed for people to have hard evidence in exposing cover-ups and corruption like with the government kidnappings in Argentina and the massacre of the 17 peasants in Mexico. However, international attention wasn’t always for the best. Neo-colonialism at this time came in the form of foreign governments backing one political party during a period of instability which in my view usually served to just prolong and enhance the instability.
Another thing that was really fascinating about this week’s reading was the discussion of the rise and power of the drug cartels in Latin America. I was shocked to learn that Latin America has by far the highest homicide rate in the world and that prison over-crowding is a big problem with 80% of the crimes being drug-trafficking offences! Document 10.8, the open letter to the drug cartels, was very chilling to read. It demonstrated the terror, pain and helplessness that the cartel and the drug trade instilled in areas like Chihuahua where the police and the elected officials are essentially in the cartels’ pockets. I have long been an advocate for not treating addicts as criminals and for decriminalizing drugs in order to quell these horrible side effects of the war on drugs but this week’s readings really re-affirmed the importance of this and the difficulty of this change.
My question for discussion this week is to what degree are foreign governments and foreign aid groups justified in intervening in a nation’s affairs? Is it generally for the good of the nation or does it have an ulterior motivation?