Week 13: Coup in Bolivia?



This week I am looking at two different opinion sources about the political changes happening in Bolivia at the moment. President Evo Morales, who had been in power for the last 14 years, resigned presidency. There were many factors that led to this, but let’s look at the context first.

Morales was always considered to be a pretty popular president. Being the first indigenous president in Bolívia, he led in a left-wing government model and was able to achieve economic growth as well as lessen the poverty for the masses in Bolívia. Perceptions started to change drastically in the last election, when Morales was running against Carlos Mesa. “On Oct 20, the “fast count” of the national vote went smoothly until 84% of all the votes had been counted — at which point it became clear that Mr Morales was not going to have a big enough lead over Mr Mesa. So suddenly the counting stopped, and did not resume for 24 hours. It then showed Mr Morales with a 10.1% lead over Mr Mesa, so no second round was needed. All hail Mr Morales’s fourth term!” (Bangkok post). This was seen by many people as a sign of blatant election fraud and many protests started emerging all over Bolívia.

What the supporters of Morales had to say was this: “Morales tried to defuse the situation by inviting the OAS to audit the election results. The OAS determined there were serious problems, but said Morales may have won. The OAS, the headquarters of which are in Washington, nevertheless recommended fresh elections which Morales had accepted. But with the rapidly deteriorating violent situation on the ground, police defecting to the opposition, workers forced out of the state broadcaster, and the Chief of the Armed Forces recommending Morales resign, the President and his top leadership resigned their positions, and Morales subsequently flew to Mexico.” (IOL news) They basically were saying that Morales was willing to re-do the election counting all over, but he was forced to resign in an anti-democratic way because of right-wing paramilitary violent protests (which were possibly/likely subsidized by the United States).

The military also started pressuring Morales to give up leadership of the country, who finally decided to oblige in order to “keep the peace in Bolívia”. Supporters of Morales think of this as a coup because they consider it un-democratic to have the military pressure a president out of office, and they fear about the future possibility of another military dictatorship.


Short Research and Writing Assignment

“El papel del narcotráfico en los feminicidios de Ciudad Juárez” (The role of the narcotraffic in the feminicides in the city of Juarez)

This document was written by Santiago Gallur Santorum in 2010, and is a secondary source compiling and analysing data about the disappearance and murder of women around the 1990’s in the city of Juarez in Mexico , which is considered one of the cities with the most feminicide occurences in the world. The author focuses on describing how time and time again the people who were actually guilty of the crimes went unpunished by the corruption of the police and the judicial system in Mexico.

The aspect of this document that caught my attention was how the author linked the base of the problem of impunity for the violent assaults and deaths of women on the corruption of the police. The major problem the documents brings is how the guilty perpetrators of these horrendous crimes go free while the police is constantly looking for escape goats and other people to blame the crimes on, because, many times, the criminals who did it are powerful people, or even have ties with the police itself. The article links this corruption back to the 1970’s cold war, when the narcotraffic started growing a lot and giving the guerrilas a lot of power. The guerrilas used all the money and power from the narcotraffic to manipulate the police and basically get impunity over a lot of things. Ever since then, this became common practice in Mexico and police corruption is a big issue to this day.

This document reminded me of week 12’s Dawson chapter when he talked about how the major population of Latin American countries were terrified all the time because they couldn’t trust in the government for protection, or in the guerrillas, and now not even in the police. It was a constant chaos of violence that went unpunished and unexplained. The madres who lost their children and grandchildren had no one to ask for help in their own country, so they had to turn and appeal to international help.  The same thing happened again in the 1990’s because the families of the girls who were disappearing couldn`t trust the police, so they appealed for international help. Nowadays the United states took interest in also investigating these crimes and finding the guilty perpetrators and more and more corrupt and negligent police officials are being brought foward.


Santiago Gallur Santorum. El papel del narcotráfico en los feminicidios de Ciudad Juárez. XIV Encuentro de Latinoamericanistas Españoles : congreso internacional, Sep 2010, Santiago de Compostela, España. pp.606-630. ffhalshs-00530094f

Week 12: Speaking truth to Power

The thing that striked me the most about this week’s reading was the explanation of the Las Madres movement. In a situation where violence is coming from all sides, you can’t trust the guerrilas or even the government and police to protect you, this group of mothers got together and did the most effective thing they could do. They appealed to the international public. There is something do raw and heartbreaking about their speech, that has the ability to touch everyone who has even a bit of empaty, they used their pain and honesty and it worked on their favor. International pressure started building on the government and they had to give explanations to all of the disappearances. In a world that is so interconnected and globalized as ours, the internation politics and opinions are more important than ever, and no government wants to be seen as the bad guys and possibly lose economic alliances or support because of it.

It is incredible how far governments really took this censoring and kidnapping of opposers in Latin america. It hasn’t been until very recently that a lot of countries, especially brazil, have really published the numbers and all the atrocious crimes commited during the dictatorship, and even then there’s speculation. Jair Bolsonaro, current president of Brazil is famously known for his liking of the military regime and recently said on an interview that “there was no real in ditatorship brazil” because people were, supposedly, able to come and go as they pleased and were able to vote. It is really astounishing, and honestly quite scary, to see someone with so much power say something like this.

On the other end of the violence were the guerillas, who were also extrely violent and a danger to society. Many of them got their power and resources from the narcotic business, like said in the chapter, many of them exporting drugs to the united states, where they sold for a lot more. They then had a very organized system, with well armed soldiers ready to do anything they commanded. Then came the forceful censoring of the newspapers. Journalists had to be careful of what thye said about the government and politicians, and now they also had to be careful when reporting anything about the drug business. They were being cornered by all sides and many reporters lost their lives while reporting on those subjects.

Week 11: The terror

The terror in Latin American countries was a movement that was more spread out than I initially thought. Of course, each different country had it’s own events leading up to it and it happened in different ways, so it isn`t possible to say that the history of every country is the same, but there certainly are many similarities between what happened in the region.

The struggle between left and right was definitly something that incited many conflicts all around the world, and it was no different in Latin America. The governments, with the help of mainly the United States, were trying to ascert right wing power and actively fight left wing movements. They adopted many oppresive policies, which were met with resistance from the population. In many countries, the Guerrilas were formed. The guerrilas were also violent groups, that were trying to oppose the oppresive government many times with the help of the rural poor population. The argentinian guerrilas, for example, were amongst one of the most violent in that time.

It is horrible to read the primary sources, the testimonios, of people who were living in those countries at the time when all of this was happening. It hits pretty close to home when people talk about people they knew just disappearing and never hearing from them again, because I have family members who say the same thing and are still haunted by what happened back then. If you said anything or showed any left wing allignment you were likely to get interrogated and just taken away. It was very common amongst universities students back then to have this happen, since the culture of ,especially public, universities in Latin America is to have very politically active students, with very strong opinions about politics, much more so than here in Canada I feel like.



Week 10: Power to the people

Populism was an important part of the development of latin america politics. Political models before it had had little success (or interest) in making things better for the working class, who were the vast majority of people in the country. Therefore, with the implementation of populist techniques, political leaders were able to appeal to a vast number of people, promising them better life conditions with minimum salaries and worker’s rights. Like it was said in the text, with Getúlio Vaargas in Brazil, much was promised but not that much was actually delivered, which sets the tone for the whole populist movement in my opinion.

The most interesting thing about the populist leaders is all the resources they use to convince people of what they are saying. To appeal to the masses they obviously need to have a strong presence and be very charismatic. They need knowledge about the current media and how to use it in their favor. Getúlio Vargas tried creating the mandatory “Hora de Brasil” which was highly mocked back then and it is still mocked today (yes, for some reason it is still around). He did not have enough knowledge of that type of media to be able to successfully connect to his target audience. Politicians nowadays are trying harder than ever to connect with new audiences through every media they can, especially social media. During the election period in Canada I saw many politicians on tiktok and instagram trying desperately to connect with this whole younger demographic.

Although Vargas’ regime did not deliver all that was promised, there were some advancements in workers rights, and that set the seed for future leaders and movements to carry on on this path. People were frustrated with the lack of equality and were starting to demand a leader who was capable of tending to their rights, not just to the rights of the wealthy, a leader to cared about them. Or at least, a leader who seemed to care about them. Nevertheless, it was progress, and so continues the development of Latin America’s messy political path throughout the 20th century.



Week 9: Commerce, Coercion, and America’s Empire

When we talk about the influence that the United Sates had on 20th century Latin America, it is also important to talk about the influence Latin America had in the US in that time. When we compare both influences, it is clear to see that they vary greatly in purpose and message.

US influence in Latin America, not only politically but in media comsumption was widely spred. Especially with the integration of the TV in people`s daily lives, American content was being comsumed on a daily basis by many Latin Americans, and the culture was infiltarting the communities. The ideal was to dress and live like the North Americans, because that was what the picture of success and prosperity was for people at the time.

On the other hand, influences from Latin America in North American television were scarse and controlled. They created these carichatures from latin American countries that were supposed to represent us, and appear frienflier to make political alliances more easily, but in reality those charicatures were really just reinforcing negative stereotypes of Latin America. Like Dawson said, ” It is a reminder that individually Brazilians are as good as anyone, but that collectively they are second class.” (195). This is more clearly exemplifies when we look at what kinds of roles latin Americans played in these North American movies. Latin American men would usually be portrayed as criminals, while women would usually be highly sexualised.

On another topic, I found the video about Silent wars really interesting because it reminded me of what happened in Brazil in the early 1900’s. Called the “vaccine rebellion”, it was a movement starte by the poor people living in Rio de Janeiro, against the smallpox vaccinations being given by the europeans. You see, the Europeans did not find it worth their time to inform people about what a vaccine was, and how it would be beneficial to them in the long term, they instead decided to just make vaccinations mandatory for everyone. That means officers could invade your home at any time and insert unkown substances into your arm and your children`s arms. This, amongst other factors, made people unwilling to take the vaccination, as they felt violated and scared, and it led to a rebellion. I don’t know if this happened in any other countries, but when the video shows the europeans giving latin americans the vaccines and patting themselves in the back, it doesn’t show HOW they did it, and the consequences it had.



Week 8: signs of crisis in a gilded age

It is interesting to think about Latin America in the 1900’s as a mix of progress and, sometimes, regress. As mentioned before, in the 20th century Latin America experienced many positive changes, like the modernization of the industry sector, as well as the buiding of more roads and rails across country. But at the same time, the government and politics that were in power in Latin America were not up to the “modernity” standard. Many countries went through dictatorships, imperialist tendencies etc.

One of the texts for this week that I found particularly interesting was the poem “The Roosevelt” by Rubén Darío. There`s a lot to be said about the power literature has in representing complicated topics currently happening in the world. For me, it made it easier to understand the perspective of Latin American people back then towards the United States. The whole poem is sort of like a praise to the US, how big, powerful and mighty it is etc. But at the very end of the poem the tone changes a little and the author expresses the power that lies in Latin America:

” our America,

trembling with hurricanes, trembling with Love:

O men with Saxon eyes and barbarous souls,

our America lives. And dreams. And loves.

And it is the daughter of the Sun. Be careful.

Long live Spanish America! ” (Darío)

The other text I found really engaging was “La raza cósmica” by José Vasconcelos. It tackles the idea of mixture of races, and how beneficial it would be for the human race to mix more and more until becoming completely one mixed ethnicity. he uses Mendell’s gene experiments as a scientific bases to support that the more we mix together, the more developed the human race in general will become. It is clearly the oposite ideology used by the white colonizers when they came to America, and there is something extremely powerful about that. Supporting racial couples and mixture is a very nice idea, specialy back then because it was so frowned upon, but he does go too far though, like in the passage “No contemporary race can present itself alone as the fi nished model that all the others should imitate. The mestizo, the Indian, and even the Black are superior to the White in a countless number of properly spiritual capacities” (Vansconcelos, 162) because we should never go too far as saying one race is better than another.



week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

The modernity period for many countries in Latin America were composed of advancements in areas such as building infrastructure, roads, train rails, grand buildings in European fashion. But in other aspects the modernity period in Latin America was extremely different than the one experienced in other parts of the world at the time.

The main reason why modernity in Latin America, or Mexico, more specifically, was so different was because of the politics implemented in government. Porfírio Diaz was the president of Mexico for 3 consecutive decades towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He was a military official, who was put in power undemocratically, but soon after gained favor of the population of Mexico, as built over the years what would later be called the “Porfirian peace” in the country.

The primary source for this week is an article published by a magazine at the time that interviews Porfírio Diaz, showing his insight and perspective on his way of governing and the reasoning behind the events that led him to power. It was really very interesting to read his words, because as the reporter himself says,  “It seemed hard to realize that I was listening to a soldier who had ruled a republic continuously for more than a quarter of a century with a personal authority unknown to most kings. Yet he spoke with a simple and convincing manner, as one whose place was great and secure beyond the need of hypocrisy.”(dawson, 131). Porfirio Diaz seems to be someone who is very well spoken and convincing person, going to the extent of making you forget all the things he has really done, or at least make you try to understand that they could have been somewhat reasonable courses of action give the circumstances. He does a really good job in convincing whoever is reading of the love for his country and that everything he did was done for the good of the Mexican people, when in reality, it was not always the case.

The quote “We were harsh. Sometimes we were harsh to the point of cruelty. But it was all necessary then to the life and progress of the nation. If there was cruelty, results have justified it.” (dawson, 135) is very telling of the cruel acts done by the president during his time in government, and his very apparent non-remorseful confidence that they were merely means to an end.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the reading for me was him mentioning that he wanted to step down for government many times and that he very much welcomed an opponent party, but the people pressured him to stay. This to me just indicates how people under dictatorships have little access to information, or even limited interest in meddling within politics, for fear or mere ignorance.

Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

In this week’s discussion of citizenship and rights in the new republic, what grabbed my attention the most was the description of emancipation as a process. It is easy to think back about the dates you learned in school and consider them to be specific points in time when there was a sudden change, and the course of history was altered, but I think it would be true to say that, for most historic events, this is simply not true. Emancipation was a process that took an exceptionally long amount of time to be completed, and arguably still isn’t completed. As mentioned in the video, even after slavery was forbidden, slaves were being sold in the black market for decades after.

And when we think about it, especially for countries like Brazil, slavery was still very much alive and legal not that long ago. Obviously that sort of cruelty creates an impact on Latin America’s society that still exists today. Racism in many Latin American countries is something quite singular in my opinion, because probably half, if not more, of the people have some type of recent black ancestry. Even when black people are not a minority, there is still a lot of racism against black people in Latin America, because of the history of the region. White people were in power back then, and white people are still in power today, just look at the richest CEOs and politicians.

I found the reading of the document “The Fetishist Animism of Bahian Negroes” very interesting. “In Bahia there exist deep-rooted fetishist beliefs and practices, established as ordinarily as those in Africa, neither hidden nor disguised but present in the full light of day; there exists a life that evinces its licitness in the police licenses granted for large annual festivals or candomblés and that enjoys the tolerance of public opinion, as reflected in how matter-of-factly the daily press reports on these gatherings, as if they were just another facet of our normal life” (dawson, p92). I found this passage interesting because it paints a very clear picture of the mixture of cultures and vivacity of black people in their traditions even back in the late 1800’s. It is also interesting because Bahia could be described exactly the same way today.

The history of slavery left very real on going consequences to black people today, beginning in education. Bahia is one of Brazil’s states with the largest population of black people (81% of the population declare themselves as black) but, in the state, 82% of the doctors are white people. This is no coincidence, and a few years ago the Brazilian government made the decision to start “cotas” in federal public universities all over the country, meaning that 50% of the spots in the universities are reserved for blacks, natives, low income people, and students from public schools, which has been helping considerably to bridge the gap towards more representation in every profession.

Week 5

Liberalism in Latin America was far from being as popular as it was in North America. Even today, I would say liberalism still makes a good portion of Latin American people look the other way. Much like it was said on the video, Latin America has a big a relatively recent history of slavery, and even after slavery was abolished a big history of discrimination, inequality and very poor working conditions. So after the protests and big social movements ensured better, fixed working conditions and minimum salaries for workers, very few people were willing to throw that aside to believe in liberalism.

Nowadays, we are seeing a surge of a liberalist wave occur all throughout Latin America, and really all over the world. More and more right wing candidates are being elected everyday. People are tired of the failing economy and corruption, and they believe right wing candidates are going to fix that.

For post independence Latin America, clientelism happened as a way of redividing the power, since the colonizers could no longer directly control the region. This redivision of power brought wealthy land owners many followers, and created a very strong sense of community. These people, mainly poor class, who suffered from injustice and inequality all their lives felt like they could get at least a slight sense of security and protection by joining the caudillos. Obviously there was also something in it for the wealthy landowner. By having his community he had a very strong electoral voting pool, which he could easily control, and so he held a lot of political power, by having a big influence in who would be elected next.

This way, it was very much in the interest of the wealthy people to keep this system going for as long as they could, and since they pretty much had total control over elections and politics, they kept liberalism at bay for indeed a very long time.