Max Cameron talked about the “democratic experimentation” that is happening in Latin America today, largely as a byproduct of the USA withdrawing from policing the region (coups are more so a thing of the Cold War at this point). One of takeaways I got from this is that the biggest threat to democracy in Latin America today isn’t autocratic regimes or coups but rather weak institutions and the power of crime and elites. One example in a source I found of “experimentation” is Sao Paulo government’s attempt at restructuring the public school system in the state. Students began to protest, and with a huge contribution from social media (#OcupaEscola, #NãoFecheMinhaEscola), the government revoked its plan. Here is the source for more details:
Max Cameron also talked about the diminishing inequality in Latin America. I remember before leaving for Guatemala researching about the huge disparity between the Guatemalan indigenous population and the non-indigenous population. From my own experience, it was quite jarring to go from a rural hub near Antigua to a Starbucks in Guatemala city. That was really my first focused exposure to the region, and based off what I have read recently, the Covid pandemic threatens to exasperate the already existing poverty and inequalities. For a historically unequal region, redistribution is a common but fervent political talking point, and this pandemic is certainly looking to be a huge reshuffling of wealth in many countries.
This also pertains to the environment, which Alec Dawson also touches on (in this case the Geomorphology class I’m taking comes in handy). The year I went to Guatemala was the first year that a garbage dump (on the trip’s schedule to visit) had actually been revamped by the government. There were now many vehicles operating there, guard towers to sway children from sneaking in, and a new layout for the landfill. On this account, Cameron says:
“Democracy is not so good at addressing the needs of those who don’t vote” such as the environment, future generations, etc.
I was really interested by Bolivia’s decision to give the environment its own rights (Pacha Mama) as I had never thought of this before, but it does seem to address Cameron’s query. This also reminded me of my anthropology course, where I’ve learned about many tribes in Latin America. Their ways of live often did rub against the western paradigm of “more is better” and “getting ahead”.
My question is:
How can we find a balance between a government model of “extraction” and consumption, which is beneficial for lifting people out of poverty and boosting the economy, and a more ecologically sustainable alternative (“buena vivre”)?
Meanwhile, I fear that if we interviewed Max Cameron today, he’d be a little less optimistic than he was five years ago.