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Alternatives in Latin America


Faced with the multiple current crises, a change in development model is necessary. To inspire this change here, Justice and Peace and its Latin America group propose to highlight concrete alternatives supported by Latin American actors.


We are living in a period of global turbulence. The 2007-2008 crisis showed the cracks in a capitalist system in decadence. This is a multi-faceted crisis: at the economic level, we observe the fragility of our national economies subject to the dictates of international finance. While strict austerity measures are systematically applied in Europe and elsewhere, we observe the multiplication of tax evasion schemes which our leaders do not make a priority. The crisis is also social, because in the name of austerity and competitiveness, our civic freedoms and the solidarity necessary for the construction of a healthy and inclusive social fabric are eroded. It is also ecological, because the technical and technological advancements of our era, driven by the hegemonic paradigm of growth, are based on the overexploitation of our natural resources in order to produce and consume ever more without taking into account the limits of the planet.

Finally, The crisis is also moral. The consequences of our actions are all the more visible and tangible as our world becomes more interconnected today. The consequences are concrete and can be experienced by future generations if we do not change course.

In this context, as citizens, we are called to act, to take democracy and solidarity back in hand to build together a more inclusive and just society, as well as a new narrative/discourse on “development”, “progress” and “growth”. It is about imagining and co-constructing a world that can reflect the diversity, the richness of experiences, cultures, cosmologies and languages that are intrinsic to it. It is therefore a question of imagining and adopting radically different values and lifestyles, which have at the center respect for the environment and people.

Fortunately these collective 'brainstormings' have already started and we see, all over the world, concrete alternatives being put in place. In this context, Latin America represents both a terrain of struggles and resistance, as well as a place where several alternatives are explored and implemented within communities.. From agro-ecology to collective and self-managed management of energy resources, including popular education and attempts at direct democracy, the seeds of profound change are underway.

As volunteers of the Latin America Group within the Justice and Peace Commission – Francophone Belgium, we are inspired by these experiences and wish to engage in these reflections and concrete actions. This is why we wanted to give voice to these actors and actresses who carry discourses and projects which are part of another development model. A fairer, more balanced model, more respectful of the rights of women and men and the environment.

Discover the alternatives

History America

Latin America brings together the countries of America whose official language is a Latin language. Often thought of as a homogeneous whole, Latin America in reality presents great diversity from a geographical, social or cultural point of view. Nevertheless, the countries of this subcontinent share certain characteristics, starting with a very significant level of inequality. Indeed, although Latin America is not the poorest area in the world, it has one of the highest rates of inequality. We thus witness, within the same country, extremely different rates of development. The countries of Latin America also share a historical process, the main lines of which we present here.

The history of Latin America begins with the Native American civilizations notably the most famous pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Mayans or the Incas. The encounter of these civilizations with the West took place brutally and the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the 16th century led to numerous transformations.

From an economic point of view, the continent will be placed in a situation of economic dependence on foreigners, while from a cultural point of view, indigenous identity will become a criterion of social exclusion.

The period of independence

Between 1800 And 1850, the different countries of Latin America will gain independence from Spain and Portugal. The region, previously organized into viceroyalties, will be divided into states. This period, marked by political instability, saw the emergence of Caudillism. The caudillos (political and military leaders) take advantage of the political vacuum to take power and establish clientelist networks in which they ensure the political power of poor populations by using their economic power.

The national unification of the new Latin American states therefore proved particularly difficult. At the dawn of 20th century, although the colonial period is over, Latin American societies nevertheless remain deeply marked by social inequalities and a culture of discrimination. Until the First World War, Latin America experienced an oligarchic order based on the exclusion of the poor classes.

The advent of the first world War leads to a transition phase.

From a economic point of view, Latin American countries are experiencing industrialization and benefiting from the rise in raw material prices which allows them to better integrate into the global economy (although this varies greatly from one country to another).

From one point of view socio-cultural, the beginning of the 20th century was marked by the birth of indigenism, by urbanization as well as the new social movements linked to it, the agrarian question, as well as the development of art and literature.

Finally, from a geopolitical point of view, the rise in power of the United States has a strong impact on Latin America since the former lead an interventionist policy, not only on economic aspects, but also political ones.

There economic crisis of the 1930s led the subcontinent into a period of instability since most of the countries that had gone into debt during the prosperous period found themselves unable to repay their debt. This instability results in a wave of coups d'état.

Between 1930 And 1933, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, El Salvador and Venezuela will experience coups d'état. It is in this context that the model of “national populism” characterized by the presence of a charismatic leader, an exacerbated nationalism, the mobilization and integration of the masses, redistributive measures, protectionism in certain sectors coupled with an opening of markets for other sectors (eg Mexico with Cardenas (1934 – 1940), Argentina with Péron (1943 – 1955).

During 60s, the United States is implementing a policy towards Latin American countries characterized by a double aspect: the reformist aspect on the one hand, and the security aspect on the other hand. The reformist component takes the form of an economic and social assistance program: Alliance for Progress. This aspect will, however, dissipate to leave room only for the security aspect. Latin America was experiencing a period of intense social conflict resulting from economic growth without real development.

The period is also marked by the appearance of guerrillas as well as numerous military coups supported by the United States who do not want the experience of Cuban revolution of 1959 does not become generalized. What followed was the authoritarian period during which military dictatorships used violence in all areas of life. We can cite, for example, Peru with Velasco Alvarado (1968 – 1975), Bolivia with Hugo Banzer (1971 – 1982), Chile with Augusto Pinochet (1973 – 1990).

From the years 1979, countries that have lived under dictatorship will enter a process of democratic transition. However, these transitions are accompanied by great uncertainties since the consolidation of democracy requires the integration of different political forces.

There consolidation of democracy takes place at the same time as a process of economic liberalization. Indeed, the debt crisis of the 1980s marked the exhaustion of Latin American industrialization and revealed the limits of the interventionist state. The IMF and the World Bank will then impose the implementation of severe neoliberal reforms in order to allow a return to a market economy.

However, these neoliberal reforms will face a wave of popular protests which will precede the advent of new political regimes at the turn of the century. XXIth century.

Years 2000 are characterized by the “ left turn ". Several left-wing presidents are elected, this is the case of Lula in Brazil (2002), Kirchner in Argentina (2003), Morales in Bolivia (2005), Vazquez in Uruguay (2005), Correa (2006), Lugo in Paraguay (2008), or even Chavez in Venezuela (2008). It must, however, be clarified that the political forms adopted by the different countries are multiple, however they share two fundamental objectives: the desire to reduce social inequalities and the instrumental use of the State to achieve the first objective.

These new governments are therefore opposed to neoliberal policies established since the 1980s. By increasing the price of raw materials, these countries are able to increase their export revenues and implement social policies. The economic and social recovery of these countries allows governments to be re-elected. However, once economic growth slowed, largely due to falling commodity prices, causing social progress to stall, the popularity of these governments plummeted.

The interruption of the left turn is explained in particular by the limits of the model of neo-extractivist development adopted by these countries, as well as by the limits of the centralized State led by charismatic leaders whose succession proves difficult. Despite the progress of recent years, Latin America remains undermined by inequalities and progressive governments will, for the future, need to find how to overcome the limits of the extractivist model.

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