Global Protests Round-Up, Proposed Causes: Global Slump, Income Inequality, Social Media (and More)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

In our previous post, Global Protests Round-Up: Authoritarian Adaptation, Data Gathering, and the Role of Class, we prepared for a look at some country studies with a review of the literature. Topics to watch for: Authoritarian adaptation (for example, blaming foreigners and outsiders, using direct violence against dissidents, or agent provocateurs), false optimism by protesters a la 1848, “violent flanks” accompanying non-violent movements; the methodological difficulties of data gathering, whether via event counting or field surveys, and the irony that data gathering on a sufficient scale would create institutions of more or less the same scale as protest organizers themselves; and how the social composition of movements, whether whether driven by the working class or, let’s go ahead and say it, bourgeois, affects the likelihood of “democratization.” (Although movements led by either class can succeed, working class movements are more likely to succeed, all other things being equal, if they have the requisite operational capacity). We also pointed out (with a map and table) that the number of protests is very large. Here is another example of scale, from event counting in Africa:

(Although a comment further down in the thread draws attention to the methodological difficulties: “Interesting, but must be used with care. This may not be comparing apples with apples e.g. consistency of measurement methods, etc.” Quite right!) I would bet there are other such scattered examples as well.

Methodology aside, it’s clear that today’s global protests are an enormous story, far bigger than Occupy, which propagated in a relatively simple fashion, east to west. Working from memory: Tahrir Square (the “Arab Spring”), Athens, Madrid, Paris, London, the Capitol occupations in the U.S, followed by Occupy proper in Zucotti Square and then throughout the United States, with the Carré Rouge uprising in Montréal as the lovelu coda of the sequence. There was a great similarity tactically beween the Occupations (seizure of central urban spaces, ideally squares) and ideologically (general assemblies, and often no clear “demands”). Today’s protest movements show no such pattern of propagation: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Guinea, Haiti, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Netherlands, Peru, Russia, Spain, Sudan, Uganda, and Venezuela are all happening in the same year and in no evident sequence. Nor do they show ideological consistency, although they do show similarity in tactics (YouTube is great for How-To videos, as is the Twitter. If you want to engineer a trebuchet from locally sourced materials, it’s easy to find out how). They do have demands, which vary by the protest. They also often involve millions of people, not hundreds or thousands. They are, perhaps, national rather than urban (even Hong Kong). They are not, so far as I can tell, international, as a follower of the Bearded One would understand that.

Today’s global protests, then, are perhaps the biggest story going, which — hold onto your hats, here, folks — the press is covering very poorly (or, in the case of the gilets jaunes censoring) relative to its importance. Most of the protest stories focus on single countries; there seems to be little effort to integrate the stories into an analytical framework (see, again, the previous post), or to compare and contrast different protests. And while I am sure the local reporting is what it is, the English-language reporting is even more miserably inadequate.

As a sidebar: One aspect of coverage on protests especially annoys me: the reporting on “violence.” In Hong Kong, for example:

Violence is always “breaking out,” or a protest “descends into” it, but there hardly ever any agency or even explanation for why it did. (There is also a pervasive bias toward inflammatory imagery: I remember vividly a picture of a flaming building during riots in London that was everywhere, and the implication was that London was in the grips of a Detroit- or Newark- or Watts-style riot. In fact, the fire was in that one building, and a rather small one at that, as a photo with a wide-angle lens would have shown.) I’m not saying that violence never happens, because of course it does; but the reporting on it tends to be bad along almost any axis you choose to evaluate it. End sidebar.

In the previous post, I surveyed the literature; in this post, I’m going to review several explanations of what causes the protests; some regionally, some globally, so that we can understand the frames that journalists will be using in their reporting. (Sadly, I will not be able to aggregate information for country studies, as I said I would do in the previous post. That was far too ambitious! I will be begin by looking at Chile, Iraq, and Lebanon tomorrow; readers with knowledge of those countries are welcome to email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com. I already have a lot of help on Chile. I also welcome good links and tweets in comments.) So to the various frames that journalists will use, some of which are exceptions to the strictures against press coverage that I outlined above.

An Economic Slump

This argument is being made only for Latin America. From the Associated Press, “Is boom, then slump, behind fiery Latin American protests?“:

[F]rom Port-au-Prince to Santiago, furious demonstrators were marching this week to demand fundamental change, part of a wave of often-violent protests that has set tires, government offices, trains and metro stations ablaze across Latin America and the Caribbean.

What’s driving the protests thousands of miles apart, across countries with profoundly different politics, economies, cultures and histories? One important factor: Despite their differences, the countries hit by fiery protests this month saw often-dizzying commodity-driven growth in the first decade of this century, followed by a slump or stall as prices dropped for key exports. Even Haiti , its own economy largely stagnant, saw billions in aid from oil-rich Venezuela flood in, then disappear.

Behind the commodity slumps may be slowing growth in China:

Income Inequality

Journalists approach income inequality from several angles. (Country studies have a Thomas Piketty-like precison, as we shall see; both Hong Kong and Lebanon are highly unequal, for example).

Jeffrey Sachs frames income inequality as social unhappiness and distrust, in “Why Rich Cities Rebel” from Project Syndicate:

Three of the world’s more affluent cities have erupted in protests and unrest this year. Paris has faced waves of protests and rioting since November 2018, soon after French President Emmanuel Macron raised fuel taxes. Hong Kong has been in upheaval since March, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed a law to allow extradition to the Chinese mainland. And Santiago exploded in rioting this month after President Sebastian Piñera ordered an increase in metro prices. Each protest has its distinct local factors, but, taken together, they tell a larger story of what can happen when a sense of unfairness combines with a widespread perception of low social mobility.

Each year, the Gallup Poll asks people all over the world, “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?” While Hong Kong ranks ninth globally in GDP per capita, it ranks far lower, in 66th place, in terms of the public’s perception of personal freedom to choose a life course. The same discrepancy is apparent in France (25th in GDP per capita but 69th in freedom to choose) and Chile (48th and 98th, respectively).

Hong Kong, France, and Chile are hardly alone in facing a crisis of social mobility and grievances over inequality. The United States is experiencing soaring suicide rates and other signs of social distress, such as mass shootings, at a time of unprecedented inequality and a collapse in public trust in government. The US will certainly see more social explosions ahead if we continue with politics and economics as usual.

Perhaps most important, and least surprising, traditional economic measures of wellbeing are wholly insufficient to gauge the public’s real sentiments

Others frame income inequality as withdrawal or repricing of government services from those who most need them:

I thought we were over austerity. I guess not. (Interestingly, transport was a flashpoint for the gilet jaunes, because there was no public transport in the periphery where they lived, and so a proposed tax on fuel, sold as a climate change measure, hit them hard; the trigger for Chile was a rise in public transport fees; and public transport, long a source of civic pride in Hong Kong, has become a terrain of battle.)

Still others frame income inequality as consumer issues. From the New York Times, “From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues“:

In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

(I’m being unfair to this article in the quote I pulled; this is actually the best wrap-up I’ve found. It’s just that somebody needs to devote a whole bureau to it, instead of having two reporters wrting a single article — and then filing it under “The Middle East!”)

Finally, Tyler Cowen writes in Bloomberg, “Protesters Are United by Something Other Than Politics

One frequent theme is people objecting to a price increase. In Ecuador, a focal point of the protests has been a demand for restoration of fuel subsidies. Petroleum price subsidies also have been central to the Haitian protests. In Lebanon, citizens have been upset at a new tax levied on the use of WhatsApp, with a social media tax also having been an issue in Uganda. In Sudan cuts to food and fuel subsidies have been a major complaint. In Chile they are protesting subway fare hikes.

The trend is that price increases may continue to become less popular. And, crucially, the internet will help people organize against such changes.

Consider that an old-style labor-oriented protest can be organized through the workplace or plant itself, through on-the-ground techniques that long predate the internet. There is a common locale and set of social networks in place, including perhaps a union. Those who suffer from a price increase, in contrast, typically do not know each other or have common social ties. Just about everyone buys gasoline, either directly or indirectly. The internet, however, makes it possible to mobilize these people into protests with prices as the common theme.

In other words: Protests of workers seem to be becoming less important, and protests of consumers are becoming more important.

(But wait. Isn’t Cowen really saying that prices are becoming political? That is, overtly political?) I think we have yet to see whether “consumers” have the operational capacity that “old-style” working class institutions had. I’m guessing no. I also don’t think Cowen is right. I think that the protesters percieve the political economy behind the prices, and that’s what they see as their enemy. Of course, an adaptive authoritarian system will buy them off! And since Cowen segued neatly to the Internet, so will I.

Social Media

Like the New York Times, but, as usual, better, the Financial Times has put together an multi-bureau editorial team to produce “Leaderless rebellion: how social media enables global protests“:

The mass protests that have broken out during the past year in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East share other important characteristics. They are usually leaderless rebellions, whose organisation and principles are not set out in a little red book or thrashed out in party meetings, but instead emerge on social media. These are revolts that are convened by smartphone and inspired by hashtags, rather than guided by party leaders and slogans drafted by central committees.

The rallying power of social media is a crucial enabler for leaderless movements. When the Hong Kong demonstrations broke out in June, Joshua Wong — the most high-profile democracy activist in the territory — was in jail. In Moscow, a month later, the Russian government moved swiftly to arrest Alexander Navalny, a leading opposition figure, but demonstrations continued without him. In Lebanon, France and Chile, authorities have searched in vain for ringleaders.

Across the world, demonstrators are using similar technologies to organise and spread their messages. Messaging services that offer end-to-end encryption — such as Telegram — are hard to spy on and are very popular. Facebook groups and Twitter allow amorphous protest movements to crowdsource ideas and articulate grievances.

Social media also allows a movement in one place to take inspiration from news of revolts in another. The occupation of the airport in Barcelona last week was a tactic borrowed from Hong Kong. Hong Kong demonstrators have been seen carrying the Catalan flag. The Sudanese and Algerian uprisings this year borrowed each other’s imagery and slogans — in a similar fashion to the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.

The often leaderless quality of the revolts also makes them hard to either suppress or negotiate with

First, I’m not sure a (so-called) leaderless protest is all that difficult to negotiate with; the Hong Kong protesters, for example, have five demands that are very clear (one of which has been met). Meet the demands, end the protest. Easy peasy The real issue, from the perspective of adaptive authoritarians, is that there is nobody to co-opt. Second, the words “enable global protests” are carefully chosen; nobody ever decided to brave tear gas or a policeman’s club because of a social media influencer, but social media can explain how to neutralize the tear gas, and what sort of hard hat to buy. Worldwide and quickly, too. Third, I think a different term from “leaderless” needs to be found; just becaue leaders are not visible, or because people rapidly rotate through leadership positions does not mean there are no leaders. Everything I know about social media tells me that users follow a power curve. For example, in blogging: Perhaps 5% of readers comment. Perhaps another 5% of those readers comment regularly. Perhaps another 5% of those readers go on to create their own blogs. So I scoff at the notion that a movement that co-ordinates through a platform is leaderless, and I would bet that in all countries, the organs of state security are busily working out how to detect and contain the real-life people for whom online personas are proxies, using social graph algorithms.


We might integrate the various frames for causation listed above into this one sign:

(However, I don’t think that slogan applies to Hong Kong or Catalonia.) Of course, the sign is in English, hence for global consumption, so one wonders who wrote and propagated it, and why. If indeed the common factor in the global protests is the failure of neoliberalism, and the protesters, globally, come to understand that, that will be a very interesting development indeed. We shall see!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. scarn

    For what it’s worth, I’ve encountered a lot of anglophone Chilean protestors on various sites who are trying to spread the word about what is happening in their country. My guess is that the woman in that photo wrote that sign with just that goal in mind.

    1. jo6pac

      Yes but the sign is true. She isn’t old enough to been part of still dead uncle Milton Friedman grand bargain but her parents and grand parents remember if they’re still alive.

      I see this problem as these countries do not know how to do real propaganda PR work. When a small group starts out in Amerika it’s immediately denounced then kidnapped by the powers to be with $$$$$$$$$$$. If that doesn’t work snipers works also.

      Sad but Amerikas so-called free press only reports what they are told.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Apparently she’s aware of the Chicago Boys, and is sending a message to the place they came from. Successfully, too.

      Her face is in that picture; I hope she’s safe.

  2. ambrit

    I worry about the move afoot to co-opt the social media platforms. Get those primary “public” communications systems to adopt an “Officially Approved” filtering regime and then the protestors must fall back on older, less sophisticated command and control methods.
    Often, when the primary target of an individual protest is stymied, a more diffuse and thus, of necessity more ‘robust’ form of protest will be needed. “Getting the point across” is often the base task of a protest. As has been the case in America, many truly non-violent mass protests were ‘ignored’ by the news media. This drops said protests into the class of in-group virtue signalling exercises. Violence and destruction are to be eschewed, until they become the only ways to make a point known outside of the narrow “silo” that they originated from. As the piece states, the potential for violence underlays most successful non-violent protests. To have a credible threat of violence, one needs must occasionally perform some violent act to provide the bona fides of the threat. Talk is cheap. Thus, the Cynic’s Admonition about Politicians: Believe what politicians do, not what they say. To hold a politician’s feet to the fire, first one needs a fire.

  3. Bert Schlitz

    What is funny about China is, the importance over the US for real economy world growth. I was there in 2012, just so much overcapacity…..

    I suspect this will continue into 2023. I think the US NBER’s as corporations look to regrow profits via consolidation in 20-23 period. Most announced production downcycles have not even began yet.

  4. JCC

    Lambert, have you read Empire by any chance? After reading this posting it almost seems that you have.

    Back in 2001 I ended up back in College and one of the courses I needed to take (as a dual major student) was a survey course on the history of western political systems (I also took a course on Eastern Political systems centered primarily around China).

    Anyway, that was the year the (marxist) book Empire by Hardt and Negri was published, taking the PolySci world by storm. My Prof had a couple of reading assignments from that book, as well as naming it one of the books to be chosen for a review as a final paper.

    I chose that book which ended up being a little bit of a mistake as it was the densest 500 pages I ever read in my entire life. Subscribing more to a Democratic Socialist philosophy and not a Marxist philosophy didn’t help my attention span either. In fact, it was so dense, and I was loaded down with so much course work, that I was unable to finish it (the Prof cut me a break and told me to review just a section of my choice… whew!) . But it was a darn good book and predicted a lot of what is happening now

    Here is a review of that book and near the top is a link to part of the very beginning:

    The section I chose discussed the “waking up” of the working classes across the world and that leaderless protests in the streets similar to the “Battle In Seattle” would increasingly spring up worldwide. As time has gone on, particularly over the last 9 or 10 years, that prediction has proven to be prescient.

    I still have my copy in a bookcase somewhere, I may need to have a go at it again.

    1. Lydia Maria Child

      I remember that book. It was suggested to me by a TA in a history course I was then taking. I think they followed it up a few years later with their book, “Multitude.” Maybe it’s time to rediscover that, and have a look at their later book?

  5. Jos Oskam

    “…I also don’t think Cowen is right. I think that the protesters percieve the political economy behind the prices, and that’s what they see as their enemy…”

    Great point Lambert.

    This is exactly what triggered the Yellow Vests protests in France, where I live. The ruckus was not about the fuel price increase per se. It was just the trigger that brought home the point that ordinary people were once again presented with the bill for things they can do virtually nothing about. In other words, a political economy that has for years forced people in rural areas to commute by car (because there is no alternative) and then decides to tax (and vilify in the name of the climate) them for it.

    1. James Miller

      Another voice from Central France. Another aspect of that issue is the fact that there is little understanding or interest in understanding the actual necessities of life for the working class in central France on the part of Macron and his team of policy makers, leading to a whole series of policy blunders culminating in the fuel price increase. Whereupon the camel dumped his load of straw and bolted for the freeway interchanges.
      The initial success in terms of public support resulted in a sharp increase in the use of increased state violence, and the use of violent agents provocateurs, etc etc.and come straight out of those the authors list in Part 1.

  6. Sound of the Suburbs

    Japan led the way in bad financial practices that could cripple an economy for decades.

    In the 1980s it looked as if Japan would take over the world, but bad financial practices have seen their economy flat-lining ever since.

    Japanese companies found they could make more money from their financial arms (Zai Tech) than they could from their traditional businesses, for a while anyway.

    House prices always go up and their real estate boom would never end, until it did.

    Jusen were nonbank institutions formed in the 1970s by consortia of banks to make household mortgages since banks had mortgage limitations. The shadow banks were just an intermediary put in place to get around regulations.

    Japan led the way in bad financial practices that could cripple an economy for decades.

    If everyone did something similar, we would get global Japanification.

    At 25.30 mins you can see the super imposed private debt-to-GDP ratios.

    What Japan does in the 1980s; the US, the UK and Euro-zone do leading up to 2008 and China has done more recently.

    China was the last real engine of global growth, but now that’s gone too.
    China was a big export market for Germany and now that’s gone too.

    Global Japanification.

    1. RBHoughton

      The chap who lifted the veil on the Japanese economy for me was the German economist Richard Werner in his book “Princes of the Yen.” He revealed that the ‘Japanese miracle’ was achieved by the senior staff of the central bank keeping politicians ignorant, separating the internal and external exchange values of the Yen and rigidly controlling the distribution of funds domestically.

      The ‘Japanese miracle’ was effectively government by central bank. They kept westerners away by reducing returns in the stock exchange to the level of a bank deposit. Western ambassadors whinged constantly but the politicians they complained to had no idea what was going on. Bit of a joke really.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs


        That’s where I got the Zai Tech bit from.

        The Jusen bit came from Richard Vague.

    1. jsn

      Time and isolation: the accidental genius of the suburbs is that it isolates everyone and requires them to be isolated in cars to do anything, including getting fuel for the car which they must do or be completely isolated.

      The neoliberal ratchet has been turning one notch at a time since the seventies, eliminating price support for commodities, eliminating worker protections, eliminating environmental protections, eliminating political protections, reducing wages, reducing services, burning safety nets of every kind and polluting, degrading and ultimately burning ecology.

      With the oligarchy induced commodities stall in the west combined with the distributional failures in the PRC (preventing domestic consumption from compensating for export weakness), the neoliberal supply chain can no longer pay the minuscule wages of the workers on which it depends. At the same time the ratchet has left the workers no other systems to fall back on, no family, no farm, no collective system of survival.

      Each state has its own manifestation of this: drought in Syria and Egypt; commodities collapse in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador; political collapse in Venezuela, Haiti and France. What they have in common is that 40 years of rampant neoliberalism has monetized all robustness, safety nets and redundancy leaving people with nothing left to lose.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i can’t speak to “americans”…only the 2 little slices of the american pie i run around in: the medical center in san antonio, texas, and my isolated rural texas county, population, 4500.(with very rare runs to my old houston stomping grounds, where i don’t know anybody any more besides family)
      the gist…unless there’s a crisis that hits a person directly(or close to directly), the default is to pretend that everything’s cool. there is a great shame attached to any public display of failure…whether that’s needing medicaid or help with the rent. this is almost universal in the various cohorts i interact with…and it’s no accident: it’s been inculcated into people.
      40+ years of “only lazy drug addicted scum get welfare”, and similar nonsense, has done it’s work…along with the multiple divisions in society, from sports rivalries to partisanship to racism to sexism to all the rest and more.
      add in no unifying analog of WW2 or the Great Depression, that the majority experiences together– in all this, i’m also thinking about the periodic studies that come out…at least over the last 20 years…about loneliness in america. the “Bowling Alone” phenomena, as well as the proffered solution from on high, “just move to where the jobs are”, which leads to even more isolation and disconectedness…and there’s nothing for aggrieved people to get together on, and no one to get together with….and hardly any way of knowing that it ain’t just you..
      poverty and “failure to thrive” are hyperindividualised….”it’s all your fault, little not blame the poisoned water”

      when the dam does break, it will be ugly.

  7. Stranger In a Strange Land

    “If indeed the common factor in the global protests is the failure of neoliberalism, and the protesters, globally, come to understand that, that will be a very interesting development indeed. We shall see!”

    In Chile the protests are a total repudiation of the neoliberal economic system imposed on the country post Dictatorship. The “constitution” adopted in 1980 privatized the system of government. All of the things “government” usually does for the welfare of it’s citizens are, by law, to be done by private corporations. And if those private corporations can’t make a profit, they are SUBSIDIZED by the State (via taxes paid primarily by the poor and middle class), which allows massive price hikes in basic services (electricity was slated to go up this year almost 20% – 9% of it (more or less) was just rolled back after the protests started). So, not only are citizens forced to subsidize these private operators, the operators charge exorbitant, monopolistic prices on a population increasingly unable to pay for the services it can’t do without.

    It’s not about the metro (which is the most expensive ticket in latin america – $1.17 per ride ($850 CH pesos), which for a person who makes maybe $350/mo., represents a substantial piece of their monthly expenses, one which a worker cannot stop paying because they have to get to work.

    The metro system in Santiago is the last piece still not privatized (owned by the citizens via the State). The real scandal is the fact that the cost to run the metro system is around $350 CH pesos, but the ticket is $850 (including those fateful 4 cents that just got rolled back). Where does the excess go? It goes to private operators of the Transantiago bus system so they can make a profit. Sweet, right? And every single aspect of life in Chile is like that. For the benefit of the Corporations and private operators, and against the people who barely earn anything. 70% of the country earns less than $400 a month.

    Education, private. Pensions, private. Water, private (there are towns that no longer have water – water is trucked in at an enormous cost to residents because the export community has bought up worthless (without water) pieces of arid, water thirsty dry acres in the north and installed enormous plantations of avocados, using all the water in the system (the entire privatized water system is corrupt to the bone) – becoming incredibly wealthy as a result; as their fellow citizens and small holdings die of thirst, their animals dead in the fields, and their entire way of life is obliterated. It’s also contributing to an increasing desertification of the north, which is already incredibly arid.

    How does the government act when confronted with the issues their policies create, like the drought in Chile (a mix of water usurpation and lack of rainfall – the perfect storm)? By telling citizens to take shorter showers. As far as that fare increase that turned into the drop that overflowed the cup, the Minister of Transportation told citizens to get up earlier so they can get a lower fare (many travel 2 hours each way to get to work and arrive home very late in the evening and already are on the road by 7 am and barely see their families). They have a “peak fare system” (the better to fleece you – coming to the US as soon as they can get it nailed down over there – along with peak electricity, peak water, etc. that’s what those smart meters are for). The tone deafness is astonishing.

    Even the sea was privatized (last act of Michelle Bachelet). Millions, not tens of thousands, participated in the peaceful protests last week, only to be beaten back and attacked by the military and police forces who have been filmed setting fires, firing on unarmed people and families marching, brutally arresting students and doing everything they can to discredit the movement.

    All of these problems are enabled and supported by the neoliberal governments (both present and past – left and right), that have privatized everything, which is guaranteed in the current Constitution, hence the move by the citizens to have a new Constitution (they have been trying to do this on and off for years now, but it’s gotten to the breaking point with the current marches strongly coalescing around the idea of changing the Constitution and re-organizing society to benefit the citizens, rather than corporations). As you can imagine, this is being ferociously pushed back on by the powers that be. There goes their cash cow.

  8. B1whois

    Crossposting from today’s water cooler:

    Here is a jacobian podcast

    Suzi talks to Pablo Albufom and Gilbert Achcar about the ongoing massive protest movements in Chile and Lebanon, where for more than two weeks the mobilization and demonstrations have spread spectacularly in breadth and depth.

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