- For a 2021 without political prisoners – an international update of some of them
- Chilean New Year’s Resolution: RELEASE OF PRISONERS NOW!
- Rebellion and repression after the assassination of George Floyd in the U.S.
- Current agrarian protests in India against new neoliberal legislation
2020 will go down in history as the year of the Coronavirus or Covid-19, a pandemic that affected the entire Planet, in all its corners, demonstrating how interrelated all its inhabitants are today. The pandemic conditioned life at all levels, and also, obviously, in protest and resistance, especially due to the confinement measures implemented. On top of that, these measures were used to impose projects and activities that until then had been stopped. However, in spite of this situation, there were important movements that are worth taking into account when evaluating the year1 .
A case of huge rebellion being stopped by the pandemia is that of Hong Kong, which had started in 15 March 2019 against the Extradition Law Amendment Bill. From that year also came the protests in Chile in what became known as the social explosion (estallido in Spanish). These were halted by the pandemic, but which have continued with certain consequences. Popular rebellions also occurred in Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia. At the international level, the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis (USA) had great repercussions because it marked the beginning of a series of protests that continued for months and were replicated throughout the USA and the world. The protests that took place in Brazil were also relevant. Also the popular mobilizations in Colombia and India. On a more violent level, the resumption of the war in Western Sahara on November 13, after 29 years on hold, also represents a popular reaffirmation and yearning for democracy and freedom.
Likewise, not as a revolt, but as the result of arduous mobilizations and years of struggle, we must include the good news of the repeal of the criminalization of abortion in Argentina.
Chile: the social outburst goes into and through 2020
In Chile, the protests had started the previous year, in October 2019, but they did continue during 2020 until February. This social outburst was a historic event both in Chile and in the world, for the level of participation, its duration and also for the sad toll of its repression (27,432 arrested, more than 1300 people in prison, 8,827 complaints of human rights violations, 445 people who lost their sight). In a way, the Covid can be understood as a brake on these, since, as in many other places, in addition to the quarantine, measures such as the state of emergency and curfew were adopted. But on October 18, 2020, the beginning of the attacks and the burning of police stations was also commemorated.
A week later, on October 25, the plebiscite would take place, which was one of the direct conquests of the protests, to repeal the constitution still in force from the Pinochet dictatorship, which ended in 1990, and to draft a new one. In addition, the plebiscite chose that the process would be through a Constitutional Convention that would be formed by popularly elected citizens. All these processes (plebiscite, configuration of Constitutional Convention, etc.) although they are not protests in their strict sense, they are their result, and above all they are democratic and revolutionary political processes to which usually they are rare possibilities to opt for. They also require a lot of effort and popular participation abd organization that in most cases we lack.
The activist Deisy Avendaño is one of the pre-candidates for Aysén to form the Constitutional Convention. About her participation she told A Planet that she seeks «the dispute of power, not to reach the power, because that word scares me, but to dispute the spaces of power to recover it, for the people, our poor people like us». She also shared his presentiment that «there could be a second outburst because more repressive laws are coming. Piñera’s agenda between now and the end of his term includes 38 projects that he wants to promote, 20 of which are environmental and socio-environmental».
Read more about it here: Chilean New Year’s Resolution: RELEASE OF PRISONERS NOW!
Hong Kong Protests 2019-21
The Hong Kong protests began in March 2019 over what was understood by the population of that metropolis as a loss of autonomy. But they continued throughout that year well into 2020, and now into 2021 with the imprisonment of more activists. Again, here too, the coronavirus pandemic and the measures implemented were the reason for the slowdown.
Hong Kong was a British enclave until 1997 when it became part of China, but as an autonomous zone with a series of differentiations in laws and rights. Since then different mobilizations have taken place, being relevant those of 2014-17 demanding democracy. The introduction of an Amendment to the Extradition Law by the autonomous government, which proposed to allow the extradition of citizens to the rest of China and Taiwan, lit the fuse. Mass demonstrations followed, and then on June 12, when the second reading of the bill was being discussed, the protest escalated into great violence.
Demands against excessive police repression, for the release of all detainees, the dismissal of the head of the executive and the introduction of universal suffrage were also added. On September 4 the proposed law was abandoned, but none of the other demands were met, and instead, emergency measures were introduced. Curiously for what was to come later with the coronavirus, in October the anti-masking measure was introduced.
The death of two activists escalated the conflict, causing social division. The assault on the Legislative Council and the sieges of two universities were noteworthy. 2020 began with one million people taking to the streets (January 1, 2020).1 In the District Council elections the pro-democracy side swept the board. But the conflict was reignited in May 2020 with Beijing’s decision to enact a national security law for Hong Kong by September.
From June 6, 2019 to December 29, 2020, 10,225 people were arrested and more than 2,300 were charged. Sentences are up to one year just for taking part in a no legalized protest. More than 1,000 detainees are under 18. Arrests continue into 2021.
The murder of George Floyd sets the world on fire
On May 25, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis2. The images of the policeman pressing his knee into his neck while Floyd was completely reduced on the ground went viral. The people’s reaction to the pandemic of police killings of citizens, especially those of minority and African descent, again caused a backlash.
The conditions of confinement were laxer, so people did not wait to go out and protest. Not only in Minneapolis but in every city in the U.S., in marches that had not been seen for a long time. And they were also replicated all over the world. The protests in the U.S. followed one after another, reaching their peak in June and July, but they lasted until October. Especially because there were more cases, more racist deaths at the hands of the police. At the end of the year, the figures were terrifying: 1,000 people had died in the U.S. at the hands of the police.
The protests were accompanied by a new modality: the removal of monuments and elements commemorating racism, and the colonialism and slavery that were based on it. More than 150 statues were removed in the United States, among them those of Confederate generals, colonists, Columbus himself, etc. Virginia, one of the original states of the Union, which still retains many vestiges of its support for the Confederate and slave cause, was one of the focuses.3
The protests were accompanied by a new modality: the removal of monuments and elements commemorating racism, and the colonialism and slavery that were based on it4. More than 150 statues were removed in the United States, among them of Confederate generals, colonists, Columbus himself, etc. Virginia, one of the original states, still retained many vestiges of its support for the Confederate and slave cause.
Such was the proportion of the protest, the repression would also be disproportionate. We will deal with it in more depth in another specific article: «Rebellion and repression after the assassination of George Floyd in the U.S.«.
Thus, on September 16, Misak Indians from the Colombian Cauca also did the same with the statue of the Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, knocking it down from its pedestal. Obviously the action was framed within the framework of the anti-racist and anti-colonialist protests worldwide, but also the outrages that took place in Colombia during the pandemic with more than 100 people killed in their territories.
Misak, Nasa and Pijao people began to march and in October the Minga of the Sout West was reactivated. Minga is the community activity, in this case used by the CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca) and other groups to designate total mobilizations. The march challenged the pandemic measures but also the extreme violence used against them. On October 13 the Minga reached Cali and on October 19 9,000 indigenous people arrived in Bogota. Following this mobilization, on October 21 a general strike happened throughout Colombia. The strike demanded, among other things, the fulfillment of the peace agreements, the security of social leaders and the end and clarification of massacres, respect for the territories, free education, basic income and economic aid for the pandemic.
As the CRIC senior counselor Jesús Antonio Macas explained to A Planet, «the indigenous guard did not allow access to infiltrators, including the security forces, who tried to sabotage the march». He also confirmed that during the march there were no cases of coronavirus infection.
Bolivia is fed up
In October 2020, Bolivia’s politics also caught fire after the elections on the 20th and accusations by both candidates of rigging. On November 12, 2019, the government of Janine Áñez was imposed after a coup d’état. Since July 2020, large popular protests also took place, mainly due to the postponement of the elections scheduled for September 6 to October 18, 2020. Again, the pandemic, with a death toll of 2,647 people and 71,181 infected in Bolivia, was the pretext used by the government to delay the elections. As a result of the elections, the MAS party (Movimiento al Socialismo) regained power.
Parliament burns in Guatemala
In Guatemala the protests also took place with the most notable event being the seizure of the Congress and this building burning on November 21, 2020. The protests were called against the 2021 budget approved by the government of Alejandro Giammattei. The direct result of the protest was the annulment of the budget on November 25.
Undoubtedly, among the reasons behind the mobilizations were also the recent measures of the government with the pandemic of violating freedoms, initiating projects paralyzed until then taking advantage of the curfew, but above all, the hyper-million dollar loans to banks and large companies of more than 3.5 billion dollars10. The budgets approved in November 2020 by Giammattei were the largest in the country’s history ($12,800) and again favored big business. It is obvious that the pandemic and its management have added more anger to a people with very high levels of poverty and where repression and violence, a continuation of the genocide, is very strong, especially for the indigenous population.
It should also be noted that it was only five years ago, in 2015, when protests also succeeded in removing President Otto Perez. And despite attempts to take advantage of the pandemic to impose projects, this year was also when the Guatemalan Constitutional Court issued a final ruling against the mining license granted to Exmingua in the controversial La Puya project.
Peruvian people removed the president
In Peru, too, the measures implemented during the pandemic meant more repression against activists by extractive companies. In the Peruvian Amazon, five environmental defenders were murdered.11 October also saw the start of proceedings for the impeachment of the Peruvian president, Martin Vizcarra, on charges of corruption. His refusal provoked various protests since November 9 in different cities of the country.
As a consequence, a new president was appointed, Manuel Merino, who was also popularly rejected by protests. On November 12 a national march was organized and another on November 14. On that day there was a strong repression with the use of pellets, rubber bullets and tear gas. The first young man was killed. The second would be the day after, the day of the resignation of Merino who finally lasted in his position only from November 10 to 15, 2020. Brian Pintado and Inti Sotelo were killed by pellets fired by the police. In this sense, it must be said that the measures imposed for the pandemic conditioned the protests and that less shocking formulas had to be adopted, such as pots and pans.
In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, deadly racist repression is reiterated
Brazil was a country that also stood out for the mismanagement of the pandemic by its president Jair Bolsonaro, who, like the Bolivian president Janine Áñez, contracted it. This situation followed what Brazil has been dragging in recent years: deep social inequality and repression. For this reason, here too the first post-pandemic protests were those associated against racism, colonialism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd in the USA. Because Brazil is a country with a high rate of deaths at the hands of the police (between 2008 and 2013, more than 11,000 deaths), having many of them racist connotations. Thus were killed by the police four young arfo-descendants between 15 and 21 years old in June, one also like Floyd, by strangulation.
But undoubtedly the most popular repercussion was the beating to death of an Afro customer by two vigilantes in Porto Alegre on November 20, 2020, which provoked mobilizations in various cities.12
Millions mobilize against land laws in India
While we can easily receive information from Latin America, other places have not been exempt from mass protests, such as India. There, the pandemic measures were also drastic, especially because of their effect on the most disadvantaged population. In September, the government passed four new agrarian laws aimed at favoring transnational macro-corporations. The protest began with its climax on November 26 when 250 million people mobilized. Farmers from different regions went to the capital New Delhi to protest, which was answered by the government with a blockade to try to guarantee the functioning of the city. As of today (January 27 2021), thousands of agricultural workers are on the outskirts of the capital, causing it to run poorly.13
A Planet in revolt! Let’s go for it, 2021!!!
6 Their name is similar (sounds similar) to Black Block, the collective or strategy also created to deal with repression (tear gas, identification, etc) at demonstrations.
7 A precedent was the Charlottesville attack of August 12, 2017, in which neo-Nazi James Alex Fields drove his car into a group of people demonstrating against a Nazi rally, killing one person and injuring eight. He was sentenced to life in prison but it seems that the sentence was not very persuasive.
8 Cars have hit demonstrators 104 times since George Floyd protests began https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/07/08/vehicle-ramming-attacks-66-us-since-may-27/5397700002
9See the considerable number of videos: https://youtu.be/OAx9m59GZk8 or https://youtu.be/WE3eMEtMTpY
11 See more details at https://aplaneta.org/caids-por-el-planeta and https://es.mongabay.com/2020/12/las-deudas-ambientales-de-peru-asesinatos-de-defensores-ilegalidad-durante-la-pandemia-y-acuerdo-de-escazu-enviado-al-archivo