As the year hastens to an end, journalists like me are trying to discern the defining patterns of 2019. One of these has to be the slew of protests that roiled various countries. Three broad points can be discerned:
- Some of the protests were in unlikely places
- Many of them were about the same sorts of grievances
- There was an internationalist thrust to the climate protests
I’d class Chile as an unlikely place for such profound public fury as we saw in the months from October. One of the wealthiest countries in South America, Chile is considered a miracle of market capitalism. And yet, the protests that started over a relatively small rise in Santiago subway fares, shared the characteristics of other protests in other parts of the world. In protesting against inequality and seeking relief from economic distress, Chile was like Lebanon, Colombia, Ecuador, South Africa and Iran. And possibly Sudan too, where discontent over prices prompted unrest that forced out Omar Al Bashir in April. Of course, the net result of the protests in Sudan were more momentous than elsewhere because they ended the dictatorship.
Shared concerns about corruption prompted protests in: Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Iraq.
General discontent with the system or government led to protests in: France, Russia, Algeria, Malawi, Indonesia. To some extent, that’s also the story of the months of demonstrations in Hong Kong. The semi-autonomous territory doesn’t want to be part of China but its geography and history means it is.