It is hard not to feel some concern when looking at a series of disturbances that have happened in several countries around the world. On this occasion we will limit ourselves to analyzing three violent incidents in Latin America in the last week and how the governments of these countries set a dangerous precedent.
The Ecuadorian government was forced to take various economic measures to cover its fiscal deficit and comply with the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to receive a loan. The measure that provoked the greatest popular discontent was the elimination of fuel subsidies. Gasoline rose 30 and diesel (mainly used by trucks, buses, etc.) had a 123 increase.
There were 11 days of intense protests. The indigenous movement took the capital, Quito, and what began as peaceful marches got out of control, resulting in looting of local businesses, destruction of public and private property, as well as fires at a police station and the national comptroller office. Ultimately, the government yielded and reversed the economic measures.
In Chile, as in Ecuador, the government announced economic measures, including fare increases in the public transportation system, without having previously consulted or negotiated with social sectors. This led to protests in Santiago, Rancagua, Antofagasta, La Serena, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Talca, Concepción, Coliumo and several other cities. Likewise, the protests got out of control and a building in Santiago was set on fire, subway stations were destroyed, there was looting, and a fire at a supermarket, which left several dead.
In Chile, as in Ecuador, a state of emergency was declared. But in the end the government relented and reversed the economic measures.
Meanwhile, on in Culiacán, Mexico, 30 soldiers and anti-narcotics police located Ovidio Guzmán, one of the sons of the drug trafficker El Chapo Guzmán and heir to his criminal organization. Armed groups rose throughout the city and began to generate terrifying chaos. Vehicles were burned and numerous shootings occurred, some with high caliber weapons; the city was hijacked. Finally, the government yielded to the demands of the drug traffickers and reversed the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, setting him free.
We must clarify that unlike the incident in Mexico, what happened in Ecuador and Chile began as social protests, which are valid within a democratic society. But when there are people among the protesters who want to inflict damage or take advantage of the chaos and cause destruction, disorder, and death, this becomes a criminal act.
The problem is that the governments of these three countries did not know how to be proactive. They simply reacted too late, and violence prevailed over the law. We are not suggesting greater repression by the police; however, we regret their lack of vision to effectively and timely address the problems that afflict their communities.
Giving in to violence sadly sets a dangerous precedent. It gives the next violent group that sows chaos the license to force the government to meet their demands. Peace is not established at the point of repression, but by listening to the concerns of the people, attending to their needs, integrating them into dialogue, and working with the people, not with criminal groups.