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Latin America: Drawing Parallels with Egypt

As protests in Egypt continue, Latin American bloggers are drawing historical parallels with similar uprisings in the region and some are wondering: “Could it happen here now?”

In The Mex Files, Rich compares Egypt's situation to Porfirio Diaz’ 30-year rule in Mexico –which fell during the Mexican Revolution– in his post, “Walk like an Egyptian: Porfirio to Mubarak.” Rich concludes his analysis looking at Mexico today:

Mexicans are not — one trusts — as desperate as the Egyptians, or at least not in the numbers seen in Cairo.  But, what will happen if the Mexicans decide it is time for a giant leap in Mexican  power, in which the people of the largest Spanish-speaking nation demand that they be allowed to fulfill their potential?

Greg Weeks writes about the similarities and differences between Nicaragua and Egypt from a historical perspective in his blog Two Weeks Notice:

It is impossible not to make analogies between the current situation in Egypt and the implosion of dictatorships in Latin America. Anastasio Somoza in particular comes to mind. Broadly speaking, the U.S. had supported a dictatorship for decades because it was a strategic ally, then internal opposition began to boil, hoping to copy the toppling of another repressive regime in the region.

There are, however, also very important differences.

Global Voices author Rodrigo Peñalba was recently interviewed by Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario. Rodrigo posted his answers to the newspaper's questions in his blog [es]:

¿En Nicaragua el fenómeno de Túnez y Egipto esta lejos de la realidad nacional?

Tunez y Egipto responden a contextos específicos de gobiernos autoritarios con lideres en el poder durante décadas y con el apoyo abierto de Estados Unidos. Si hubiera efecto domino entre ambos  paises, este pasaría antes a Siria, Libano, Jordanía o Arabia Saudí más que a Centroamérica.

Si la idea de la pregunta es que si podria pasar algo así en Nicaragua habría que buscar contextos más cercanos como son la narcoviolencia mexicana, los grupos de maras en Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador, la inmigración en la región, el golpe de estado de Honduras, o las drama-novelas del poder de Panamá, Costa Rica, Venezuela o Colombia; o en el caso de Nicaragua el triple matrimonio a 3 bandas entre empresarios (anunciantes en los grandes medios), partidos políticos (que les dan entrevistas a los medios), y gobierno (al que amigos de los medios aspiran a manejar).

In Nicaragua, is the phenomenon seen in Tunisia and Egypt far from the national reality?

Tunisia and Egypt are responding to specific contexts of authoritarian governments with leaders in power for decades that have the open support of the United States. If there was a domino effect between both countries, this would happen first in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia rather than Central America.

If the question is whether something like this could happen in Nicaragua, we would have to look at closer contexts such as Mexican drug violence, groups of maras [gangs] in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, immigration in the region, the coup in Honduras, or the power drama in Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela or Colombia; or in the case of Nicaragua at the 3-way marriage between businessmen (advertisers in mass media), political parties (which get interviewed by the media) and the government (which friends of the media aspire to manage).

In the post “Could instability spread to Latin America?” in Bloggings by boz, Boz focuses on the “global” –or “Tsunami”– theory: “An outside force created the conditions for these protests to hit many nations at the same time.” Boz explains:

it's the global factors I want to focus on, because if it is true, then the current crisis is not just affecting the Middle East. Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia could be next.

He goes through six points to answer the question: “If [2011] is a crisis year, what would it mean for Latin America?” and then writes,

If this is a “crisis year,” then governments are going to be destabilized in ways that you thought six months ago would be near impossible.

That said, most governments will survive. Even facing tough protests, governments tend to hold on to power more often than they fall. Not every protests or momentary difficulty will lead to a government falling. Also, in a region where democracy is the expectation rather than the exception, governments that do fall should return to democracy more quickly than in some other regions of the world.

Mike from Central American Politics responds in the open thread at Bloggings by boz on the subject. He breaks down his opinion by country:

Where to start? Interestingly enough, I think that if we survey the region, non-friendly governments of the US are the most likely to fall.

Ecuador – close to falling last year; recent history of extra constitutional removals

Bolivia – protests against gas prices recently; recent history of extra constitutional removals

Venezuela and Cuba are candidates, but will probably not see much instability. Honduras is a candidate as well, but there would have to be some spark to reignite things.

Asking “Could it happen here?” has been inevitable among bloggers who intently follow politics and social movements in the region. No one can know for certain if any Latin American country will get caught under the “political tsunami;” but what these bloggers do know is that in the history of Latin America, uprisings against the government are not unusual.

  • Heptacampeâo

    I don’t think the Tunisia and Egypt phenomenon will become a pandemic and occur in Latin America anytime soon. Even though as a region we have a history of instability and extra constitutional removals, these have been on the most part politically motivated rather than the outcome of a popular revolution.

    It is also important to consider that most countries in Latin America have recently gone trhough the process of transitioning to democratic regimes after dictatorial periods. I believe this reduces the likelihood of anything happening here anytime soon, because people collectively sense that, despite the huge deficiencies of our current governments, what we got now is much better than what we had until only 20 or 30 years ago.

  • http://www.johanneswilm.org Johannes Wilm

    I don’t think the Nicaraguan case came across completely.

    One has to know that the newspaper that interviewed Rodrigo is anti-government and that ALL the daily print media in the country is anti-government as well as most of the media. A lot of private business is also strongly anti-government. All of them keep on saying that Nicaragua is a dictatorship and they have been doing that right since Daniel Ortega took office.

    I’ve tried re-reading Rodrigo’s original answer, and I wonder if the end of his comment may be a bit unclear or whether he just has a very different view than mine. I doubt very much that one would say that there is a “marriage” between President Ortega and the (print) media of Nicaragua. Rather on the contrary, the media tries constantly but unsuccessfully to try to call for an overthrow of the government.

    • http://www.penalba.info Rodrigo Peñalba

      My basis to say there’s a triple way relation between goverment, political parties and bussinessmen is that the media that opposes the goverment criticize the goverment but not the bussinessmen or not enought to affect their bussines or to damage any political relation between them and the political parties behind.

      In the other hand, the Media in favor of the goverment don’t criticize the bussinessmen because “they are in a common cause” with the goverment and politics they favor.

      From first hand but not on record i was told El Nuevo Diario did knew PLC was going to vote in Asamblea Nacional for the new Defense Laws, but El Nuevo Diario didn’t went there so they could then blame it on FSLN or any other scape-goat at the moment. In the end the New Defense Law got over 70 votes in a 90 seats assembly.

      In the end both wings of the Media, pro or against FSLN, get the same sponsors from the same big companies, and behind the big companies there are the same big families.

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  • Moises Latino

    Nicaragua has already experienced a revolution. In 1979 the 40-year Somoza dictatorship was overthrown. The Sandinistas have come full circle and become authoritarian and run a coercive regime now. The once revolutionary Sandinistas are now the bourgeoisie of the nation.

    Revolutions often leave societies exhausted and unlikely to rebel again. I do not think it’s realistic to expect the same kind of unrest to spring up in Nicaragua this year. November 2011 will see some protest and corresponding violence on part of the Sandinistas, but it will not be anything like a Tahrir Square.

  • Gus

    Do not worry about Latin America, instead preoccupy yourselves with the future of the European states, and its North American boss. There is where the people will eventually be forced to act against the tyranny of MONEY.

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