Latin America: thousands of indignados join the “occupy” protests

WW4, Weekly News Update on Tue, 10/18/2011

Joining others in more than 900 cities around the world, Latin American activists protested on Oct. 15 to demonstrate their discontent with the global economic system. The demonstrations got a significant boost from Occupy Wall Street, a US movement that started with an action in New York on Sept. 17, but the Latin American protests also referenced the Real Democracy Now movement that developed in Spain last spring; the Spanish protests were inspired in turn by protests in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of the year. In Spanish-speaking countries the movement is widely known as “15-M,” from May 15, the day when protests started in Madrid. Like the Spanish protesters, Latin American participants call themselves los indignados and las indignadas—”the angry ones,” or “the indignant ones.”

Thousands of Chileans marked the global day of action by marching with music and dancing from the University of Chile campus in central Santiago along the Alameda avenue to the O’Higgins Park. They called for reform of the political system and for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution to replace the current document, which was created under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The protesters also backed the demands of student strikers for a free public education system and expressed opposition to the HidroAysén project, a plan to build a complex of five dams that environmentalists say would threaten fjords and valleys in the Patagonia region [see Updates #1081, 1100]. Organizers estimated that 5,000 people participated; the police didn’t give an estimate. Similar protests were scheduled for other cities, including Arica, Iquique, Coquimbo, La Serena and Valparaíso. (Radio Universidad de Chile, Oct. 15; Observador Global, Argentina, Oct. 15; Adital, Brazil, Oct. 14)

More than 1,000 Argentines, many wearing masks or costumes, marched on Oct. 15 from the Plaza del Congreso de la Nación in central Buenos Aires to the Plaza de Mayo. The marchers included Juan Marino, the leader of the Revolutionary Piquetero Tendency (TPR), part of a movement of the unemployed that developed in response to the neoliberal policies of former president Carlos Saúl Menem (1989-1999) and the financial crisis of 2001. “It can’t go on like this,” said another marcher, Bernardo Molina. “The rich created the crisis, and we, the poor, always end up paying.” Argentines also demonstrated in La Plata, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Rosario, Mendoza, Tucumán, Jujuy and other cities. (People’s Daily, China, Oct. 16)

In Brazil, some 200 people, mostly youths, gathered under a heavy rain at Sao Paulo’s Museo de Arte on Paulista Avenue in the banking and commercial district, while others met in the Largo de Sao Bento, a colonial building in the center of the city. Some participants were from political parties, but one group of youths carried a sign saying they rejected parties. There were also protests in Rio de Janeiro and other cities. (ANSA, Oct. 15)

About 500 Peruvians marked the global day of action with a gathering at the Plaza San Martín in the center of Lima. Slogans on their signs included: “Wake up,” “Raise your voice, demand change,” and “The earth and the water belong to the people, not to the businesses.” The mobilization was “peaceful, apolitical and nonpartisan,” Luis Álvarez, from the Take the Plaza collective, which had called the protest, told Radio Programas del Perú (RPP). (EFE, Oct. 15, via Qué.es, Spain)

In Colombia about 70 indignados and indignadas met at Bogotá’s National Park to call for a regeneration of the democratic and economic system. The group originally planned to march to Plaza de Bolívar, in front of the presidential palace, but participants decided to stay in the park and develop the movement by holding an assembly in which they exchanged opinions on what should be the principles of the “15-O” (Oct. 15) movement. They also made signs expressing themes of the global movement, such as “Real democracy now,” mixed with references to local issues, such as “No to mining.” (EFE, Oct. 15, via El Espectador Bogotá)

Like their Colombian counterparts, the approximately 400 protesters who gathered at the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City on Oct. 15 focused on both local and global issues, from the Mexican government’s “war on drugs” to consumerism and fraudulent banking practices. The group that called for the mobilization, the Permanent Assembly of Mexican Indignados, read a communiqué saying that “the country is hurling itself into the disaster of daily and widespread violence; into unemployment and hunger; into the violation of the most fundamental rights; into the destruction of the social fabric and the loss of human values.” “If those below get moving, those above fall down,” “Less tele and more vision,” and “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep” were among the signs, along with “We’ve had it up to here” (Estamos hasta la madre), a slogan which has dominated Mexican demonstrations for much of this year [see Update #1079].

There were protests in 20 other Mexican cities, including a sit-in at the Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada de Jalapa plaza in the eastern state of Veracruz and at the Explanada de los Héroes in the central plaza of Monterrey in the northern state of Nuevo León. (Observador Global Oct. 15/11; La Jornada (Mexico) Oct. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 16.