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Central America and South America have in general an unhappy history of wars, coups d’etat, assassination squads and military dictatorships for much of the 20th century. Latin American politics have also been crucially influenced by US government policy and US business interests and direct and indirect military and CIA intervention. The best known mode of resistance up to the 1970s has been guerrilla warfare: Castro’s overthrow of Batista in Cuba and the Sandinistas’ overthrow of Somoza in Nicaragua are the two key examples. Nevertheless, there is a long tradition of peasant and worker militancy (land occupations and strikes) which was predominantly nonviolent. From the 1970s the role of unarmed resistance in promoting the overthrow of dictators has become widespread. This resistance has mobilized trade union power, sometimes been supported by the Catholic Church, and been actively promoted by radical Catholics organized in the Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ) in 1974. Archbishop Romero, assassinated by the brutal rightwing regime in El Salvador in 1980 for his strong defence of human rights and the indigenous people, symbolized the role of some Catholic churches in resistance.

Not every country in Central and South America is covered in detail in this section of the bibliography, but omissions, such as El Salvador, are examined in some of the general and comparative studies listed below. Other general sources are: The Bulletin of Latin American Research and Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America with special issues such as ‘Social Justice’ (Spring 1998) and ‘Women in Latin America’ (Winter 1998), reflecting different voices, but giving prominence to Harvard-related research. Various groups in Servicio Paz y Justicia network have websites, some with some English translations.

This section on Latin America includes an updated subsection on the long struggle in Chile against the Pinochet dictatorship and its legacy: 5.c. Movement to Replace the 'Pinochet Constitution; 2019-21

We have not been able to undertake a comprehensive updating of all popular struggles for democracy, or to introduce detailed studies of countries not covered in the printed volume of 2013.  But we draw attention to Honduras, where an impressive civil resistance movement developed to resist the 2009 military coup  (See Frank, The Long Honduran Night, and associated articles by Mann, 'Honduras: The Deep Roots of Resistance' and  by Portillo, 'Honduran Social Movements: Then and Now')   These are listed in detail, under Vol.1. A.4.a. Civil Resistance to Military Coups.)

Many social movements in Latin America have been covered and also updated to 2020-21 in Vol. 2 including resistance to neoliberal economic policies, indigenous and environmental resistance, feminist and LGBT campaigns, specific protest movements in Brazil and Chile and in Black Lives Matter.

Agosin, Marjorie, Surviving Beyond Fear: Women, Children and Human Rights, Fredonia NY, White Pine Press, 1993, pp. 217

Collection of essays and documents, including materials on mothers’ resistance in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Cammack, Paul ; O'Brien, Philip, Generals in Retreat: The Crisis of Military Rule in Latin America, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1985, pp. 208

Papers from International Conference of Americanists in 1982.

Corradi, Juan E. ; Fagen, Patricia Weiss ; Garreton, Manuel Antonio, Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1992, pp. 301

Documents impact of state terror on society in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay from 1950s to 1980s, and the emergence of resistance in various sectors.

Dangl, Benjamin, Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, Oakland CO, AK Press, 2013

Drake, Paul, Labor Movements and Dictatorships: the Southern Cone in Comparative Perspective, Baltimore MD, John Hopkins University Press, 1996, pp. 253

In addition to detailed analysis of Argentine, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, has comparative discussion with European dictatorships – Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

Lernoux, Penny, Cry of the People: The Struggle for Human Rights in Latin America: The Catholic Church in conflict with US Policy, [1980], Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1982, pp. 535

Includes material on Archbishop Romero.

Loveman, Mara, High-Risk Collective Action: Defending Human Rights in Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 104, issue 2, 1998, pp. 477-525

McManus, Philip ; Schlabach, Gerald, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America, Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, 2004, pp. 312

[Individual essays are also cited in sub-sections.]

In the 1980s some groups used the term ‘firmeza permanente’ (in English widely rendered as ‘relentless persistence’) to indicate nonviolence.

Parkman, Patricia, Insurrectionary Civic Strikes in Latin America: 1931-1961, Cambridge MA, Albert Einstein Institution, 1990, pp. 55

See also Parkman, Patricia , Nonviolent Insurrection in El Salvador Tucson, University of Arizona Press, , 1988, pp. 168 .

Perez Esquivel, AdolfoAntoine, Charles, Christ in a Poncho: Testimonies of the Nonviolent Struggle in Latin America, ed. Antoine, Charles, Maryknoll NY, Orbis, 1983, pp. 130

Perez Esquivel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, has been a leading SERPAJ activist in Argentina and in Latin America generally.

Postero, Nancy Grey ; Zamosc, Leon, The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America, Brighton, Sussex Academic Press, 2004, pp. 272

Radcliffe, Sarah ; Westwood, Sallie, Viva: Women and Popular Protest in Latin America, London, Routledge, 1995, pp. 270

Vandon, Henry E. ; Prevost, Gary, The Politics of Latin America: The Power Game, [2002], New York, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 116

Zibechi, Raul, Territories in Resistance, Oakland CA, AK Press, 2012, pp. 280

Uruguayan social analyst highlights the potential of autonomous community-based movements, while warning that they face not just repression or NGO-isation, but their liberatory project is in danger from left governments – ‘the most effective agent at disarming the anti-systemic nature of the social movement’.

Argentinian politics has, until recently, been marked by frequent military coups d’etat. But from 1946-1955 an elected government led by General Peron and his flamboyant wife, Evita, established a distinctive style of populism and a Peronist party. Peron returned to power in 1974, and after his death his new wife, Isabella, governed until 1976, when a combination of economic chaos and political violence by both the extreme left and the extreme right prompted another military coup. This new military government set out to impose order through a ferocious ‘Dirty War’, detaining, torturing and murdering thousands of supposed leftists, including many students. Up to 30,000 people ‘disappeared’. In this atmosphere of terror some of the mothers of the disappeared began to demonstrate publicly in 1977, and continued to do so until the junta collapsed after losing the 1981 Falklands War. Then the mothers campaigned to bring guilty members of the military regime to justice, and to find their grandchildren born in prison, who had been given to military families. ‘Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo’ inspired the creation of other human rights groups in Argentina and linked with parallel groups in other countries.

This experience of military rule has created determination among many Argentinians never to suffer such oppression again: in 1986 over a million people took to the streets when groups in the military seized barracks and appeared to threaten the government.

Nouzeilles, Gabriele ; Montaldo, Graciela, The Argentine Reader, Durham NC, Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 600

For background on Argentina’s politics.

Arditti, Rita, Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared children of Argentina, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1999, pp. 251

Barros, Mercedes, Human Rights Movement and Discourse: Its Emergence and Constitution in Argentina, with prologue by Ernesto Laclau, Villa Maria, Eduvim, 2012, pp. 282

Bosco, Fernando, The Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Three Decades of Human Rights Activism: Embeddedness, Emotions and Social Movements, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 96, issue 2, 2006, pp. 342-365

Bouvard, Marguerite Guzman, Revolutionizing Motherhood: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Wilmington Delaware, Scholarly Resources Inc., 1994, pp. 278

Brysk, Alison, The Politics of Human Rights in Argentina: Protest, Change, and Democratization, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 1994, pp. 308

See also the recent discussion between Amy Risley and Brysk, pp. 83-113, in Goodwin; Jasper, Contention in Context: Political Opportunities and the Emergence of Protest (A. 6. Nonviolent Action and Social Movements) .

Fisher, Jo, Mothers of the Disappeared, London, Zed Books, 1989, pp. 168

Graham-Yool, Andrew, A State of Fear: Memories of Argentina’s Nightmare, London, Eland, 1986, pp. 180

As a journalist in Argentina the author tried to compile a day-to-day chronicle of violence and repression – he was forced into exile in 1976.

Mellibovsky, Matilde, Circle of Love over Death: Testimonies of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Willimantic CT, Curbstone Press, 1997, pp. 249

By one of the founding Madres.

Ramos, Monica Peralta ; Waisman, Carlos Horacio, From Military Rule to Liberal Democracy in Argentina, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1987, pp. 196

Chapter by Juan E. Corradi on ‘The Culture of Fear in Civil Society’, pp. 113-129.

Simpson, John ; Bennett, Jana, The Disappeared and the Mothers of the Plaza, New York, St. Martins Press, 1985, pp. 416

The breakdown of the Argentine economy at the end of 2001 prompted a surge of public anger among all sections of the population against the government’s previous policy of selling off public services to multinationals and cutting social services. There were mass demonstrations, repeated a year later and targeting the stock exchange and other financial institutions, and the ‘piqueteros’, jobless workers who threw up road blocks, dramatised the general suffering. But the most remarkable aspect of the popular response was the formation of street-level assemblies that organised the local economy and exchange of goods and services, taking over abandoned property, running communal kitchens, health and education centres and cultural activities. Jobless workers took over and ran around 200 empty factories, in some of which worker control has lasted beyond the return to electoral politics in 2003. Although the Argentinian rebellion and resistance to IMF demands can be seen as part of the world-wide anti-globalisation movement of that period, it was in essence a national response.

Ayuero, Javier, The Moral Politics of Argentine Crowds, Mobilization, Vol. 9, issue 3, 2004, pp. 311-326

Presents two episodes in the 1990s as ‘founding events’ in the later cycle of protest.

Dinerstein, Ana Cecilia, “Que se vayan todos!” Popular Insurrection and the Asambleas Barriales in Argentina, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 22, issue 2, 2003, pp. 187-200

See also Dinerstein, Ana Cecilia, Workers’ factory takeovers and new state policies in Argentina: towards an “institutionalisation” of non-governmental public action? Policy & Politics, 2007, pp. 529-550 .

Klein, Naomi, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate, London, Harper/Collins and Flamingo, 2002, pp. 304

See ‘IMF: Go To Hell. The People of Argentina have tried the IMF Approach; Now they want to govern the country’, pp. 51-55.

Lopez Levy, Marcela, We Are Millions: Neo-Liberalism and New Forms of Political Action in Argentina, London, Latin America Bureau, 2004, pp. 142

Sitrin, Marina, Everyday Revolutions: horizontalism and autonomy in Argentina, London, Zed Books, 2012, pp. 272

Sitrin, Marina ; Nowhere, Notes from, The Power of the Piqueteros: Argentina’s movement of unemployed workers, In Notes from Nowhere, We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism London, Verso, , 2004, pp. 472-481

After a revolution in 1952, the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement introduced nationalization of the tin mines, agrarian reform and a universal franchise. A military coup in 1964 led to the regime of General Barrientos, which after a confrontation with the miners, dismantled worker power, whilst cultivating the peasantry. Guerrilla resistance (which Che Guevara tried to foster) developed during the 1960s. Manifestations of mass discontent in 1971 led to planned destabilization by the right, the overthrow of the leftist government of General Torres (1970-71) and the imposition of the rightwing Banzer dictatorship from 1971 to 1978. Banzer consolidated support by granting extensive rights to large landowners.

Popular resistance to the Banzer government, led by the tin miners, emerged in the later 1970s; the resulting repression prompted the creation of a Human Rights Assembly. Four women initiated a 23-day hunger strike from December 1977 to January 1978, which had Catholic church support and eventually involved nearly 1,400 people including well known figures. This led to the release of most political prisoners and recognition of trade unions. It was also the signal for renewed political organization. Responding to pressure from below and from the Carter Administration in the USA, Banzer held elections. Political polarization between left and right resulted, however, in frequent elections and a series of coups, including a two year military dictatorship deploying death squads. The coups met with strong initial popular resistance, and by November 1981 renewed worker strikes and occupations created a movement that included a renewed mass hunger strike, and continued strikes and student protests during 1982, In October the military were forced to step down in favour of a leftist coalition elected in 1980.

Boots, Wilson T., Miracle in Bolivia: Four women confront a nation, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 48-62

On 1977-78 hunger strike.

Crabtree, John ; Whitehead, Laurence, Towards Democratic Viability: The Bolivian Experience, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2001, pp. 356

Dunkerley, James, Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952-82, London, Verso, 1984, pp. 385

Notes that 1952 revolution is not well covered in the literature (even in Spanish). Charts changing economic and political context, giving weight to the role of the militant working class in the mines, but also notes role of Catholic Church on human rights (pp. 128-31).

Lora, Guillermo, A History of the Bolivian Labour Movement, 1848-1971, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977, pp. 380

Malloy, James M. ; Gamarra, Eduardo, Revolution and Reaction: Bolivia 1964-1985, Oxford, Transaction Books, 1988, pp. 244

Nash, June, We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines, New York, Columbia University Press, 1979, pp. 363

Includes material on strikes, demonstrations, hunger strikes and road blocks.

Zunes, Stephen, The Role of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict in Bolivia’s Transition to Democracy, 1977-82, Paper for biannual meeting of the International Peace Research Association, July 2010, 2010

Whilst there were many significant popular protests against neo-liberal programmes of privatization in Latin America – notably the resistance to the privatization of water in Cochabamba in Bolivia – the first uprising over privatization that overthrew a government is the 2003 rebellion. This movement was sparked by plans for a gas pipeline, but occurred in the context of a President (a former mining magnate) undertaking rapid privatization, and US pressure to stop all growing of coca, which angered the Andean Indian farmers. As a result indigenous farmers, trade unions, students and neighbourhood groups combined embarked on a campaign including a mass hunger strike, blockades and a general strike. A major march on La Paz in October 2003 (during which miners dynamited bridges to prevent use of tanks) resulted in 70 deaths and 200 wounded, leading some ministers to resign from the coalition government in protest, and to bring it down, Two years later Evo Morales, the first indigenous President, was elected.

Beltran, Elizabeth Peredo, Water, Privatization and Conflict: Women from the Cochabamba Valley, Global Issues Papers, no 4, April, Berlin, Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2004, pp. 48

Crabtree, John, Patterns of Protest: Politics and Social Movements in Bolivia, London, Latin America Bureau, 2003, pp. 117

Covers other protests over land, water and coca, but the final chapter ‘El Alto and the Gas Wars’ describes and analyses 2003, including brief discussion of women’s organizations and the role of radio.

Crabtree, John ; Chaplin, Ann, A New Bolivia? Change, Resistance Protest from the Bottom Up, London, Zed Books, 2013, pp. 192

Dangl, Benjamin, The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia, Oakland CA, AK Press, 2007, pp. 240

Dangl is an editor of and

Kohl, Benjamin ; Farthing, Linda, Impasse in Bolivia. Neoliberal hegemony and popular resistance, London, Zed Books, 2006, pp. 224

Postero, Nancy Grey, Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 2006, pp. 340

Shultz, Jim ; Draper, Melissa Crane, Dignity and Defiance: Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 2009, pp. 352

Zibechi, Raul, Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces, Oakland CA, AK Press, 2010, pp. 163

The state, argues Zibechi, ‘is not the appropriate tool for creating new social relations’, and therefore Morales’ presidency represents a challenge to popular emancipation. Instead, he looks for inspiration to the social struggles in Bolivia and the forms of community power instituted by the Aymara people, especially in El Alto.

The military, who had been exerting increasing pressure on the government of Brazil, demanded in 1954 the resignation of the popular President Getulo Vargas, who committed suicide. By the early 1960s there was growing popular unrest, which President Joao Goulart tried to mobilize against the military. The armed forces responded with a coup in 1964, and military rule continued until 1985.

Comparative politics and democratization theorists have often classified Brazil’s path back to electoral democracy as a ‘negotiated transition’, but despite often brutal repression, including torture, there was a good deal of resistance to military rule in which students, workers and Catholic Church groups all played a significant role. The workers’ struggle for basic economic rights often became intertwined with the struggle against dictatorship (since the military backed the employers by targeting labour leaders), and the strength of Brazil’s labour unions has been an important factor in politics.

For Brazil’s impressive movement of land occupations, Movimento Sem Terra see F.I. of the original bibliography, People Power and Protest since 1945, and Volume II of this Guide.

Antoine, Charles, Church and Power in Brazil, London, Sheed and Ward, 1975, pp. 275

Camara, Helder, Spiral of Violence, London, Sheed and Ward, 1971, pp. 83

Statement of case for nonviolent, as opposed to violent, resistance by Archbishop known for his support for the poor and opposition to racism and militarism.

de Carvalho, Jesus Mario, Firmeza Permanente: Labor holds the line Brazil, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 33-47

Account by labour activist of protracted struggle from 1962 in PETRUS cement factory in Sao Paolo against strikebreaking, police repression and an employer-created ‘union’.

Erikson, Kenneth P., The Brazilian Corrporate State and Working Class Politics, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1977, pp. 225

Moreira Alvez, Maria Helena, State and Opposition in Military Brazil, Austin TX, University of Texas Press, 1985, pp. 352

Stepan, Alfred, Democratizing Brazil, New York, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 404

Includes chapters on local social movements, and on the role of strikes in promoting popular unrest and encouraging move to elections.

See also:

Juan E. Corradi; Patricia Weiss Fagen; Manuel Antonio Garreton, Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies)

Chile had, unlike many of its neighbours, an enviable record of civilian government. But the popular election of the Marxist President Salvador Allende in 1970 polarized the country. Whilst some left wing groups agitated for more rapid moves towards socialism, right wing parties, much of the middle class mobilized to oppose moves towards nationalization. Although unrest was promoted by the military and rich elite, and many on the left argue that the USA used economic pressure to destabilize the regime, the lorry drivers’ strikes of 1972 and 1973, supported by significant sections of the population, did reflect popular opposition and the protesters used some tactics also adopted by resisters to military regimes. But the military then intervened directly and brutally to overthrow Allende in a coup, attacking the presidential palace, and initiating a massacre of known leftists and supporters of Allende. US (CIA) involvement in the coup has been well documented.

Alexander, Robert I., The Tragedy of Chile, Westport CT, Greenwood Press, 1978, pp. 509

Bitar, Sergio, Chile, Experiment in Democracy, Philadelphia PA, Philadelphia Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1986, pp. 243

By former member of Allende’s cabinet.

Davis, Nathaniel, The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende, London, I.B. Taurus, 1985, pp. 480

Account of evolving crisis by former US ambassador to Chile.

Petras, James ; Morley, Morris A., How Allende Fell: A Study in US-Chilean Relations, Nottingham, Spokesman Books, 1974, pp. 125

After Allende was overthrown, General Pinochet headed a ruthless military regime which began with the murder of many leftists and drove many thousands more into exile. After 1973, there was no large-scale public protest, until 1983 when a series of protest days involving stay-at-homes and pot-banging attracted mass participation. In the face of repression and internal division, that wave of protest could not be sustained, but in 1986 opposition forces regrouped, and in 1988, when Pinochet announced a plebiscite designed to legitimize his presidency for a further eight years, they had enough backing to oblige Pinochet to permit parties to have TV spots in the campaign and to have their own monitors at the count in addition to international observers. Divisions in the military junta and the withdrawal of US support from the dictatorship constrained Pinochet to accept the result and ultimately to step down in March 1990.

The principal accounts focusing on the role of nonviolent action in the defeat of Pinochet (Ackerman & DuVall, Huneeus, and Nepstad) naturally make little mention of the variety of sub-cultural forms that nourished a spirit of resistance, such as women forming groups to sew arpilleras (tapestries out of scraps of material), or the relatively behind-the-scenes work of Serpaj-Chile, in particular with Movement against Torture Sebastian Acevedo. There is little in English on Serpaj-Chile or the Acevedo movement, but there is a valuable resource for readers of Spanish – Vidal, Hernán , El Movimiento Contra la Tortura ‘Sebastián Acevedo’ [1986] Minneapolis, Institute for the Study of Ideologies and Literature, , 2002, pp. 568 .

Adams, Jacqueline, Surviving Dictatorship: A Work of Visual Sociology, New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 302

Combines extracts from interviews with photos to present varied phenomena of everyday resistance – ‘incidental’ (a by-product of being in a group), ‘reluctant’ (under group pressure) and ‘solidarity’ (helping others) – specifically of women who joined arpillera groups in Pinochet’s Chile. A web page with related resources for students and teachers is

Agosin, Marjorie, Notes on the Poetics of the Acevedo Movement against Torture, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 10, issue 3, 1988, pp. 338-343

Agosin, Marjorie, Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile 1974-1994, [1996], Lanham MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007, pp. 240

Aman, Kenneth ; Parker, Christian, Popular Culture in Chile: Resistance and Survival, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1991, pp. 225

Especially Isabel Donoso, ‘Human Rights and Popular Organizations’, pp. 189-200.

Arriagada, Genaro, Pinochet: The Politics of Power, Boston, Unwin Hyman, 1988, pp. 196

Opposition leader, active in the 1983 jornadas de protesta, and also in No campaign of 1988. Chapter 7 discusses the protests between 1983 and 1986.

Bacic, Roberta, Stitching together nonviolence and Movement Against Torture, Sebastian Acevedo, Nuremberg, Nürnberger Menschenrechtszentrum, 2012

See also: Rainer Huhle, ‘The dictatorship is a colossus on fragile feet”’: Remembering the movement against torture Sebastian Acevedo in Chile’; and Christopher Ney, ‘The solidarity of God’ – three presentations at the Nuremberg Menschenrechtszentum, July 2012.

Memoirs of the bold nonviolent actions taken from 1983 onwards by the Movement Against Torture Sebastian Acevedo. For other items by Bacic on this movement, see:, and’s-dictatorship-through-non-violence.

Bunster, Ximena, The mobilization and demobilization of women in militarized Chile, In Isaksson, Eva , Women and the Military System Brighton, Harvester Wheatsheaf, , 1988, pp. 210-222

Discusses how Pinochet regime mobilized women to support it, but also role of women in spearheading resistance in 1979 and their role in 1986.

See also Bunster, Ximena , Surviving beyond Fear: Women and Torture in Latin America In Agosin, Surviving Beyond Fear: Women, Children and Human Rights (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies)Fredonia NY, White Pine Press, 1993, pp. 98-125 .

Cavanaugh, William T., Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 1998, pp. 304

Takes Chile as case study of Christian response to torture. The Catholic Church’s Vicaria de la Solidaridad (pp. 264-7) was the major human rights monitoring body in the country, while the more ecumenical Sebastian Acevedo Movement against Torture (pp. 273-7) organized lightning protests to hightlight places or institutions implicated in torture.

Chavkin, Samuel, Storm Over Chile: The Junta Under Seige, Westport CT, Lawrence Hill, 1985, pp. 303

Chapter 9 focuses on protests of 1983-84.

Constable, Pamela ; Valenzuela, Arturo, A Nations of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet, New York, W.W. Norton, 1991, pp. 368

Drake, Paul ; Jaksic, Ivan, The Struggle for Democracy in Chile, 1982-1990, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1991, pp. 321

Ensalaco, Mark, Chile Under Pinochet: Recovering the Truth, Philadelphia PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, pp. 296

Fleet, Michael ; Smith, Brian H., The Catholic Church and Democracy in Chile and Peru, [1997], Notre Dame IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000, pp. 379

Lowden, Pamela, Moral Opposition to Authoritarian Rule in Chile, 1973-1990, New York, St. Martins Press, 1996, pp. 216

Primarily a detailed history of the Vicaria de la Solidaridad and the changing context of its work.

Parissi, Rosa, Sebastian Acevedo Movement Against Torture: A Project for the Dignity of Life, In Tyndale, Wendy R., Visions of Development: Faith-based Initiatives Farnham, Ashgate, , 2006, pp. 137-144

References to the Sebastian Acevedo Movement also occur in Agger, Inger ; Jensen, Søren Buus, Trauma and Healing Under State Terrorism London, Zed Books, , 1996, pp. 246 , who see it as ‘an expression both of psychological counter-strategies at the private and political level and of healing strategies at the societal level’ (p. 184) but do not describe its methodology. Lloyd, Vincent W., The Problem with Grace: Reconfiguring Political Theology Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, , 2011, pp. 256 , pp. 109-11, discusses its liturgical aspects in comparison with contemporary Critical Mass bicycle rides.

Valenzuela, Samuel J. ; Valenzuela, Arturo, Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Opposition, Baltimore MD, John Hopkins University Press, 1986, pp. 331

Yanes Berrios, Blanca ; Lopez, Omar Williams, Cultural action for liberation in Chile, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 117-135

Discusses role of SERPAJ in struggle for survival by poor, including community organization and ingenious protests against hunger and unemployment, e.g. blocking supermarket checkouts with trolleys.

See also:

Juan E. Corradi; Patricia Weiss Fagen; Manuel Antonio Garreton, Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), especially Hugo Fruhiling, ‘Resistance to Fear in Chile: the Experience of the Vicaria de la Solidaridad’, pp 121-141, and Javier Martinez, ‘Fear of the State, Fear of Society: On the Opposition Protests in Chile’, pp. 143-162, who stresses the importance of the ‘non-heroic’ character of the 1983 protests

The mass protests that erupted across Chile in October 2019, triggered by high school students refusing to pay higher fares on the Santiago metro, evolved into the most extensive and important mass mobilization since the overthrow of the Pinochet dictatorship. The movement surprised outside observers as Chile had seemed to be (especially within a Latin American context) a stable parliamentary democracy as well as economically prosperous.  The last major waves of protest had occurred in 2006 and 2011, when high school and later university students rebelled (with major popular support) against privatization and high fees, demanding free high quality education for all. [These student protests are covered in Vol. 2. H. 'Protests Against Government', H.1.a. Chile 2011-12].

Nevertheless, as the protesters themselves, as well as journalists and commentators, soon made clear, the revival of parliamentary democracy had not swept away all of Pinochet's legacy, or the continuing impact of key parts of his 1980 Constitution.  At a political level the constitution still vested considerable powers in the presidency and also promoted the centralization of control in Santiago. But the most immediate cause of the protests was Pinochet's social and economic legacy: the neo-liberal ideology enshrined within the constitution, which deliberately minimized the role of the state in favour of freedom for business.  For example, an earlier attempt to strengthen the Consumer Protection Agency by allowing companies to be fined was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Protection Tribunal. The protesters therefore rejected a system in which national prosperity overwhelmingly favoured the rich. 

The coalition of social groups that joined in the protests included students, workers, women, the poor and indigenous peoples, as well as ideological leftists and feminists. Issues raised early during the demonstrations included high transport costs, the lack of proper old age pensions, and inadequate health care: the privatization of education, pension provision and health care was written into the Pinochet constitution. The protests were predominantly peaceful marches and rallies, though a minority engaged in serious rioting which was often highlighted by the media. The extreme violence used by the police, which led to at least 30 deaths and hundreds of injuries after the first month of protests, created a new source of anger.

The demonstrators also opposed many aspects of the political system: not only the ruling Conservative government, but the behaviour of many other political parties, which had led to growing political corruption since 2000. Scandals included business interests influencing policy through large donations to parties. Civil society bodies, including unions, with support from some political parties, sought to coordinate diverse demands into a unified policy. The result was pressure for a referendum to authorize the creation  of a new constitution. This procedural approach, which the government decided it would be prudent to accept, was referred to the parliament, which formally agreed on 15 November 2019 to hold a referendum in April 2020 on whether to change the constitution. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic subsequently delayed the referendum to October 2020. Protests continued into 2020, a period of rising human rights violations in the country, culminating in a mass demonstration on the anniversary of the first major October protest in 2019.

The results of the referendum of 25 October were dramatic and led to widespread jubilation. The turnout for the referendum was 50.9 per cent (higher than for the recent presidential election) and 78.3 per cent voted in favour of a new constitution. Voters also had to choose between two kinds of constitutional assembly: one which was made up of directly elected representatives, and one which had a bloc of parliamentarians to balance those elected. They opted for a fully elected assembly. It had already been agreed that half of the assembly would be women.

The next stage in the process of constitutional change was the election of representatives to the constitutional assembly in April 2021, which took place at the same time as local elections and elections for regional governors. The turnout for the vote was low -  just over 41 per cent of the electorate - but the outcome offered the possibility of significant change. The ideological leanings of those elected from political parties was well to the left, with most voters rejecting not only the usually well-supported conservative coalition (who gained just 24% of the vote), but also the centre left parties that had played a major role in post-Pinochet politics. They won less support than the alliance between the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio (set up by the 2011 student leaders) who jointly won 18 per cent of the vote.  The largest group were the independents. A number of community leaders and activists were elected, as well as academics from varying disciplines and constitutional experts.  Electoral adjustments were made to ensure the 50 per cent representation of women.

The constitutional assembly, composed of 155 members (138 elected and 17 representing different indigenous groups) had to agree on a draft constitution in 2022.  For the new constitution to be valid it required the backing of two thirds of the delegates. Commentators suggested the 50 per cent representation of women and the role of indigenous groups should results in more legally protected rights for women and greater security for indigenous rights to their land and cultural inheritance.  Others hoped for a move towards securing social and economic rights and a fairer society. The need for a two-thirds majority imposed pressure to compromise but might also allow groups to make support for their own priorities a prerequisite of a final agreement. The strength and duration of the popular mobilization in 2019-20 raised fears of serious violence or a possible military coup, but the election of a constitutional assembly appeared to have created a peaceful and legal pathway to political change.

We Will Make a New Chile: Interview with Isidora Cepeda Beccar, Jacobin Magazine, 2019

An interview with a political activist in Santiago in the context of 'the largest demonstrations in Chile since the return of democracy', which had developed into demands for a new constitution and comprehensive political reform.  Beccar argues that the post-Pinochet reforms had primarily benefited a small elite.  

Bartlett, John, Chile's Protesters Have Won a Path to a New Constitution, 15//11/2019,

Bartlett briefly traces the evolution of the movement. from high school students protesting about metro fare increases to major demonstrations in Santiago and across the country voicing numerous demands. The article analyzes both the socio-economic problems creating anger, and the neo-liberal nature of the Pinochet constitution, designed to maximize the role of private businesses and minimize the social and economic role of the state. It also notes the role of civil society groups in promoting public debate and crystalizing demands for a new constitution.

Castello, Nicolas, 'Social Upheaval in Chile: No One Saw It Coming? , Latin American Policy, Vol. 11, issue 1, 2020, pp. 154-164

Castello outlines the evolution of the movement that erupted on October 18, 2019 (ending the period of political calm in the country) and the government responses to try to deal with it. 

Cruz, Melany, Today is Chile's Chance to Bury Pinochet's Legacy, Tribune, 2020

This article appeared on the day of the 2020 referendum on whether there should be a new constitution, and if so how it should be drawn up.  Cruz explains that voters can choose between two kinds of convention, one based solely on members elected by voters (the option generally favoured by the left), and the other composed half of elected members and half of parliamentarians (many of whom did not want a new constitution). an option seen as favouring the right wing government of Sebastian Pinera. The article then looks back at Chilean politics since the fall of Pinochet.

Gonzales, Ricardo ; Moran, Carmen Le Foulon, The 2019-2020 Chilean Protests. A New Look at the Causes and Protesters, International Journal of Sociology, Vol. 50, issue 3, 2020, pp. 227-235

The authors stress that it is too early to provide either a comprehensive or definitive account of the unfolding  protest movement. Their aim is to cover the main events, to outline the immediate background to the protests, and to draw on current research and surveys to indicate some explanations.

Luna, Juan-Pablo, Chile's Fractured Democratic Consensus, In in Thomas Carothers and Andreas Feldman, eds., Divisive Politics and Democratic Dangers in Latin America,

An informed political assessment of the problems of Chile's political system, and the social and political divisions revealed by the 2019 protests and  exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Luna, a professor of politics, concludes with some brief suggestions on how international actors could contribute positively to the political debate by promoting moderate reforms.  

Piscopo, Jennifer ; Slavelis, Peter M., Chile's Constitutional Moment, Current History, Vol. 120, issue 823, 2021, pp. 43-49

The authors comment on the significance of the nearly 80 per cent support in the October 2020 referendum for a new constitution, to be decided upon by a special assembly. They also note the scale of the year-long movement which had achieved this concession by the conservative government, and the diversity of those demanding greater social and economic equality and political change.  The article then focuses on the problems of both satisfying the diverse socio-economic and ideological groups involved in the struggle and of changing the institutional context that maintained the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship. 

Sehnbruch, Kirsten, Chile's Steps Towards True Democracy are a Beacon for the World, Guardian Weekly, 06/11/2020, pp. 17-17

An assessment of the significance, 'after one year of almost continuous protest', of the referendum vote in October 2020 to draft a new constitution.   The article examines the context in Chile and also in Latin America.

See also: Sehnbruch, Kirsten and Peter M. Slavelis, eds., Democratic Chile: The Politics and Policies of a Historic Coalition, 1990-2010, Lynne Rienner, 2013, pp.375 for an analysis of the first 20 years after Pinochet under a centre-left coalition government, and the achievements and failures of this coalition.                                                    

Van, Lier ; Anselm, Felix, Chile's Constitutional Moment in the Making, OpenDemocracy, 25/11/2019,

The article starts by posing the question how protest over a subway fare increase in  a seemingly stable and prosperous country turned rapidly into a constitutional revolution, which in 28 days led to political agreement on a referendum on a new constitution. It then proceeds to suggests answers.

Vessel, Linda, Meet the Scientists Who Want to Help Write Chile's New Constitution, Science, 13/05/2021,

Reports on 18 scientists and researchers standing for election to the new constitutional assembly tasked with creating a new constitution. The scientists are concerned to promote the role of research, but also to use their expertise on such is sues as public health, resource management and climate change.

Colombia has been plagued with armed violence for decades, involving state forces, paramilitary groups usually aligned with the state, right-wing urban militia, narcotraffickers, and various guerrilla groups which were originally leftist but increasingly resorted to forced recruitment, extortion, and kidnapping (although in 2012 the largest guerrilla group – FARC – announced it would end kidnapping civilians for ransom). With the decline in importance of Colombia’s role in coca production and trafficking, the country’s high homicide rate has also declined in recent years, but politically-motivated killings continue: Amnesty International reporting that ‘in 2012, at least 40 human rights defenders and community leaders and 20 trade union members were killed’, mostly by state security forces or paramilitary groups acting in collusion with them.

The most reliable estimates for displaced Colombians indicate that some 10% of the population have been displaced, either directly by armed violence or by ‘development-induced displacement’, that is making way for extractive industries or monoculture (such as African palm or bananas).

Rejection of armed violence in Colombia is often referred to as ‘resistencia civil’, and has become a strategy for peace involving indigenous peoples, AfroColombians, municipalities, women’s groups, and ‘peace communities’ founded by displaced people since 1997. Such groups generally take a stance based on a popular commitment to nonviolence and on non-cooperation with all the ‘armed actors’, state, paramilitary or guerrilla, and continue to face harassment – often lethal – from these various forces.

Peace News, no. 2449 (Dec 2002- Feb 2003), had a special section on Colombia, covering peace communities, indigenous and women’s campaigns and work of the Peace Brigades International, and Revista, (Spring 2003) was titled ‘Colombia: Beyond Armed Actors: A Look at Civil Society’.

Peace Brigades International (PBI) has had teams in Colombia since 1994. Its bilingual web page – – is a reliable source of information, reporting the opinions not of its teams but of the people they accompany, and periodically PBI-Colombia produces special reports, such as ‘Civilian Peace Initiatives in Colombia’, ColomPBIa (PBI-Colombia Newsletter no. 19, November 2012), pp. 16.

Alther, Gretchen ; Lindsay-Poland, John ; Weintraub, Sarah, Building from the Inside Out: Peace Initiatives in War-Torn Colombia, Philadelphia PA, American Friends Service Committee and Fellowship of Reconciliation USA, 2006, pp. 36

Bouvier, Virginia M., Harbingers of Hope: Peace Initiatives in Colombia, Special Report 169, August 2006, Washington DC, US Institute of Peace, 2006, pp. 20

Bowen, Ceri ; García-Durán, Mauricio, Living And Resisting In The Shadow Of The Colombian Conflict: Forcibly Displaced People Seen Through A Family Therapy Lens, Peace, Conflict and Development, issue 5 (July), 2004, pp. -16

García-Durán, Mauricio, Alternatives to War: Colombia’s Peace Processes, Sepcial issue: Accord: the Journal of Conflict Resources, no. 14, London, Conciliation Resources, 2004

Rojas, Catalina, Islands in the Stream: A Comparative analysis of Zones of Peace within Colombia’s Civil War, In Hancock, Landon E.; Mitchell, Christopher , Zones of Peace Bloomfield CT, Kumarian, , 2007, pp. 71-89

Sanford, Victoria, Peacebuilding in a War Zone; The Case of Colombia Peace Communities, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 10, issue 2, 1999, pp. 107-108

As in other Latin American countries, there was growing resistance in Ecuador in the 1990s and early 2000s to neo-liberal ‘structural adjustment’ programmes and to privatization – a threat to privatize communal lands led to road blocks across the country in 1994, and there was a popular rebellion (with support from sections of the armed forces) in 2000, with occupation of government buildings and popular assemblies, but it was co-opted by sections of the military. In 2005 a political revolt, the Rebellion of the Forajidos (outlaws), brought to an end the presidency of Lucio Gutierrez, who had reneged on electoral promises over privatization and was blatantly corrupt. The nonviolent revolt was triggered by the Supreme Court decision to drop charges against former President Abdala Bucaram, so permitting Bucaram’s return to Ecuador.

Becker, Marc, Ecuador: Indigenous Struggles and the Ambiguities of Electoral Power, In Webber, Jeffery R.; Carr, Barry , The New Latin American Left: Cracks in the Empire London, Pluto Press, , 2013, pp. 213-232

Burbach, Roger, Ecuador: The Popular Rebellion against the “Partidocracia” and the Neo-Liberal State, Global Alternatives, Berkeley CA, Center for the Study of the Americas, 2007

Gerlach, Allen, Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador, Willimantic CT, Scholarly Resources Inc., 2003, pp. 286

Leiter, Benjamin, The Rebellion of the Forajidos: The Movement to Overthrow President Lucio Gutierrez, Nonviolent Social Change, issue 34, 2007, pp. -9

Sawyer, Suzana, Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil and Neoliberalism in Ecuador, Durham NC, Duke University Press, 2004, pp. 312

The population enjoyed 10 years of democratic rule from the civil resistance of 1944 to the CIA-backed overthrow of President Arbenz in 1954. After the coup human rights and popular protest came under savage attack. The repression was highlighted by the 1992 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Rigoberta Menchu, the indigenous woman involved in the struggles of the Peasant Union against the genocidal policies towards the indigenous Mayan people.

There was prolonged guerrilla warfare from 1962 to 1996, in which several different groups took part, and the US backed the right wing commanders of the armed forces. This bitter conflict resulted in over 200,000 deaths. It is estimated that 93 per cent of the atrocities committed were by the security forces. Since 1996 there have been multi-party elections, but the military remain powerful.

Brockett, Charles D., Political Movements and Violence in Central America, Cambridge MA, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 404

Analyses the confrontation between popular movements – urban and rural – and repressive regimes, especially in Guatemala and El Salvador, in particular discussing the ‘repression-protest paradox’.

Ecumenical Program on Central America (EPICA), ; Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CHRLA), Out of the Shadows: The Communities of Population in Resistance in Guatemala, Washington DC, EPICA and CHRLA, 1993

Levenson-Estrada, Deborah, Trade Unionists against Terror: Guatemala City, 1954–1985, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1994, pp. 288

Includes account of 1984 workers’ occupation of Coca-Cola factory.

May, Rachel A., ”Surviving All Changes is Your Destiny”: Violence and Popular Movements in Guatemala, Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 26, issue 2, 1999, pp. 68-91

Examines the impact of violence on popular movements and how they adapted.

Menchu, Rigoberta, I Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, edited and introduced by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, London, Verso, 1984, pp. 252

North, Liisa I. ; Simmons, Alan B., Journeys of Fear: Refugee Return and National Transformation in Guatemala, Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000, pp. 352

Just as the massive exodus of Guatemalans, mainly indigenous people, in the early 1980s was externally the most visible symptom of the terror that had befallen the country, so their organized return put into focus the need for and hopes of a transformation affecting land, gender, identity, and rights. Also includes Barry Levitt ‘Theorizing Accompaniment’, pp. 237-54.

Stanfield, Pablo, When Spring turns to Winter, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 14-32

Covers earlier post-war period.

See also:

Liam Mahony; Luis Enrique Eguren, Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights, (A. 5. Nonviolent Intervention and Accompaniment), discusses international accompaniment in Guatemala, especially of returning refugees in 1989.

Politics in Mexico was dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which effectively ran a one party state, from its foundation in 1929 (when it was initially called the National Revolutionary Party) until 2000, when the PRI was defeated in the presidential elections. From 1940 the Party moved to the right in policy terms and was often challenged by peasant, worker and student protests. Student demonstrations in the run-up to Mexico hosting the Olympics in 1968 resulted in troops firing on student protesters and bystanders on 2 October, killing several hundred (the numbers are still disputed) and detaining over 1,300 students. Later investigation of government records showed that the security forces had placed snipers in the crowd to justify firing back, and ‘the massacre of Tlateloco’ still resonates – on the 40th anniversary in October 2008 two commemorative marches took place in Mexico City. Much of the international focus on Mexico since the late 1990s has been on the Zapatistas, an indigenous peasant armed movement. They briefly seized the town of San Cristobal in the Chiapas region on 1 January 1994 and declared war on the government and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which endorsed a government policy of undermining the growing of traditional Mayan maize varieties and threatened and threatened them with the total loss of their lands and livelihood. The Zapatistas were rapidly driven back to their local areas, but since then have retained control on the ground, backed by the unarmed local people, gained global publicity and become a symbol for the Global Justice Movement that sprang up in 1999. The Zapatistas organized a peaceful march on Mexico City in 2001. (See Section G of the original bibliography for more references on the Zapatistas.)

Hodges, Donald ; Gandy, Ross, Mexico Under Siege: Popular Resistance to Presidential Despotism, London, Zed Books, 2002, pp. 268

Spans period from 1940 to 2000, examining urban worker protest and railway strikes, new peasant movements, school strikes, student opposition and also the rise of guerrilla struggles, including the Zapatistas.

Poniatowska, Elena, Massacre in Mexico, (translated by Helen R. Lane), New York, Viking, 1976

Shapiro, Yoram, Mexico: The Impact of the 1968 student protest on Echeverria’s reformism, Journal of International Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 19, issue 4 (November), 1977, pp. 557-580

Two separate movements of protest occurred in Mexico in 2006. The first took place in the state of Oaxaca, partly inspired by anger at the fraudulent election of the governor, in which 60% of the electorate abstained. Unrest began in May, when the teachers demanded a pay rise, and over six months became a popular revolt creating its own democratic institutions. The resistance mebraced a wide range of methods, including state-wide strikes and hunger strikes, marches of up to 800,000 people, occupation of government buildings and a peaceful takeover by women of the state TV station for 3 weeks. This was not a strictly nonviolent movement – for example students and local citizens fought the police to maintain their occupation of the university, and barricades were thrown up to defend public spaces. But it was an impressive example of people power. Attempts at violent repression by the government – detention, torture and use of death squads – encouraged mass involvement.

People power to contest rigged elections took place when Lopez Obrador mobilized 500,000 and then one million demonstrators to protest in July 2006 against the dubious victory of Felipe Calderon in the presidential elections and called for a recount. But this failed to force the authorities to review the results. Here the left was protesting against a candidate favoured by Washington. Not all commentators agreed that the electoral process had been seriously flawed.

Denham, Diana, Teaching Rebellion: Stories from tbe Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca, Oakland CA, PM Press, 2008, pp. 381

Compiles testimonies from protest organisers, teachers, unionists, religious leaders, indigenous community activists, housewives and others represented at the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca which emerged from the 2006 movement.

Estrada, Luis ; Poire, Alejandro, Taught to protest, learning to lose, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 18, issue 1, 2007, pp. 73-87

Argues popular protests led by Obrador against election results undermined democratic process.

Giordano, Al, Mexico’s presidential swindle, New Left Review, Vol. II, issue 41 (September/October), 2006, pp. 5-27

Analysis of fraud and manipulation of elections to favour the ruling candidate Felipe Calderon and account of opposition’s response.

Latin American Perspectives, Latin American Perspectives, no 2 (March), Vol. 33, 2006, pp. 144

This issue focuses on Mexican politics, society and economy and provides background to the 2006 protests. Articles include: Rus, Jan and Miguel Tinker Solas, ‘Introduction. Mexico 2006-2007: High stakes, daunting challenges’, pp. 5-15; Gilly, Adolfo, ‘One triangle, two campaigns’, pp. 78-83; Semo, Enrique, ‘What is left of the Mexican Left?’, pp. 84-89.

Ross, John, Mexican Civil Resistance in Five Acts, Counterpunch, 2006

Describes the protests in Mexico City against the presidential election results with focus on nature of the protests. The writer is author of: Ross, John , Zapatistas: Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 Nation Books, , 2006, pp. 354 .

Rubio, Luis ; Davidow, Jeffrey, Mexico’s disputed election, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, issue 5 (September/October), 2006, pp. 75-85

Argues that the July election represented a choice between continuing economic liberalization and a return to the past, but neither provided a solution to Mexico’s problems.

Panama has long been of key interest to the USA because of the Panama Canal, but in the 1970s the US Administration agreed to transfer its direct control over the Canal to the Panama government – the handover occurred in October 1979. At the time Panama was effectively under the military rule of Omar Torrijos who had promised presidential elections in 1984. After Torrijos died in a plane crash in July 1981, power remained with the military, passing to Manuel Noriega. He bribed the Supreme Court judges to rule that Nicolas Barletta had won the 1984 presidential elections and then later forced Barletta to resign when he proposed to investigate the 1985 assassination (indeed brutal decapitation) of regime critic and former health minister, Hugo Spadafora. Since 1984, oppositon groups had begun to cooperate more closely and broaden their base of support, but what triggered public protest in 1987 were the accusations broadcast by the military head of staff – forced into retirement by Noriega – that Noriega was responsible for a bomb causing Torrijos’ plane crash, had stolen the presidential elections, and had ordered the murder of Spadafora.

The US government initially backed Noriega, who had been on the CIA’s payroll since 1967. They had tolerated his money laundering and links with the Medellin drug cartel, but after he refused to offer sanctuary to Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines and when he ceased supporting the Contras’ efforts to bring down the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Washington began to seek better options.

There were mass strikes and demonstrations in Panama in February/March 1988, partly prompted by the economic conditions created by sanctions. The opposition parties (supported by US President George Bush) chose candidates to oppose Noriega in the May 1989 elections, and won a large majority. But Noriega refused to go. Troops fired on mass demonstrations in support of the opposition candidates and a general strike called on 17 May fizzled out. The US gave up hope of internal change and invaded in December 1989.

Arias Calderon, Ricardo, Panama: Disaster or democracy?, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 66, issue Winter 1987/88, 1987, pp. 328-347

The President of the Christian Democratic Party discusses the 1987 National Civic Crusade to coordinate the protest movements and formulate its key demands: for justice, removal of Noriega and democratiization. Explains background to protests, notes the 1,500 arrests and numerous shootings of protesters, and comments on changing attitudes inside the USA.

Buckley, Kevin, Panama: The Whole Story, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1991, pp. 304

Rather sensationalist account by journalist focusing on events from the 1985 coup to the US invasion, but stressing the role of Noriega and the Panama Defence Force. Includes descriptions of popular resistance as well as elite manoeuvres.

Eisenmann, Roberto, The struggle against Noriega, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 1, issue 1 (winter), 1990, pp. 41-46

Editor of La Prensa, Panama’s leading daily, looks at the role of Panama’s people and the organized opposition, in article written before US invasion.

Koster, R.M. ; Sanchez, Guillermo, In the Time of the Tyrants: Panama 1968-1990, New York, W.W. Norton, 1990, pp. 430

The authors, Panamanian journalists, were both forced to leave the country.

Scranton, Margaret E., The Noriega Years: US-Panama Relations 1981-1990, Boulder CO, Lynne Rienner, 1991, pp. 245

Charts the sharp changes in US policy from collaboration with Noriega 1981-87, and the decisions to oust him, 1987-89, and to invade October-December 1989. Also describes evolving internal politics, including elections and popular strikes and demonstrations.

Weeks, John ; Zimbalist, Andrew, The failure of intervention in Panama: Humiliation in the backyard, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 11, issue 1 (January), 1989, pp. 1-27

Explores from leftist perspective failure of Reagan Administration to overthrow Noriega in spring 1988 and reasons why US turned against Noriega. Argues also that the internal opposition led by isolated upper class elite and 1988 protests indicated limits of its effectiveness. The authors accept that the July-August 1987 demonstrations did mobilize workers and peasants, but suggest that they were responding to the arrest of a popular politician and expressing popular resentment of World Bank-directed economic policies, rather than specifically opposing Noriega.

Uruguay had, after the 1904 civil war, a reputation for stability for much of the 20th century. With a predominantly urban and educated population of about 3 million, and a system of ‘co-participation’ between parties in government, it was dubbed the ‘Switzerland’ of Latin America. But the poor were effectively marginalized from the 1950s, and during the 1960s rampant inflation and wage freezes, combined with increasing repression of labour and students, fuelled unrest. The Tupamaros guerrilla movement was also founded in the early 1960s. Against this background, the military seized power in 1973, suppressed all political activity, imposed sweeping controls over the media and imprisoned 7000 suspected political opponents.

However, in 1980 the government lost a referendum on a new constitution to enshrine a single-candidate presidential candidate. Despite the arrest of those campaigning for a ‘no’ vote and propaganda linking a ‘no’ vote to terrorism, 57% (of a turn-out of 87%) voted ‘no’. Under martial law people could not safely celebrate in public, but ‘no’ voters wore yellow (the opposition colour), and followed the suggestion of a private radio station to take part in a ‘smile revolution’.

In 1981 a SERPAJ group was founded to agitate for human rights, and during 1983 public denunciations, fasts and marches (sparked by outrage at the torture and rape of a group of young people) culminated in general strikes in January and June 1984. Elections were held in November 1984.

Arrarte, Edison, Refusal to Participate in Torture, In Pentikainen, Merja , The Right to Refuse Military Orders Geneva, International Peace Bureau, , 1994, pp. 42-45

Arrarte is the most famous of the Uruguayan soldiers who refused to torture, and served a total of 10 years in prison for his conscience. After the dictatorship, he went on to become a general and an active member of Amnesty International.

Finch, Henry, Democratization in Uruguay, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 2, issue 3, 1985, pp. 594-609

Analysis of evolution of opposition from 1983: from saucepan banging, one-day general strikes and 250,000 strong rally on the last Sunday of November 1983 (the traditional day for elections); the electoral politics of 1984 and public sector strike of January-February 1985.

Kaufman, Edy, The Role of the political parties in the redemocratization of Uruguay, In Sosnowski, Saul ; Popkin, Louise B., Repression, Exile and Democracy: Uruguayan Culture Durham NC, Duke University Press, , 1993, pp. 17-58

Includes references to role of ‘truly peaceful resistance’ in 1983.

Sanguinetti, Julio Maria, Present at the Transition, In Diamond, Larry ; Plattner, Marc F., The Global Resurgence of Democracy Baltimore MD, John Hopkins University Press, , 1993, pp. 53-60

Sanguinetti, a lawyer and journalist, was President from 1985-1990 and played a central role in the negotiations at various times between 1980 and 1984 and notes the importance of dialogue, although this is a more broad ranging analysis of forms of transition.

Weinstein, Martin, Uruguay: Democracy at the Cross Road, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1988, pp. 160

For Weinstein’s account of the background to the 1973 coup, see: Weinstein, Martin , Uruguay: The Politics of Failure Westport CT, Greenwood Press, , 1975, pp. 190 .

See also:

Juan E. Corradi; Patricia Weiss Fagen; Manuel Antonio Garreton, Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies)

The Caracas revolt, el Caracazo, in February 1989 has been called the beginning of the world revolt against neoliberal globalization. The popular protest against austerity measures – including raising the prices of public transport – met with indiscriminate violence from the security forces. Three years later, Hugo Chavez came to national prominence as commander of a military coup, which failed before he could call for a popular civilian uprising, and he was imprisoned. However, in 1998. he won the presidential elections as the apparent representative of the social forces that had continued to build up since el Caracazo. On assuming power, he reformed the constitution, declaring Venezuela a ‘Bolivarian republic’, became the object of international controversy, yet won Venezuelan elections, dying in office in 2013.

In April 2002, the right-wing opposition to Chavez saw massive protests at the state petrol company PDSVA and a one-day general strike as an opportunity to destabilise the government and create conditions for a coup d’etat. On 11 April, they made their move, detaining Chavez himself and declaring a new government – which was recognised with indecent haste by the USA and Spain. However, within 47 hours it had fallen – defeated by a mixture of popular protest and the military intervention of the Presidential Guard, loyal to Chavez. The dispute at the PDSVA continued, however, leading to lock-out later in the year and further strikes and protests, egged on by the private media.

Chavez was a controversial populist, who polarized opinion. His anti-US paranoia extended in June 2007 to denouncing Gene Sharp’s influence on student protests, and his publicists have joined in the debate on US ‘democracy assistance’ to accuse ex-Otpor activists and Robert Helvey of using workshops on nonviolent action to promote US interests. (See Section F.)

El Libertario, ‘the journal of autonomous social movements’ in Venezuela, offers English-language commentary on its web page:, including some commenting on the 2002 coup and anti-coup – such as Rafael Uzcategul, ‘Venezuela today; Complexities and outright lies’.

Cannon, Barry, Coup or popular rebellion? The myth of a united Venezuela, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 23, issue 3 (July), 2004, pp. 286-302

Carroll, Rory, Comandante: Inside Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, London, Canongate, 2013, pp. 320

Gott, Richard, Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, London, Verso, 2005, pp. 315

Analysis sympathetic to Chavez, includes a section on the popular uprising following the 2002 coup.

Uzcategui, Rafael, Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, Tucson AZ, See Sharp Press, 2010, pp. 219

A critique of Chavismo from the libertarian left.

Wilpert, Gregory, Changing Venezuela: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government, New York, Verso, 2007, pp. 352

Supportive yet critical account of Chavez’s first term by founder of