The news that Bolivian President Evo Morales is resigning amid an election fraud scandal highlights an unfortunate reality about South America. Even though the continent has made big economic strides in recent years, it’s often still plagued by political and civil unrest.
With more than 425 million people, South American countries are among the world’s largest producers and exporters of beef and soy (Brazil), oil (Venezuela), coffee (Colombia), wine (Argentina and Chile), copper (Chile and Peru) and natural gas (Bolivia).
But South America has also long been known for its political instability and public policy tensions.
In the past century, several South American countries faced coups, military dictatorships and social uprisings. The last few months have shown that the turmoil is hardly a thing of the past.
Wave of demonstrations
In addition to Venezuela, where political and economic crises have resulted in a humanitarian disaster known around the world, there has been recent turbulence elsewhere in South America.
Paraguay has been experiencing massive protests against President Mario Abdo. Paraguayans are angry about an agreement with Brazil on the Itaipu hydroelectric power plant that’s considered detrimental to the smaller country.
With the government at a 69 per cent disapproval rating, the opposition has started an impeachment process against Abdo and his vice-president that’s close to completion. The impeachment comes just seven years after former president Fernand Lugo was himself impeached in 2012 amid land disputes that resulted in 17 deaths.
In Peru, President Martin Vizcarra has dissolved congress in an attempt to force new parliamentary elections. His actions have resulted in several demonstrationsaround the country, including one that blocked access to a copper mine and caused production to cease.
Vizcarra was the vice-president until last year, after former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned due to a possible connection to a bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Another Peruvian president, Alan García, killed himself last April when the police arrived at his home to arrest him for involvement in the same case.
Election results disputed
Bolivia has also been experiencing a massive wave of demonstrations. The opposition did not accept the results of recent elections, which gave the victory to Morales in the first round of voting for his fourth term.
Leading the country since 2006, Morales accepted a ballot audit from the Organization of American States (OAS), which found the results of October’s elections could not be validated because of “serious irregularities.” He announced he was quitting for “the good of the country.”
Since the election, roads were closed across the country and daily riots were routine. Santa Cruz, the richest province in Bolivia, is experiencing an ongoing general strike.
In Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno withdrew a subsidy on fuel, in place since the 1970s, due to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The price of fuel has since skyrocketed, provoking massive protests that paralyzed parts of the country in October.