El Salvador is experiencing an accelerated authoritarian drift at the hands of its eccentric president Nayib Bukele, which has led to widespread demonstrations. Bukele´s image is that of a millennial president, spontaneous, young, and cool. Yet this style goes hand in hand with the persecution of social activists, the removal of the entire Supreme Court and the militarization of society. To learn more about the current situation and ongoing protests, we spoke with activists from Fuerza Solidaria por El Salvador.
The economic crisis and the pandemic tinge the 2021 election campaign in Argentina. 20 years after the events of December 2001 it is worth asking about their imprint, lessons, and projection for the future. Is a cycle coming to an end?
One of the main challenges for understanding the concept of authoritarianism is the many different meanings it has. Already in the 1970s, Brazilian sociologist and political militant Florestan Fernandes analysed the ambiguity of the concept of authoritarianism and its use in political mainstream discourse. He assessed that if we explain authoritarianism only through the liberal lens – as being in opposition to “democracy” -, we ignore the inherent authoritarian tendencies of liberal democracy and its everyday abuse of power. Florestan proposed a different understanding instead.
Raimundo Bonfim, national coordinator of the Centre of People’s Movements (CMP), talks about the current political situation in Brazil and gives perspectives on the struggle against Bolsonaro and the challenges currently posed to the Brazilian left.
Following the collapse of left-wing populist movements in Latin America, neoliberal and authoritarian governments have spread all over the region. Clear examples of this resurgence are Bolsonaro in Brazil, Lenin Moreno in Ecuador, and Mauricio Macri in Argentina, not to mention the authoritarian drift of Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela. This authoritarian turn at the institutional-political level has been accompanied by ideological changes in public and ‘non-public’ opinion: hate speech, anti-egalitarian discourses, authoritarian values, and an individualistic common sense. Of course, these discourses existed in the past too, but their virulence and the new constellations in which they are inscribed represent an ideological novelty in the Latin American political landscape.
The attack on science and knowledge production is known to be one of the main elements of the rise of the authoritarian right in the past decade. As one of the main global expressions of contemporary authoritarianism, Jair Bolsonaro is no exception to that. His government has been an important part of the context of difficulties for the higher education sector in Brazil, especially since research is highly dependent on public universities and funding agencies in the country. On top of that, the COVID pandemic in 2020 created difficulties for universities all around the world. If such a global crisis is expected to generate differentiated pressures across the Global North and South, the impact of authoritarian politics is surely prone to making the situation particularly delicate for universities.
The relationships between the local and the global in the shaping of space comprise a set of fundamental categories of Milton Almeida dos Santos, one of the greatest Brazilian thinkers in the second half of the twentieth century. He was a geographer who produced a critical and totalizing theory that permeates different areas of knowledge, such as philosophy, sociology, and political economy. In this text, I will present some of his main concepts, due to their relevance and accuracy. His notions of space, technique, place, and territory are fundamental for the understanding of contemporary political, social, and economic dynamics in the Global South and North.
In Latin America, the re-neoliberalization of political and economic systems has intensified an ongoing process of de-democratization, strengthening the onslaught by neoconservative religious and secular groups, which have been growing more powerful since around 2013. These two processes—re-neoliberalization and the growth of neoconservatisms—are connected.
More than 6,400 families have been evicted from their homes and another 19,000 remain threatened with eviction in Brazil since March 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak started in the country. In the state of São Paulo, 1,681 evictions were carried out and up to 5,000 families can be evicted from their homes at any one time. This startling data relates to informal settlements—evictions for non-payment of rent are not included—and numbers may be even higher, as this reflects only the cases identified by popular movements and the organizations participating in the “Zero Eviction” campaign.
Even though the current crisis astonished most of us, it also came as no surprise. During the last decade, we have witnessed a densification of what Alex Demirovic calls “crises of denormalization”, i.e. crises that profoundly undermine the hegemonic neoliberal security dispositive. From the financial crisis in 2008–9, through to Europe´s so-called “migrant crisis” (in fact, a momentary collapse of Europe´s inhumane border regime), up to the climate crisis, world capitalism seems ever more prone to destroying its economic, social, and natural basis, and less and less capable of dealing with the consequences.