GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE ENEMY AT HOME

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In 1993 countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations declared their commitment to end violence against women. To this date, UN Women has reported that “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. According to the same office, the percentage goes as high as 70 in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where women and girls suffer from gender-based violence and the place in which a global movement started. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 3,529 femicides were committed in 2018. Governments have taken actions to legislate and create programs to address the issue. However, as with many laws, the problem is a lack of implementation rooted in pre-existing power dynamics: the patriarchal domination of women.

In October of this year, Chilean activists that seek to end gender-based violence came up with a performance (“un violador en tu camino“) that protested against one of the main tools of the existing structure; the song calls to highlight the constant practice of re-victimization. The song and choreography, which have resonated all over the world, voice the demand for States to recognize their complicity with rapists and sexual harassers by claiming that the victim was ‘on the wrong place and provoking their attacker’.

A study conducted by Oxfam shows that many young people in the region still believe that violence against women is justified in ‘domestic’ instances such as marriage. Governments also resort to the strategy of blaming the victims in order to justify their inability to address the issue. As such, the power structure is created and recreated by the same institution that is supposed to protect all the people who live in the State.

The Chilean movement however replicated all over the world given the fact that the same power structure affects women regardless of geographical location. Data shows that 58 percent of the women intentionally killed were murder by partners or family members. Movements like the one started in Chile voice a complaint that seeks to address the underlying structure behind the ‘acceptance’ of violence against certain groups of individuals, i.e. the life of a straight male is more valuable than that of others.

IN DRUGS WE TRUST: THE AMERICAS WAR WITH DRUGS

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In its Global Study on Homicide 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that: “[o]rganized crime kills as many people as all armed conflicts combined”. The American continent had the highest rate of murders for 2017 and has been the same since 1990. UNODC has found that Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela have the highest homicide rates. Can this trend be stopped by the legalization of drugs?

Whether it may help reduce violence is still to be known. Another aspect of it does require further attention; it may help States prevent health deterioration of their citizens. Mainly, legalization could represent access to better quality and information on drugs. Yet, the debate is in no way a straightforward solution.

The motivations of organized crime, especially regarding transnational operations, has been a subject matter of policymakers, academics, and international organizations. Often criminal groups are considered to be ‘rational actors’ that seek to maximize profit. The drug trade is one of the most common methods of revenue associated with organized crime. Both academics and United Nations officials have suggested that legalizing drugs would greatly diminish funding for criminal groups.

Currently, Uruguay is the only Latin American country that allows for the legal use of cannabis and has been since 2013. Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru allow for its use within medical treatments. The debate is particularly relevant in Mexico due to the proximity to one of the largest markets: the United States.

According to research, the legalization of marijuana in some US states helped reduce violent crime in those places that border Mexico. The debate is complex and effects on legalization seem to have different notions in academic texts. The Mexican government has proposed the legalization as part of a wider security strategy but added the need to address both from the need to reduce income to criminal groups and also as a means to reduce the threat to the health of drug users.

Prices for cocaine, one of the most trafficked drugs in the US, increased from 2007 to 2017. Data may show that legalization could contribute to reducing the income of organized crime. But would that necessarily make the groups cease their activities or would it force them into other illegal markets?

Men: Eliminate Violence Against Women

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The 25th of November has been marked since 1999 by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Particularly this year, the United Nations has chosen as its motto “orange the world: generation equality stands against rape”.

However, the origin of the day is less known. On the 25th of November 1960, the Dominican Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo gave orders to execute the Mirabal sisters, three well-known political activists that had fervently opposed the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. In 1981 the Latin American Feminist Movement,  paying homage to their assassination and raising awareness of the situation of women in Latin America & the Caribbean, declared the 25th of November as the day for the elimination of violence against women.

Let’s start by saying that violence against women is a structural phenomenon in mostly every society  in the world and despite the efforts in addressing this violence and working for its elimination via international instruments such as the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or by including it on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the figures and facts in 2019 are still alarming and us, women, are right to fear.

But what do we fear? The main problem arising from all these initiatives is mostly its degree of abstraction. More often than not, we don’t see either in Conventions like the CEDAW or in different initiatives an appeal to the extremely likely and direct cause of violence: MEN.

This might seem obvious, but this fundamental cause of violence against women is usually absent, and the focus to end the problem instead of being on the cause is always on the consequences:

Who kills women and girls? The UN says:

-“1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances”

-Let me ask: who are their partners? the Partners are highly likely MEN.

Who marries child brides? The UN says:

-“Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday”

-But I ask. Who are they forced to marry? Girls are forced to marry MEN.

Who rapes women? The UN says:

-“1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner”.

-I dare ask, again, who is the partner? and again, extremely likely, a MAN.

 

Today, on this very 25th November, I  challenge #allmen to start considering the ways you inhabit the world. I challenge you to think about all the times you weren’t scared when a woman was.

I challenge you to hold accountable other men around you. I challenge you to stop saying #notallmen (at least before you do, check these facts).

 

 

And to all the women, see you later on the streets.

BOLIVIA FOR-EVO-R

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Bolivia has captured the attention due to the 4th re-election of Evo Morales as President. First elected in 2006, he became the first indigenous president of the country. He sought to eradicate poverty and better conditions for the multiple indigenous communities of the State. During his rule, extreme poverty rates fell from 38 per cent in 2006 to 15 per cent in 2018.

Bolivia also experienced an unprecedented growth in GDP, surpassing that of neighbouring countries. Morales was even said to break with neoliberal economic policy and become the first president to break with the United States neo-colonialism. However, he made a mistake many Latin American rulers have made: he sought to remain in power longer than the constitution allowed.

Morales enjoyed overwhelming support in his previous re-elections but began losing popularity in 2016 when a referendum was held. The referendum sought to get the popular support on reforming the constitution so the President could run for a fourth term in 2019. The results did not favour Morales’ ambition as 51.3 per cent of Bolivians rejected modifying their constitution.

In October 20th 2019, Evo Morales won in elections that the Organization of American States marked as containing ‘serious irregularities’. The event threw Bolivia into massive protests and civil unrest. On November 10th, Morales resigned and fled to Mexico in seek of asylum. Nonetheless, the resignation was not enough to put an end to the chaos in Bolivia.

The Bolivian former president has said that he was ousted from the country via a coup organised by the opposition. Amid the confrontation created by Morales’ declaration and the power vacuum created in his absence, Bolivia is now heading down a dangerous path of division. Jeanine Añez, a senator, has assumed interim presidency but has been declared illegitimate by some. Adding to the unrest, Morales has announced that he intends to return to help his fellow Bolivians, creating further animosity.

Evo Morales’ actions have not only undermined his country’s democratic institutions, but he continues to divide Bolivian society by maintaining the declaration of a coup. This tactic has been commonplace in Latin American politics when long-standing leaders have been accused of breaking the law in attempting to remain in office. Paraphrasing a Batman film, it could be said that in Latin America you “either retire a hero or remain in office long enough to become the villain”.

GOVERNMENTS COME AND GO CORRUPTION STAYS THE SAME

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Scholars view democracy as a regime where rulers are elected on systems that allow for ideological alternation. Competition in which voters can decide upon different platforms means that, at least in theory, governments are accountable. Latin America is a region with a varied record on established and functional democracy. In the last ten years, many countries have swayed from left to right-wing parties and back again. How effective has political alternation been in satisfying the populations’ demands to their government?

Supposedly, pressure and corruption and inequality have pushed governments out of office. Mexico’s President, elected last year on a strong vow to end corruption, marks one of the exemplary changes from right to left win parties in the region. Mexican voters decided to end 18 years of right and centre-right governments that had proven incapable of eliminating corruption, inequality and violence. Thought the term is still not over, the President has yet to deliver the promised transformation.

Argentina has recently done left to right to left transition. In 2015, Mauricio Macri was elected president as the majority of Argentinians seemed unhappy with the leftist rule of Christina Fernández de Kircher. During Macri’s presidency, the former government was investigated on charges of corruption and Fernández de Kirchner still awaits to stand trial.

Nonetheless, she ran as vice president to Alberto Fernández as they got elected in the country’s elections of October 2019. The voters’ anger with the left’s corruption may have removed them from power in 2015 but Macri’s liberalist policies failed to address rising inflation and seem to have made people overlook Kirchner’s corruption charges.

Another country may be at risk of repeating the story. Currently, Brazil has a far-right government elected after the corruption scandals of the leftist-led by Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer. Now da Silva has been released from prison and has promised to end the far-right’s rule. There is still doubt whether the politician will be able to return to power but Brazilians will have the choice in 2022 to alternate political platforms again.

Thought alternation seems to be failing to address to populations’ demands for effective action, lack thereof is also sparking demands, as Bolivia’s protests have shown. Change in government through elections remains an accountability method and is certainly better than dictatorships or quasi-dictatorships. However, the region is still lacking a way to face corruption and get better policies using democratic tools.

Is Democracy Dead? Latin America’s Civil Unrest

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Much like Nietzsche’s link on Christianity and democracy, political theorists and leaders alike have come to view democracy as the ultimate regime; an almost divine method of peacefully settling disputes. With the spread of liberal peace and the “Western” spread of the one true political order, many countries adopted such institutional arrangements.

At the turn of the last century, countries from Latin America and the Caribbean endured swift changes in regime. Most of the countries in the region share a past of military dictators, semi-authoritarian regimes, single-party systems or other quasi-democratic arrangements. However, the future of the region is now set, mostly, on achieving democratic institutions that resemble those of the “Western” values.

Recent events in the region have tested the efficiency that democracy has in settling disputes and providing an agreeable lifestyle to the citizens of each country. Chile is often referred to, together with Uruguay, as one of the best functioning democracies in the Latin American region. Economic development seemed to be thriving in the country. Nonetheless, inequality, amongst many other issues, remained unresolved.

Inequality is traced to the establishment of neoliberal economic policies, a legacy of both the US’s notions on liberal peace and the right-wing dictatorship which ruled Chile at the turn of the last century. Chilean citizens of many different backgrounds have taken to the streets to demand a change in government policy. Their demands are not being heard but rather repressed violently by the military and the police.

Bolivia, already on the edge of losing its democratic status, has also seen citizens taking to the streets to demand that the ruling President Evo Morales is not re-elected for a fourth term after a highly irregular electoral process. As in Chile, protesters were met with violent oppression by the State. Honduras, Ecuador, and Haiti have also seen citizens taking to the streets only to end up fighting with police forces in violent clashes. The region is truly struggling to be heard by its leaders.

Can democracy truly work when peaceful protests are met with violence? Protesting is one of many tools that society should have to show interest in changing government policy, particularly where the votes cast in ballots are not being heard. Protests like these should also serve as a reminder that, while voting is part of democracy, true democratic values are not limited to polling stations but also include accountability to the population. The divine method of peaceful conflict resolution seems to be failing Latin America and the Caribbean.