Over the past week, tens of thousands of Iranians have flooded the streets to protest against poor economic conditions. President Rouhani’s plan to eliminate cash subsidies and increase fuel prices has sparked mass outrage in dozens of towns and cities across the country. At least twenty protesters have been killed since December 28, and nearly five hundred have been arrested. This marks the largest demonstration in Iran since the protests after the 2009 presidential election which resulted in 20 to 150 deaths and thousands of arrests.
Yet, as the protests in Iran receive considerable news coverage as well as the attention of the President of the United States and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, there has been noticeably little widespread coverage of demonstrations occurring across Latin America, with the exception of Venezuela. Some of the protests taking place throughout the region over the past few weeks include:
In Argentina, tens of thousands convened to protest the government’s pension reform plan. Among the participants was The Confederacion General del Trabajo (CGT), the largest labor union in Argentina, which launched a 24-hour general strike. Around seventy people have been arrested since the start of the protests and dozens have been injured. A poll indicated that two-thirds of Argentines are against the reform.
In Brazil, outside of Sao Paulo, the Homeless Workers’ Movement has occupied an abandoned strip of land, providing shelter for 8,300 families. Initially begun as a small, short-term protest to advocate for affordable housing, the occupation has become a symbol for the struggle of the urban poor in Brazil’s deeply unequal mega cities. The Homeless Workers’ Movement was founded in 1997 with the aim of forcibly seizing vacant buildings and land to give shelter to the working poor.
In Honduras, after the country’s president, Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner of December’s disputed presidential election, tens of thousands have assembled, accusing the president of rigging the election. Noting numerous irregularities, the Organization of American States pressed for a new election. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department stands firmly behind Hernandez, whose administration has been closely allied to the interests of the United States. At least thirty people have been killed by state security forces, and hundreds are “brutally beaten and subjected to torture” in military camps.
In Peru, thousands of Peruvians objected to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to pardon Alberto Fujimori, who served as president from 1990 to 2000. Incarcerated for corruption and for his use of death squads during his administration, the former president was pardoned due to his poor health. Since the pardon, rumors have circulated that President Kuczynski’s decision was done in exchange for the opposition party, the Popular Force Party, to drop impeachment chargers. The Popular Force Party is led by Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the former president.
In Venezuela, hundreds gathered to express their frustration after the president failed in his promise to allocate pork to the country’s poorest. Pork is a staple Christmas meal item for Venezuelans, and its shortage highlights the recent problems the country has with providing goods that were once more widely accessible. One person was killed, after a soldier opened fire on a group of demonstrators.
The turmoil in Iran is matched, or perhaps surpassed, by the many protests and mass organizing in Latin America. While members of the United States government proudly stand by the people of Iran, so much so as to call for a UN Security Council meeting, little has been said about the people to the south, who are fighting for economic security and political freedom. While the United States is well aware of the chaos in Honduras, it does not condemn it, but endorses it. Hypocrisy has been the United States foreign policy in Latin America for over a century now, and it looks like there is no end in sight.