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Wednesday, September 17 2014 @ 02:35 PM CDT

Criminalising social protests in Latin America

South America

Sumak kausay is the Kichwa word for "living well", or buen vivir in Spanish. It is an indigenous principle that entails the harmonious interaction between man and nature, the respect for life and ecosystems, and an equitable and sustainable sharing of resources. This millennia-old idea has gained visibility in plurinational states of Latin America.

Criminalising social protests

Manuela Picq
Al Jazeera

It is disheartening to see democratic governments criminalise social protests and revive the authoritarian practices.

Sumak kausay is the Kichwa word for "living well", or buen vivir in Spanish. It is an indigenous principle that entails the harmonious interaction between man and nature, the respect for life and ecosystems, and an equitable and sustainable sharing of resources. This millennia-old idea has gained visibility in plurinational states of Latin America.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, first elected in 2005, invoked this ancestral value against the capitalist principles of extraction and growth, and Ecuador made it a constitutional right in its 2008 Constitution that was internationally acclaimed for defending the rights of nature.

Paradoxically, principles of harmony between nature and men can also forge terrorists. In Ecuador, 10 young people who gathered to discuss their understanding of the political agenda implied by sumak kausay have been arrested on charges of terrorism. Over the last three years, various indigenous leaders protesting water rights have been accused of terrorism.

Ecuadorian social movements are crying for help, but their calls may be falling upon deaf ears, as such repressive responses to social movements are surprisingly widespread. From Chile to India, charges like terrorism, sabotage and sedition are becoming an "all-too-common tactic" of political control by dominant elites.

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