Between October and December 2019, mass protests swept Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. A year later, the legacies of these episodes of contention look very different. While in Chile protests enforced the initiation of a constitutional reform process that continues on track, recent elections in Bolivia reversed last year’s political about-face. In Ecuador and Colombia, the 2019 mass protests did not initiate comparable policy changes to begin with – but this doesn’t mean they had no lasting effects.
The 14th of November 2018, the Chilean police shot the 24-year-old Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca in the municipality of Ercilla in the south of Chile. This incident received international media attention, but it is only one chapter in a long-lasting dispute over territory and autonomy between the indigenous Mapuche community and the Chilean state. Mapuche communities in Chile are demanding the restitution of territories, which were taken from their ancestors by the state. In order to defend and recover their land, some Mapuche organizations use arson attacks and land occupations. The Chilean government is responding with special operations units to ’control’ the conflict.