'Ethno-nationalism’: new interethnic tensions in Latin America
Jul-19-05 - by Luis Esteban González Manrique, del Real Instituto Elcano *
Theme: In his latest report on global trends, the United States National Intelligence Council mentions 'militant indigenism’ associated with anti-Americanism as one of the potential hazards for hemispheric security.
Summary: In many Latin American countries the proliferation of new 'armed actors’ is linked with the gradual organising of ethnic groups claiming a greater degree of territorial and political autonomy. The Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement towards Socialism, MAS) led by Evo Morales in Bolivia, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, also known by its Spanish acronym Conaie) in Ecuador and the Movimiento Etnocacerista ('Ethno-cacerista’ Movement, also known by its Spanish acronym ME) in Peru, denounce the ethnic discrimination of 'native nations’. Even in Venezuela certain sectors of Chavism talk of the oligarchy’s presumed struggle against mestizos (mixed race of white and Indian ancestry) and mulatos (mixed race, of black and white ancestry). Elizabeth Burgos, a Venezuelan analyst, defines the 'Bolivarian’ process as 'national-ethnic-populism with traces of neofacism’, a type of inverted racism sponsored by Chávez as part of his continental revolution. The economic consequences could be dangerous if this phenomenon were to jeopardise the exploitation of natural resources –gas, oil, gold…– in territories with a significant indigenous population.
Analysis: In its latest study of global trends for the next 15 years –Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project–, the United States National Intelligence Council devotes very few pages to Latin America, but its diagnosis of the main threat to security in the region is clear: the failure of governments to find solutions to extreme poverty and ingovernability could encourage populism, radical indigenism, terrorism, organised crime and anti-American feeling. At the same time, Dirk Kruijt and Kees Kooning, in their book Armed Actors: Organized Violence and State Failure in Latin America stress that the proliferation of 'armed actors’ in the region is partly due to ethnic tensions that are violently erupting in various countries, particularly in the central Andean nucleus: Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Some groups reject globalisation, perceived as a homogenising phenomenon that undermines their cultures with an economic model based on the exploitation of indigenous populations and their ecosystems. Michael Radu, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has criticised Washington’s 'paralysis’ when faced with the 'increasing radicalisation of indigenous peoples in the central Andean region’. In turn, Michael Weinstein foresees a new 'cycle of instability’ in the central Andes, the signs of which are 'massive protest marches, road blocks, the taking of official buildings, regional rebellion, uninvolved governments and anti-constitutional attempts by governments to extend their powers’.
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