The current Latin American political situation is too complex to discuss fully in a single article. However, we might begin by highlighting the political and social complexity that exists in both Peru and Brazil, which have struggled to establish democratic societies.
In the last few months, Peru and Brazil have faced political crises rooted in ideological polarization between political groups. These circumstances have generated violent confrontation and protests against the established political order.
In the case of Peru, these difficulties in domestic politics are the result of political fragility and challenges with modes of governance. The executive and legislative branches find themselves in the midst of entrenched struggles caused by conflicts of interest, political incompetence, and high levels of corruption. This means that the government is unable to provide for its citizens’ basic social needs. Peruvians are dissatisfied with a government that does not represent them. The country also suffers from a lack of political interest and knowledge on the part of the public as well as limited channels of communication between the government and the people.
In the case of Brazil, the crisis of political institutions and rise of Bolsonarism have exacerbated political polarization and revitalized extremist groups that undermine the democratic system. Brazil is grappling with redefining liberties, rights, and citizenship. The "protests" that we see today in Brazil are the product of the former president’s speeches, which linked politics and the private sphere, and the sacred and the profane. They cast the political opposition as an enemy that needed to be annihilated so that Bolsonaro’s version of "good" could prevail.
In both countries, protestors did not back democratic institutions, employed violence, and vandalized public property. However, the demonstrations in Peru and Brazil were also very different due to divergent political ideologies in the two countries. The Peruvian protests were spontaneous, driven by popular discontent and a lack of trust in the government. These anarchic demonstrators chanted "que se vayan todos" (out with everyone). However, the protests in Brazil instead promoted Nazi-fascist ideologies. They were planned and financed by ultraconservative groups that saw themselves as the true patriots and guardians of the nation. These forces have tried to annihilate any groups that stood in the way of their vision for the country’s political system.
These violent protests have called into question the future of democracy in the two countries. What steps will Peruvian and Brazilian leaders take to contain the conflict and prevent their respective political systems from collapsing, especially with regard to economic and social affairs and international relations?
Latin America has witnessed divergent reactions to the violence in Peru and Brazil. In the case of Peru, the regional debate centers around Castillo’s ouster and Boluarte’s rise to the presidency, which has caused friction between right- and left-wing political parties. The provisional government has experienced some political strain with countries such as Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia, which has weakened bilateral diplomatic relations with these countries.
Furthermore, increased violence and an inability to resolve conflict between the Peruvian government and the people has caused economic losses in exports and in the tourism sector. Basic necessities have become more expensive and basic rights have come under attack.
In Brazil, the debate is focused on the preservation of democratic institutions. In a democracy, election results must be respected—there is no "legitimate reason" to undermine a fair election. The riots have created a sense of political instability that could discourage foreign investors and leave the economy even more fragile than before. however, if extremists intended to dismantle the government through storming the presidential palace, National Congress and Supreme Court, their actions had the opposite effect. The attacks brought these institutions together and generated a wave of solidarity from countries that wanted to strengthen political and economic ties with Brazil, including the United States, China, France, and Spain.
President Lula launched a federal intervention to investigate and punish those who had attacked public property in Brasilia and financed acts of terrorism. At the same time, dialogue with state governors and ministries seems to have helped dismantle extremist groups camped outside the military headquarters.
Finally, both of these cases underline the need to develop a critical understanding of citizenship that fosters safe spaces for debate and enables peaceful conflict resolution. Peru and Brazil both suffer from extreme social, political and economic inequality, which has engendered the rise of movements that contend that public institutions cannot produce solutions to social injustices. The ties between citizens and political institutions must be rebuilt in these countries so that the people can come to rely on their government and reject antidemocratic ideologies, whether these arise from leaders or the people themselves.