2021: A year of resistance for life in Latin America


By: Raúl Zibechi

The parliament of Chubut province in southern Argentina, approved a law in favor of mining in December, but had to annul it a week later faced with a mass insurrection of the population. It’s one of the greatest triumphs of the Latin American popular sectors, versus a provincial government and a national one, both progressive and extractive.

In four days of rage, a huge populace (insurrection) that burned down the government house in Rawson, the provincial capital, forced the governor to annul what the parliament approved in order to calm the protest.

In this way, Chubut joins the province of Mendoza, which in 2019 also managed to stop mining. Since last August, Chubut has faced a water emergency and there are water cut-offs in the main cities due to shortages.

In Chile, the year began with a sustained increase of peaceful Mapuche insurgency, which has not been worn down by the electoral processes. In the Temuco region, there is an exponential growth of land recuperations that led the Sebastián Piñera government to decree the military occupation of Wall Mapu, in a futile attempt to contain the struggle.

To get an idea of the magnitude of the movement, it’s worth saying that between January and April of 2020 there were 35 land recuperations by communities, but in the same months of 2021 the number climbed to 134 takeovers.

The most significant event of the year was the gigantic mobilization the Colombian people launched April 28. [1] On that date the union headquarters called a 24-hour strike, but young people overflowed the call. In fact, the stoppage lasted more than two months; with highways closed for weeks, like the strategic Pan-American Highway that regulates the movement of merchandise.

The demonstrations of millions of people covered hundreds of municipalities, paralyzing the country with massive actions and with the creation of “points of resistance,” where young people were gathered to liberate areas and make a safe daily life, in the face of the brutal repression of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad, its Spanish acronym).

The city of Cali, whose population is majority Afro-descendent, was the epicenter of the protest with 25 “points of resistance,” with the bringing down of statues of conquistadors and the erecting of anti-monuments such as Resist, emblem of the popular uprising.

There were dozens of dead and disappeared because of repressive action. But the real surprise came from below: in Cali, the Nasa indigenous guard was present. It traveled more than 100 kilometers to support the demonstrators, also pursued relentlessly by civilians who were armed by the police. They also created the “first lines” of urban youth self-defense groups, but there were also groups of mothers to protect their children, of priests and even of retired military.

The protests and rebellions buried Uribismo (Álvaro Uribe’s militaristic extreme right) that has governed Colombia with an iron fist since the beginning of the 20th century. They moved the center of the resistance from rural areas to urban ones; they placed youth without a future at the center of the political scenario and generated an intense politicization of society, whose vast majority calls for urgent change.

In the medium term, the fraternization between indigenous peoples and urban youth can open the doors to new relationships between sectors key to the design of emancipatory practices in the nation.

It should be emphasized that in the middle of the pandemic, the EZLN took the initiative to convoke the Journey for Life, with which it embraced the resistances of Europe during the months of September to December.

I argue that this tour represents a turnaround in international solidarity and in the way in which movements relate to each other. Large gatherings predominated until now, as did the four international gatherings, and spaces like the Sao Paulo Forum, featuring whites, males, academics, leaders of parties and movements, meeting in luxury hotels or at universities.

In December, the Awajún Autonomous Territorial Government was formed in northern Peru, with which there are already six Amazonian peoples, and some 150,000 people, who decided to walk the path of autonomy.

This year we have seen how the peoples are overcoming the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and of the governments that, on both the right and the left, take advantage of the crisis to deepen the model. Neoliberal governability is fading because of activism from below.

Everything indicates that 2022 will be a decisive year. I think that the big challenge for the movements consists of overcoming the up and down dynamics of mobilization, to construct organizations capable of giving continuity to the resistances.

[1] Wikipedia has a detailed report on the Colombian protests. See:



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, December 31, 2021


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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