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Research: On Separatism in Latin America

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In mid January 2013, the inhabitants of Chile’s Easter Island carried out major protests, declaring that the central government in Santiago had largely forgotten them and had failed to contribute to the island’s growth and development. An article in the British daily The Guardian explained how some islanders had even asserted their right to self-determination, threatening to secede from Chile.The protests eventually dissipated, and order has been restored for time being. However, there is always the possibility that the Easter Islanders may rebel again, particularly if the next president (Chile will hold elections in 2014) does not address the islanders’ concerns.

his article uses the Easter Island demonstrations as a starting point for a discussion on separatism in Latin America. The goal of the following analysis is to begin a debate about the different manifestations of separatism and to describe to what extent these movements have taken place in Latin America. While Latin Americans have suffered many types of violence—narcotrafficking, guerrilla terrorism, and inter-state warfare—over the past several decades, traditional separatist movements have not been as prominent as in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. In particular, Latin America has not witnessed the collapse of existing States along with the subsequent emergence of new countries, as with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the violent fragmentation of Yugoslavia. It would still be incorrect to say that the region has not experienced any separatist movements in recent decades. While many scholars have minimized the presence of Latin American separatist movements, their analyses misrepresent the region’s reality.

This comprehensive analysis by COHA scholars was published in e-International Relations. It is available by clicking here.

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