Chile protests in pictures
Caption here Image Credit: Credit here

London: Another day, another protest.

Authorities are battling popular uprisings in several parts of the world at once as people from vastly different countries — from Chile to Hong Kong — rage against common enemies: Economic inequality and perceived marginalisation.

Hong Kong has been in turmoil for months, Lebanon’s capital Beirut was at a standstill, parts of Barcelona resembled a battlefield last week and tens of thousands of Britons marched through London at the weekend against Brexit.


On Monday, it was Bolivia — angry people clashed with police after the political opposition said it had been cheated in an election won by incumbent President Evo Morales.

Last week, the streets of the Chilean capital Santiago descended into chaos, as demonstrators enraged by a hike in public transport fares looted stores, set a bus alight and prompted the president to declare a state of emergency.

Chile protests in pictures
Caption here Image Credit: Credit here

Earlier this month, Ecuador’s leader did the same after violent unrest triggered by the decision to end fuel subsidies that had been in place for decades.

And that was just South America.

Protests have flared around the world in the last few months. Each has had its own trigger, but many of the underlying frustrations are similar.

Globalisation and technological progress have, in general, exacerbated disparities within countries, said Sergei Guriev, former chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, while noting that not all of the current protests were driven by economic concerns.

Digital media has also made people more acutely aware of global inequalities, said Simon French, chief economist at United Kingdom bank Panmure Gordon. “We know that the economics of happiness is largely driven by a relative assessment of your position versus your benchmark,” he said, a benchmark that now stretched way beyond the local community.


In Chile, it was a 30-peso ($0.0004) rise in the price of a metro ticket that brought people out on the streets in anger, in Lebanon it was a tax on WhatsApp calls in a country with already high rates.

“This is not happening because they raised the metro fare by 30 pesos,” said a man who gave his name only as Orlando, taking part in protests in Santiago this week against the growing gap between rich and poor.

“This is about the situation of the last 30 years,” said the 55-year-old, lamenting long queues at clinics, waiting lists at hospitals, high medicine prices and declining purchasing power.

“Inequalities are widening everywhere,” said analyst Thierry de Montbrial of the French Institute of International Relations.”It is linked to globalisation, to the technology revolution, and the societal changes this has brought about. The crushing of the middle class is ... a global phenomenon.”


In at least four countries hit by recent violent protests, the main reason for the uprising is economic.

The government in Ecuador has incurred people’s wrath after trying to raise fares and end fuel subsidies.

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Riot police and a soldier are seen outside the National Assembly during protests against Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno's austerity measures, in Quito, Ecuador October 8, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

As clashes engulfed Quito, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno reached out to indigenous leaders who had mobilised people to take to the streets. Within minutes, chief protest organiser Jaime Vargas had rejected that outreach.

“We’re defending the people,” Vargas said in a live Facebook video from the march in Quito.

His response, visible to millions of people, underlines an added challenge authorities have when trying to quell dissent: Social media has made communication between protesters easier than ever.

Tens of thousands of people have flooded Beirut in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment there in decades. People of all ages and religions joined to protest about worsening economic conditions and the perception that those in power were corrupt.

Similar factors were behind deadly civil unrest in Iraq in early October. More than 100 people died in violent protests across a country where many Iraqis, especially young people, felt they had seen few economic benefits since Daesh was defeated in 2017. Security forces cracked down, with snipers opening fire from rooftops and the internet being shut to stem the flow of information among protesters.


Hong Kong has been battered by five months of often violent protests over fears Beijing is tightening its grip on the territory, the worst political crisis since colonial ruler Britain handed it back to China in 1997.

There have been few major rallies in recent weeks, but violence has escalated at those held, with militant activists setting metro stations ablaze and smashing up shops, often targeting Chinese banks and stores with mainland links.

People watch protesters marching past a shopping mall in Sha Tin District in Hong Kong. Image Credit: AP

Police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas, hundreds of rubber bullets and three live rounds at brick- and petrol bomb-throwing activists.

The events in Hong Kong have drawn comparisons to Catalonia in recent days. There, too, people are angry at what they see as attempts to thwart their desire for greater autonomy from the rest of Spain, if not outright independence.

Protesters set cars on fire and threw petrol bombs at police in Barcelona, unrest sparked by the sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders who sought to declare an independent state.

Demonstrators also focused on strategic targets to cause maximum disruption, including the international airport, grounding more than 100 flights.

That came several days after similar action in Hong Kong, suggesting that protest movements are following and even copying each other on social media and the news.

“In Hong Kong they have done it well, but they are crazier,” said Giuseppe Vayreda, a 22-year-old art student at a recent Catalan separatist protest.

On Thursday, Hong Kong protesters plan a rally to show solidarity with those demonstrating in Spain.


In some cases, individuals rise to the forefront of protest movements, using social media to get their message across.

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Demonstrators carry national flags and gesture during an anti-government protest in Beirut, Lebanon October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir Image Credit: REUTERS

On the streets of Beirut, for example, protesters called parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, who has accumulated vast wealth in his 27 years on the job, a “thief”, and railed against reports that Prime Minister Saad Hariri had paid $16 million (Dh58.84 million) to a South African model. All this while “we are dying at the hospital gates,” lamented Hoda Sayyour, one of the demonstrators.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, inspired millions of people to march through cities around the world in September to demand that political leaders act to stop climate change.

Tens of thousands gathered in a New York park to listen to her speech. “If you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you,” she said. “Because this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not.”


The rebellious climate spreads easily on social media, which has become an ever-more a popular platform for mobilising the disaffected — including France’s anti-government “yellow vest” protesters who have no traditional leadership or organisational structure.

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Lebanese army soldiers remove tents in an attempt to open a road blocked by the protestors during ongoing anti-government protests, in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir Image Credit: REUTERS

“Social networks allow people who do not know each other to mobilise around a shared cause,” said Arnaud Mercier of the Pantheon-Assas University in Paris.

“It offers a simple way to circulate inforamtion, call meetings, and give instructions.”

With no hierarchy and often no leader, these modern-day protesters baulk at the traditional of negotiating with law enforcement and public authorities, which has completely “shaken up” the status quo, he added — a situation which has caught many governments by surprise.



Of the world’s richest individuals own the same wealth as

3.5 billion

people of the world’s poorest half, according to poverty monitor Oxfam.

$2.5 billion

Is how much the world’s billionaires saw their combined fortune grow by every day in 2018.

$500 million

Is how much the world’s poorest 3.8 million people saw their relative wealth decline by every day in 2018.


1. Algeria

2. Brazil

3. Chile

4. Colombia

5. Ecuador

6. Egypt

7. Ethiopia

8. France

9. Haiti

10. Hong Kong

11. Indonesia

12. Iraq

13. Lebanon

14. Malawi

15. Peru

16. Russia

17. Spain

18. Sudan

19. The Netherlands

20. Turkey

21. Uganda

22. Ukraine

23. Venezuela

24. Zimbabwe