After a period in the 2000s during which the Southern Cone of South America, was characterized by progressive governments, all three countries in the region — Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay — now face major challenges: political fluctuations, economic crises, and strong social movements.
While Uruguay elected a right-wing government for the first time in 15 years in 2020, which immediately began to undermine the welfare state characteristic of this small South American country, the previous right-wing governments of Argentina and Chile were voted out of office in the last legislative period. However, neither Alberto Fernández in Argentina nor Gabriel Boric in Chile have proven successful in fulfilling expectations for more social justice and better living conditions for the majority of the population. The COVID-19 pandemic has also visibly aggravated the socio-economic situation in all three countries.
The 2019 revolt and subsequent constitutional process in Chile raised hopes around the world for a change in the global neoliberal onslaught, but were bitterly disappointed with the rejection of the draft in the constitutional referendum on 4 September 2022. While the country’s feminist movement was instrumental in electing Boric as president, propelling him to victory over his far-right opponent, it too was unable to mobilize enough votes for the “yes” vote in the constitutional referendum. The progressive camp had no strategy for dealing with a defeat in the referendum, while in the meantime the centre- to far-right camp managed to achieve an absolute majority in the newly elected Constitutional Convention in May 2023. As a result, any hope for a progressive constitution is off the table and the government has been permanently weakened. Chile is in a political crisis.
The feminist movement in Argentina and the region, which became a mass phenomenon beginning in 2015, contributed to a new global feminist wave and won numerous political victories, including the legalization of abortion in Argentina in late 2020. The Peronist party alliance around Alberto Fernández won the 2019 election against his right-wing predecessor Mauricio Macri, also with the support of the feminist and other social movements. Yet, Argentina has not found a way out of the debt trap Uuder the Fernández government, and as a result of the extreme inflation crisis, the majority of the population fears social decline and even hunger. This also proves to be a breeding ground for ultra-right populism — a difficult starting point for the upcoming presidential elections in autumn 2023.
Economically, the countries remain heavily dependent on the export of raw materials and unprocessed agricultural products. At the same time, the social and ecological consequences of mining, fossil fuel extraction, and industrial agriculture are becoming increasingly visible: pollution of soil and water, advancing erosion, threats to the food sovereignty of large parts of the rural population, and the related rural exodus are central problems in the region. The consequences of the global economic crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, were also strongly felt across the Southern Cone. Despite commodity prices rising again due to the Ukraine war, the situation has not eased and now contributes to the "refossilization" of the energy sector. The “green” energy transition in Europe is also triggering a new hunger for raw materials produced in the region, specifically lithium and hydrogen, combined with old neocolonial exploitation structures.
Governments are responding to the economic crisis by cutting social spending and making the labour market more flexible. The Argentinean population in particular is suffering from austerity policies, precarization, and rising unemployment. In Chile, low environmental standards, precarious working conditions, and the criminalization of social resistance — visible to a dramatic extent in the Mapuche conflict and in the current migration situation — are maintained even under the new centre-left government in order not to endanger the investment-friendly climate.
The main focus of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Buenos Aries Office is on political analysis, consultation, and networking of left-wing actors, along with facilitating debates on the ground and internationally. A feminist perspective is applied as an overarching theme in all projects. Thematically, the project work focuses on the following fields of action:
- Strengthening Democracy
With the Right on the rise, the Left in the region is faced with the challenge of acting together across differences. The foundatoin contributes to this by offering forums where different actors come together. In the face of increasing state repression, it is not only a matter of defending social rights and ecological standards, but also of upholding political human rights. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation supports these processes by strengthening the organizing capacities of the Left in the region and helping to develop alternatives to the hegemonic economic model.
- Democratic and Social Rights
In the context of growing mobilizations against neoliberal labour market reforms in the region, trade unions play an important role due to their social presence and organizational capacity. However, they are often organized in a highly bureaucratic-hierarchical way and dominated by men in traditional employment, while women and precarious workers are hardly represented.
By offering seminars, networking, and promoting the exchange of experiences between trade unions, organized precarious workers, and self-managed companies in cooperation with partner organizations, the office contributes to putting the debate on the working conditions of women and precarious workers on the trade union agenda and thus to advancing the democratization of the trade unions.
- Gender Equality and Feminism
In addition to mobilizations against neoliberal structural adjustment measures, feminist movements in the region in particular have shown the capacity to organisz broad alliances across socio-economic differences and political orientations. Under the slogan Ni una menos, thousands demand an end to sexualized violence and murders of women and LGTBIQ* persons.
Moreover, feminist organizations are increasingly managing to establish their cause — the fight against patriarchal power structures — as a central political demand. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation supports these developments by strengthening activists’ ability to specifically make violence against women and LGTBIQ* persons as well as patriarchal power structures a social issue and to take countermeasures through training and networking. It also contributes to analysing the interplay between capitalism, patriarchy, and extractivism through events and publications.
- Socio-Ecological Justice and Alternatives to the Dominant Development Model
Within this thematic focus, the work of the regional office concentrates on the socio-ecological transformation of the energy system, which is closely intertwined with the extractivist model and increasingly privatized. Energy supply is central to the development of alternatives to export-oriented capitalism in the region, both in ecological and socio-economic terms.
In cooperation with partner organizations, the office not only educates people about the negative consequences of the prevailing energy model through publications and studies, but also helps to empower the affected municipalities and local communities to demand and build concrete democratic and ecologically sustainable energy alternatives.