I learned a lot recording this WOLA Podcast episode with two scholar-practitioners who work with non-violent activists around the Americas. I found the advice and insights that María Belén Garrido and Jeff Pugh offered are very relevant for a time when authoritarian populists are gaining power and controlling public conversations. Here’s the overview from WOLA’s podcast landing page.
Maria Belén Garrido of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and FLACSO Ecuador, and Jeffrey Pugh, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and director of the Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC), lead the Regional Institute for the Study and Practice of Strategic Nonviolent Action in the Americas.
The Institute provides training, capacity building, and networking opportunities for nonviolent social change activists in Latin America. It teaches that the success of non-violent strategies depends on the crucial “trinity” of planning, unity, and discipline.
Garrido and Pugh provide numerous examples of nonviolent movements in Latin America at the local and national levels, from communities declaring themselves “peace zones” in Colombia to worker “slowdown” strikes in Chile under Pinochet. They emphasize being creative with tactics like strikes, boycotts, protests, using art and music, and leveraging media and communication.
An ongoing challenge is confronting the rise of authoritarian populism and leaders who try to control narratives and media. Maintaining nonviolent discipline is crucial to avoid playing into the hands of repressive regimes. Building diverse coalitions and identifying strategic pressure points instead of relying solely on mass messaging may be especially important today.
“When a great amount of people, especially a diversity of people, in ages and ethnicities, go to the streets, then probably the social distance from the members of the forces that will repress them is lower and narrower,” Garrido observes here. “And this will reduce the amount of repression.”
Resources from the Institute can be found at accionnoviolenta.org: the “Relatos de la Resistencia Noviolenta” podcast, blog posts by regional activists, and an online course, one edition of which just got underway in early October 2023.