’Global protests caused by inequality’

In recent weeks, mass protests have broken out in countries from Lebanon to Spain to Chile and Bolivia. All are different – with distinct causes, methods and goals – but there are some common themes that connect them.

While thousands of miles apart, protests have begun for similar reasons in several countries, and some have taken inspiration from each other on how to organise and advance their goals.

Here’s a look at the issues at stake – and what binds many of those taking to the streets.

Many of those protesting are people who have long felt shut out of the wealth of their country. In several cases, a rise in prices for key services has proved the final straw.

Demonstrations began in Ecuador last month when the government announced that it was scrapping decades-old fuel subsidies as part of public spending cuts agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The change led to a sharp rise in petrol prices, which many said they could not afford. Indigenous groups feared that the measure would result in increased costs for public transport and food, and that their rural communities would be hardest hit.

Protesters blocked highways, stormed parliament and clashed with security forces as they demanded an end to austerity and the return of fuel subsidies. The government backed down after days of mass protests and the action came to an end.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who resigned in November following weeks of protests, introduced public works projects and social programmes to tackle inequality when he took office in 2006. Extreme poverty then stood at 38% and had fallen to 17% by 2018.

However, his critics said that in the past two years levels of extreme poverty in Bolivia had again been on the rise.

A hike in transport prices has also sparked protests in Chile. The government blamed higher energy costs and a weaker currency for its decision to increase bus and metro fares, but protesters said it was just the latest measure to squeeze the poor.

As demonstrators clashed with security forces on Friday evening, President Sebastián Piñera was pictured dining in an up market Italian restaurant – a sign, some said, of the chasm between Chile’s political elite and the people on the streets. -BBC

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